For the second time this season, the Washington Wizards have started to play their best basketball only to have it interrupted by an extended break. After completing a three-game road trip through New York, Brooklyn and Boston with an afternoon matinee this past Saturday, the Wizards won’t get back on the court for a competitive contest until Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Once Monday’s practice concluded, Coach Randy Wittman gave his players the option of going home to be with family for Christmas, or sticking around in Washington with the only requirement that they show up in time for an evening practice Thursday in Minneapolis.
Most of the players — especially those recovering from injuries, such as Bradley Beal and Nene — stayed in town, but Marcin Gortat went to his offseason home in Orlando, Jan Vesely also headed for Florida and Chris Singleton and Glen Rice Jr. both went home to Atlanta.
“With the way the schedule is, that doesn’t happen with a lot of teams in this league, to spend time with family over the holidays,” said Wittman, who also mentioned how the Wizards had two back-to-back sets sandwiched around Thanksgiving and the players had to spend the holiday with teammate Al Harrington’s family in Indianapolis. “It’s a good opportunity.”
Because he maintains an offseason residence in suburban Minneapolis, Wittman caught a flight Monday night back home, where he will spend time with his wife and children.
The timing of the five-day hiatus worked out well for holiday planning, but it also comes while the Wizards (12-13) have matched their season high with three consecutive wins. After winning five of six games to get back to an even record in December for the first time in six years, the Wizards had a three-day break and lost two straight to Milwaukee and Denver, took another three-day break and lost two more to Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers. Wittman wasn’t sure if the time off would help or hurt his team this time.
“It’s hard to say. Sometimes you feel, if you’re playing good, you want to keep playing. And if you’re playing bad, it’s a good time not to,” Wittman said. “But it doesn’t matter. I look at it as being good.”
The break should help Beal and Nene, both of whom returned last week from injuries and will continue to be held to minute restrictions. Kevin Seraphin was held out of Monday’s practice after developing some swelling in his right knee, and John Wall, one of the league leaders in minutes played, also could use time to rest and recuperate.
Beal, 20, gave his Christmas gifts to his brothers, Bruce and Brandon, but will not be with his family in St. Louis for the first time as he continues to treat the stress injury in his right fibula. He plans to spend the holiday with Eric Maynor and a few other teammates.
“This is my first Christmas away from home. I know it’ll be different, but it is what it is,” said Beal, who is averaging 15 points in his past three games after missing the previous nine. “And I think my parents are going to understand. Of course, you’re always going to miss your family and being at home with them; at the same time, it’s always business first.”
Nene also will get treatment on the right Achilles’ tendon, which has caused him to miss seven games this season. He is averaging 15 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench the past two games.
“My calendar isn’t going to change. Here doing physical therapy,” Nene said. “I’m never going to be 100 percent. I remember what I say, too, my body always have a limit. When I push a little bit more, I get a little bit hurt. At the end of the point, I always going to give my best. But injury control, I leave that up to God’s hand because the things that happen in my life, they happen for reason.”
Martell Webster said he couldn’t afford to use this time away as some kind of vacation and planned to still show up at the gym to put up shots and work on his conditioning. He added that he will also study film to make sure that he prepared for the upcoming back-to-back set. The Wizards will host Detroit on Saturday at Verizon Center.
“Muscle memory can shut off in this league if you take too many days off,” Webster said. “For me, I’m a rhythm player, keeping that rhythm. In order to keep that rhythm, I have to come in and stay consistent with what I do.”
Trevor Ariza said he didn’t even remember how the Wizards mishandled their last lengthy stretch of time off, but said the losses weren’t the result of rest. “I just think we ran into a rough patch. We wasn’t clicking, we wasn’t doing things that we normally do. Hopefully now that we’re back to winning or whatever, it continues.”