The Houston Rockets’ small ball, fun-and-gun, three-point-shooting-contest offense didn’t lend itself to the type of game in which a more traditional, back-to-the-basket big man such as Kevin Seraphin would excel.
Coach Randy Wittman decided to go with more versatile and athletic reserves Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker and paired them with Nene or Emeka Okafor before riding Nene and Okafor to the finish.
Seraphin stayed in his warm-ups the entire game, watching his first Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision of the season unfold as the Wizards overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Rockets, 105-103.
But a fast-paced game and matchups weren’t all that contributed to Seraphin missing his first game for a reason other than injury since March 13, the final game before the Wizards traded for Nene. Seraphin readily admits that he is in the midst of a prolonged slump.
“It’s really tough, but for me, I think I have to be more focused in the game,” he said. “I don’t really know. Right now I’m just in a struggle right now so I need to get back, just keeping working more. I need to do it to get it back.”
Seraphin has certainly lost his way in February, sliding into his worst play since the departure of JaVale McGee. The third-year big man entered this month averaging 10.8 points and five rebounds in about 24.6 minutes a game. But in his past nine games, Wittman’s favorite chew-out target is averaging 3.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.1 minutes and shooting 38.9 percent from the field.
Since the all-star break, Seraphin has played a total of 11 minutes and scored just two points, grabbed three rebounds, committed four fouls and committed two turnovers. He hasn’t scored in double figures since Jan. 28.
“I’m working more, trying to get my confidence during the practice, working on one-on-one drills, work out every time we have practice, be aggressive, keep going to the boards, that sort of thing,” Seraphin said. “The only thing you have to just keep fighting, keep it up, and then everything can come back. One action can turn all the game up, so we just have to keep it up like that, just keep working.”
After Saturday’s game against Houston, Seraphin worked himself up in a lather on the practice court while his teammates showered and got dressed. Seraphin will realize if his demotion represents a trend or a lengthy stint out of the rotation. Singleton and Booker both fought back from similar scenarios; Jan Vesely continues to wallow on the bench.
Nene’s return to normal minutes and the recent emergence of Okafor have put the Wizards’ rotation of young big men in an unfamiliar position, in which minutes are no longer given and have to be earned during competitive practices.
“They understand that. They see that. I think everybody does,” Wittman said. “And it is different; we want it to be different. I don’t want to be coaching a team that, putting out players that undeservedly, don’t deserve to be out there, if that makes any sense. I think that’s important for anybody’s growth, to understand that you get what you deserve, and cherish that.”
After poor outings, Seraphin usually huddles with Nene, but those lectures have become more rare. Nene is looking to lead more with his actions than his words.
“It’s hard to put on his mind the way I prepare myself,” Nene said. “It’s how I say, ‘I saw the last game. I know how they are going to play. I know what I going to do. I know my opening.’ That is the way he should think. See video and understand how to prepare himself for the game.”
With the Wizards having more success, Seraphin said he knows he needs to play better if he wants to play a bigger part.
“Of course because now the team step up. So everybody has to step up,” Seraphin said. “I have to step my game up because the team step up. For sure, but I think so, I can. I already prove I can play in a good team so now I just have to get it back. But I think we’re coming back. I do everything for that, been working out. It’s not my first time. I’m a young player so I just come with the time, but now I will do everything for coming back.”