Small forward not fitting in yet
Wearing a shiner below his left eye from an elbow he took in practice last week, Trevor Ariza physically resembles the dreadful start to his Wizards career.
After a month of preseason and two games into the regular season, the veteran small forward acquired in the offseason from New Orleans is still struggling to find his place with Washington (0-2). His difficulties reached a new low when he missed a finger-roll layup during Boston's game-opening 17-2 run last weekend. Ariza finished the 89-86 loss with no points and no rebounds.
"It's never been this long to adjust to something for myself," said Ariza, who has averaged at least 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in each of his last three seasons, one in Houston and two in New Orleans.
The Wizards' home opener was only the second time in his nine-year career that he was shut out in both scoring and rebounding while playing at least 12 minutes. But Ariza has had troubles in almost every game he has played in a Washington uniform, averaging 6.5 points on 27.3 percent shooting during the preseason.
"Just trying to pick my spots and when to shoot the ball, when to drive the ball, when to pass the ball, when to do a little bit of everything," Ariza said. "I'm just trying to get comfortable with what we're doing here."
He isn't alone. The Wizards' starting unit has been abysmal in the team's first two games. Led by rookie Bradley Beal (2-for-13, 15.4 percent), Washington's starters own five of the team's six worst field goal percentages. Meanwhile, Jordan Crawford (16.0 points per game) came off the bench to nearly lead successful comebacks against Cleveland and Boston, and Kevin Seraphin had 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting against the Celtics. But Wizards coach Randy Wittman is resisting lineup changes for the time being.
"You want guys to understand their roles, what's expected of them, and you've got to give that time," Wittman said. "If I'm going to sit here on the third day and say, 'OK, we're going to start five new players or three new players,' I don't know if I'm sending them the right message. Now if it doesn't improve, now that's a decision I've got to go with. But right now I want to have trust in them that they're going to try to fight through and do the right things."
Ariza said he has been encouraged by his teammates and his coach that work will get him through the rough patch. Wittman believes it will happen with a return to what brought Ariza notice in the league in the first place: defense and his ability to play in transition.
"He can defend multiple positions, and he can rebound and he can run," Wittman said. "That's all I care about seeing him do right now. I think if you just concentrate on that [rather] than maybe so many other things, then it simplifies."