Washington Wizards second-year player Chris Singleton said he has a lot to prove this season. It’s not entirely his fault, however, that last season didn’t go as well as he hoped.
Five days after being selected 18th in last year’s NBA draft, Singleton addressed the media at Verizon Center and eagerly anticipated the start of his professional career.
Three days after that? The NBA lockout began.
Singleton was on his own. There was no contact with the club until there was a resolution to the labor impasse in late November that ended a 149-day lockout.
When the season finally began and Singleton, without the benefit of a prolonged and regimented summer program, was thrust into the lineup, the results were predictably uneven.
Singleton, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 4.6 points and shot 37.2 percent from the field.
“I guess I have a lot to prove,” Singleton said. “I mean, last year I felt like I underachieved.”
Singleton’s comments came roughly an hour after the Wizards had completed their morning session on the second day of minicamp at Verizon Center.
There, 14 players, mostly non-roster invitees, are spending the first four days this week in preparation for the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league, which opens Friday.
Shortly before Singleton revealed dissatisfaction regarding his play last season, Coach Randy Wittman offered another perspective that underscored the quiet dedication of the 2010-11 ACC defensive player of the year at Florida State.
“Chris had the best practice I’ve seen him have, actually, since he’s been here,” Wittman said Tuesday. “All last year and obviously these first three that we’ve had here. I see a player that has a year under his belt, that got some playing time. He’s come out here and I’m really very pleased with his effort because that’s the one thing with Chris that sometimes isn’t always constant.”
Singleton was most dissatisfied with his poor shooting; last season it dipped well below what he had posted with the Seminoles even as he concentrated on defense.
In three seasons at Florida State, Singleton did not shoot below 40.9 percent, and that low point came as a freshman. By the time Singleton had declared early for the NBA draft, he was shooting 43 percent overall and nearly 37 percent from three-point range.
Any offensive punch was a bonus for the Wizards in their pre-draft evaluation process of Singleton, whom many scouts regarded as the most skilled perimeter defender available. Washington coveted Singleton’s ability to defend almost all positions; it also liked his character off the court.
Singleton started nine games in a row over the first 16 games last season, then deferred to veteran Rashard Lewis, who started eight in a row. By the 25th game, Singleton was a fixture in the starting lineup and finished starting 51 of 66 games.
“It’s got to become a situation where your playing time is rewarded,” Wittman said. “It’s not just because I’m a young guy, I know I’m going to play. I worry about that sometimes when you’re in a situation with a lot of young guys that in their mind, they’re saying, ‘Hey, I know I’m going to play. I read it in the paper every day. Management and ownership say the young guys are going to play.’ Well, now is your effort always going to be at the maximum level?”
Singleton certainly has elevated his effort during his inaugural minicamp, and he’s also become somewhat of a sounding board for rookies Bradley Beal, the third overall pick, and Tomas Satoransky (32nd) as they get acclimated to the pace of NBA play.
Singleton is one of three Wizards’ second-year players participating in minicamp. Forward Jan Vesely, the No. 6 pick last season, and guard Shelvin Mack, the 34th pick, also are participating; all three will travel to Las Vegas.
“Last year we just got thrown into the situation,” Singleton said. “We just had to pick it up as the season went along. This year we get to learn our principles. We get to set our base, and hopefully it goes well.
“I’ve got all the tools. It’s just how I’ve got to put my body in a way that I can achieve what I need to get somewhere. I mean, I’ve worked hard this summer, and I will continue to work hard this summer. There’s still a [starting] spot. I think the three [small forward] is going to be open for me and [Trevor] Ariza, and I want to fight for it.”