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Stiff challenge for Wizards' Vesely

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Former first-round pick making little progress

Jan Vesely comfortably knocked down free throw after free throw as he worked with Wizards assistant coach Don Zierden at the end of practice Sunday.

The only problem is that they count as much as his airball from the line in the first quarter of Washington's 108-106 double overtime loss to Charlotte the night before. That shot, following a front-rimmed first attempt, didn't even end up in the score sheet. Because it didn't touch anything, it was ruled a lane violation when players moved in for the rebound.

"It's two misses," Vesely said. "I have to keep working on it. The next opportunity will come."

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But his own disappearing act hasn't gone unnoticed. While the lack of a training camp and a condensed schedule gave the Czech forward a reprieve from harsh scrutiny as a rookie, there have been few noticeable signs of progress in the former sixth overall pick's second year as the Wizards have started 0-11.

"He's gotta become more a basketball player on the floor and not a one-dimensional player," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "You can't allow teams to not guard you. You've got to put yourself in the same position when that happens to do something positive from an offensive standpoint."

That helps explain why Vesely has played 10 minutes or less in each of Washington's last two games. It doesn't quite solve the question of what Vesely did to earn a starting assignment in the last four games, in which the value of his length and energy simply haven't been enough.

Vesely strove to work on his jump shot during the offseason, but his shooting percentages have dropped from the field (.537 to .448) and at the line (.532 to .231). Listed at 7 feet and 240 pounds, he has grown an inch since last year but hasn't added any muscle weight. He has more personal fouls (30) than points (29).

Wittman described Vesely as having "no rhyme or reason" after losing to Charlotte.

"He needs to play better, no question," Wittman said. "He's nonaggressive, and he can't play that way."

In contrast, Chris Singleton's impact off the bench has been crucial to Washington getting to overtime in its last two games. He tied his career high with 12?rebounds against the Bobcats, and he has averaged 10.0 points in the last three games. Singleton, picked 12 places after Vesely, hasn't yet made a start after making 51 as a rookie.

Vesely averaged 6.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in 20 starts last season, including Washington's final 15 games of the year. That production has been cut by more than half this season (3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg as a starter). He has just two points in the last two games, which came on an alley-oop slam, proof of how much his open floor game has been hurt by the absence of John Wall.

"Last year we ran a lot of fast breaks, and I was building on that," Vesely said. "He's out now. We still have a good group going, and you never know what will happen. You need to just play in the right way and with whatever the team is that you've got."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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