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Time for some veterans to get more minutes?

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer
Wittman is suggesting that might be necessary

With the honeymoon over, Randy Wittman is beginning to find out that his challenges with the Wizards are no different from his predecessor.

Washington's interim coach picked up two victories in his first three games after taking over for the fired Flip Saunders two weeks ago by raising the tempo and demanding more energy and effort from his players. He inserted a rookie, Jan Vesely, into the starting lineup in place of the team's longest-tenured player, Andray Blatche, and relied more on young reserves Shelvin Mack and Kevin Seraphin.

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But after four straight losses, the last two by a combined 43 points, the Wizards (4-20) look very much like the team that buried itself with bad habits and a lack of composure and competitiveness when Saunders was in charge.

"It's one thing to put the young guys out there," Wittman said after Saturday's 107-81 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. "But they also have to learn to compete at this level of competition, and to me, I didn't think we were ready for that. Maybe I gotta sprinkle in another veteran that knows what that game's all about before it starts. I think once that game started and they saw how hard they came at us that it was a 'Holy smoke' type of thing. I'm searching, too."

With Blatche sidelined, the only two players on Washington's bench with more than one season of experience are Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans, neither of whom have seen extensive minutes this season.

Mason (1.9 points per game) has made 19 appearances in Washington's backcourt, but his longest stints have come in blowout losses. Evans, who was set back by a troublesome right knee to start the year, has played in only three games and has just one basket.

But both players could offer a veteran presence and more disciplined team play than the Wizards have shown of late. Nick Young (16.8 ppg), who reclaimed the starting shooting guard spot from Jordan Crawford in the third game of the season, is shooting 35.5 percent (27-for-76) in the last four games, and that includes his offensive burst against Orlando, in which he had 20 points in the fourth quarter. He's averaging just over one assist per contest.

While Mason could replace Young, Evans gives Wittman an option at small forward. His best fit, however, might be to replace Rashard Lewis (8.5 ppg, 4.0 rebounds per game), who has played power forward in Blatche's absence but has been wildly inconsistent. Lewis had two points against the Clippers after scoring 20 last week against the Magic, his former team.

Young and Lewis were a combined 10-for-27 from the field in Friday's 106-89 loss at the Raptors (8-17), whom the Wizards will host Monday.

"I don't think we've reverted," Lewis said. "I think overall the past week or so we've been playing well. We've been playing hard. We've been playing together. ... We just gotta get back to that."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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