Only two players remain on the roster from the last time James Singleton was with the Wizards during the latter half of the 2009-10 season: Cartier Martin and Andray Blatche, and Blatche isn't even with the team these days.
Even though Washington's 14-44 record is familiarly dismal, the uniforms and the attitudes are different -- as is Singleton himself after a couple seasons in China. He knocked down five of six shots on the way to 12 points and eight rebounds in Tuesday's 93-85 win over Orlando.
"I can't even compare the mindsets for these guys," Singleton said. "To me, the team is all about the locker room, the way they play. Right now they have a great core of vets, and they have a lot of good rookies."
|Wizards at Knicks|
|When » Friday, 7:30 p.m.|
|Where » Madison Square Garden,|
|TV » CSN|
Singleton came to Washington from Dallas along with Josh Howard and Quinton Ross in exchange for Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson in February 2010. Over 32 games, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 6.1 points and 6.9 rebounds and was a welcome positive presence on a team in disarray following Gilbert Arenas' suspension. He set a career high with 21 rebounds in a loss to the Pacers that year.
He turned down a chance to rejoin the Wizards last season and instead went to China, where he played one season for the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers before moving to the Guangdong Southern Tigers. Singleton averaged 17.8 points and 11.9 rebounds this season, which ended just two weeks ago with a loss in the championship to Stephon Marbury's Beijing Ducks.
Less than a week after the Chinese final, Singleton was in uniform for the Wizards, picking up five fouls in a jet-lagged stint against Detroit. Five days later, he was showing off his midrange jumper and cementing the Wizards' upset win over the Magic with an alley-oop slam, part of 4-for-4 shooting in the fourth quarter.
"I'm going to be a threat. I'm going to help my team out in every way possible," said Singleton, who credited his offensive assertiveness to working with former San Antonio Spurs coach Bob Hill, who is a consultant for the Southern Tigers.
"To me he seems to have slowed down with his play on the floor than it was two years ago," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He's taken the right opportunities offensively, taken the right shots and obviously been a positive for us from a defensive standpoint."
Singleton, in turn, has noticed the change in the Wizards under Wittman.
"He installs more confidence in the guys," Singleton said. "No matter what's going on, he lets the guys know that he has their back, and he just wants to keep fighting. He keeps telling them play with confidence. That's his key thing. The team slogan since I've been here has been 'together' and 'family.' I didn't hear that before."
The future for both coach and player remains uncertain, but it hasn't swayed either one's determination.
"I think I've already proved myself," Singleton said. "I've got a good rep with the NBA. I'm always known as a guy that works hard and a guy that just goes out and does whatever the team needs. I don't think I really have to audition anymore or keep auditioning. Either they know or they don't know."