Chris Singleton could feel the shot clock winding down late in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 96-86 loss to San Antonio on Saturday night, but he had nowhere to go with the ball but up. So he instinctively turned and tossed up a contested jumper that bounded high off the backboard before dropping.
Stapled the bench since late December, Singleton has had plenty of time to work on his game and improve his jump shot while doing various drills with developmental coach Joe Connelly. But he never practiced that turnaround, bank-shot fadeaway to beat the buzzer.
“Not that shot. Naw,” Singleton said with a chuckle about arguably the luckiest shot of an improbable run in which the Wizards turned a laugher into a somewhat suspenseful finish.
Singleton didn’t call glass but he’ll take it – the basket, and more importantly, the opportunity to contribute after barely receiving scraps of playing time in recent weeks. The 6-foot-8 forward made the most of his 20-minute appearance, scoring 11 points and helped the Wizards cut a 27-point deficit to six with more than eight minutes remaining.
“It felt good,” Singleton said. “It’s been a long time, but it felt good, it felt comfortable. Felt like I didn’t miss a step.”
Singleton, who started 57 games last year in his rookie season, had been relegated to spectator duty even when the team was short-handed, collecting so many DNP-CDs that it was starting to look like his new last name. He had played a total of 30 minutes in the previous 19 games, appearing in just five of them, and tried to use his time away to learn what worked for his team and how he could help whenever he got back on the court.
“I tried to just stay positive, through my teammates. My teammates talked to me, just try to sit on the bench and learn the game, basically,” Singleton said. “We started winning. So I can’t fault somebody for just going with what works. I’m one of the young guys, so I just take it as I go.”
With no assurance that his situation would change, Singleton stayed committed to working out before and after games. Coach Randy Wittman spoke said he spoke with Singleton about his predicament in Memphis.
“I told him, he’s handled it well, he’s worked hard. The extra time he’s put it,” Wittman said. “I said, I know you’re frustrated, as anyone would be. But you have to stay ready. I mean, your time is going to come some day. Something is going to happen and time is going to come and you’ve got to be ready.”
Singleton’s opportunity finally came in San Antonio, where the Spurs were whipping the Wizards and Wittman was desperately in need of lift for his lifeless team, especially with high-energy but often-injured forward Trevor Booker out again with a sore left wrist. With Tim Duncan out with a sprained left knee and sprained right ankle and the Spurs going to a smaller lineup, Singleton entered the game with 77 seconds left in the first half and rthe Wizards already trailing 48-24. He finished out the half and was called on again with the Wizards trailing 64-37.
“We was down big early. We didn’t come out with no energy,” Singleton said. “When he called my number, I just tried to provide energy and tried to make open shots. If I feel there is something that I can do to help us win, I feel I’m going to try to do it.”
The defensive-minded Singleton had three steals – one shy of his season high – and four rebounds. But he also connected on 5 of 7 from the field, all on long jumpers.
“I do think it’s improved in the last month or so,” Singleton said of his jumper. “Just consistency in the gym, getting reps up. Just came a long way.”
Singleton had only his fourth double-digit scoring game of the season and his highest scoring outing since Dec. 8, when he was a starter and scored 10 points.
“That’s somebody that’s being a professional,” John Wall said of Singleton. “We all appreciate the minutes he gave us. Just being ready to play. He probably ain’t played in 12, 14 games and then to come out and give us big minutes. We know what he’s capable of defensively. And he made a couple of shots.”
“Big props to Chris,” Wittman said. “To his credit … his time came and he played well.”
Singleton hopes to conclude his weekend by watching his favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens, win the Super Bowl so that Ray Lewis – and possibly Ed Reed – will go out on top. “Your last game, winning a championship, that would be a crazy,” he said, predicting that the Ravens will win, 24-21. “I think the Ravens are going to control it defensive wise.”