MONTREAL – There were several positives to take from the Washington Wizards’ seven-game preseason. They installed and made progress with their remodeled offense. Their defense improved, depsite the challenge to remain top-notch because of the offense’s frenetic pace, and they solidified team chemistry. The exhibition slate didn’t conclude as they wanted – a 92-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors Friday night – but the Wizards are encouraged as they prepare to open the regular season Wednesday in Orlando.
“I think this is probably the best preseason we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who is entering his fourth season. “Just in terms of our camaraderie. Us coming together as a team and us executing and being locked in and focused. From the start everybody was ready to go. Everybody was willing to learn the new offense.
“Everybody was willing to learn their new role and accept their role and it’s been good. We had some ups and downs. We had some mishaps here and there but it’s a whole new thing. It’s all new to us. It’s a growth experience and now the real show starts.”
John Wall said the team is “excited” about the new offense. Players, he said, love the new style. But he emphasized assuming the new identity will be a process – they still overdribble at times and have turnover lapses — and defense remains paramount.
“The most important thing is we got to make sure we’re taking care of the ball and making sure we trust to make the extra passes,” Wall said.
Preseason is not the best barometer but the Wizards finished it with the highest offensive rating (106.8 points per 100 possessions) in the NBA and ranked fourth in pace (104.45 possessions per 48 minutes) despite a preseason-low 82 points Friday in Montreal. Last season, Washington finished 19th in offensive rating and 16th in pace, though both numbers improved in the postseason when the Wizards went with four-out, one-in lineups more often. The Wizards, however, finished 24th in defensive rating.
“We just got to keep it simple,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “When we make it look easy, I think we think we can hold on to it more and gets ourselves in trouble. But we did a lot of good things.”
Perhaps most importantly, the Wizards will enter the season with their entire starting lineup intact. Last year, Beal fractured his left wrist in the preseason and missed Washington’s first nine regular season games. Beal is now healthy, feeling 100 percent, and playing aggressively has he did during his standout postseason.
“I survived the preseason so let’s just hope I survive these next couple days before the regular season starts,” Beal said. “But I’m happy. I’m not injured, knock on wood. I’m happy. Everything’s good. I’m healthy. I feel and the sky’s the limit now. Now it’s time to show up.”