John Wall rested Monday night. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. made only first-half appearances. And the players fighting for roster spots ruled the court as the Washington Wizards treated their preseason opener more as an evaluation than an exhibition.
The Wizards breezed by the Guangzhou Long-Lions, 126-96, at Capital One Arena. Teams will play a reduced preseason schedule throughout the NBA, and though the Wizards have only five exhibitions before the games count, Coach Scott Brooks opted to rest his regulars against the Chinese Basketball Association opponent.
Still, Brooks deemed Monday important for younger players like second-year point guard Tomas Satoransky, who replaced Wall in the starting unit.
“I don’t look at them as free games,” Brooks said. “I look at them as games that we can experiment and see how guys perform in the roles that we’re going to need them to be in going forward.”
● Jodie Meeks excelled in his first game with the Wizards, scoring 19 points and making four of five three-pointers.
Last season, the Wizards ranked 20th in three-point attempts per game (24.8). Through just the opening minutes Monday night, however, the threes were flowing. Washington ran sets for open wings beyond the arc and attempted nine three-pointers through the first quarter.
Meeks was a big reason for the frequency. He showed he could score on drives and floaters and also aggressively found shots from the outside. During a transition play in the second quarter, Meeks had a clear lane to the basket but instead pulled up and drilled the open three. In less than 17 minutes on the floor, Meeks made 7 of 9 shots.
● Although Satoransky’s game does not mirror the speed and flash of Wall’s, he pushed the pace when possible and was very active. Near the midway point of the first quarter, Satoransky flashed some physicality by grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring underneath for the three-point play.
Later in the quarter, Satoransky showed unfamiliarity with center Ian Mahinmi . During a half-court set, Satoransky got stuck on one side with Mahinmi. Mahinmi, out of his comfort zone, initially thought to back down his defender, but as time ticked away, he had to force an errant turnaround jumper. The indecisiveness produced a shot-clock violation.
Overall, Satoransky looked comfortable in his role and finished with 13 points.
● The Wizards paired 7-footer Jason Smith with center Marcin Gortat as the starting frontcourt. Brooks has embraced the idea of fluidity among the positions, to the point that the only label used for Smith is that of “big.” Smith can defensively switch onto centers — as he did often with Gortat and took on the Long-Lions’ Tyler Hansbrough — as well as spread the floor. Through the first half, Smith attempted four three-pointers, more than any other starter. Even so, Smith does not have a lock on staying with the starters for the Oct. 18 season opener.
Brooks has not committed to a plan on how he will replace starting power forward Markieff Morris, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery and could remain out of the lineup until November. At this point, the Wizards can go with a forward-by-committee approach or still give the spot to a player more suited for a stretch-four role (Mike Scott).
“I’m getting comfortable with the fact that [Morris] is going to miss some time. I don’t particularly like it, but I like some of our options,” Brooks said. “We have five games to see and mix and match and experiment and see what’s best going forward.”
● The starting unit will change, but through the first quarter the Wizards remained true to form with the second unit. The first trio of substitutes — Kelly Oubre Jr. in for Porter, Meeks for Beal and Mahinmi for Gortat — will likely resemble the rotation in the regular season.
● For the second half, the Wizards changed the look with Scott starting at power forward and Smith at center. Scott, who played only 18 games last season after a second ankle surgery, sat through the entire first half. Though Scott is healthy, since training camp the Wizards have monitored his time on the court.
● The second half belonged to the young players. Second-year guard Sheldon Mac scored 13 points but fouled out in the final minute of play. Chris McCullough, who tried to expand his game to the perimeter through the first half but missed both jump-shot attempts, settled down to tally 12 points.
Also Carrick Felix, the winner of the team’s training camp slam-dunk competition, took a charge with 2:44 remaining in the game and earned the most enthusiastic ovation of the night from his teammates.