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Wizards confident in return to Washington

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Sports,Pick and Roll,Craig Stouffer

Randy Wittman doesn’t sound like a guy whose team is 9-31. Back in Washington after going 2-3 on a West Coast road trip that could’ve very well ended 3-2 or 4-1, the Wizards coach bristled at the notion of next steps now that his group is healthy and proving on a nightly basis that they can be competitive.

“We don’t need to change anything,” Wittman said prior to shootaround on Friday morning at Verizon Center. “We’re playing with confidence at a high level. We’ve just got to make sure we maintain that coming back off a West Coast swing, it’s important that we continue to do the things that we’ve done well.”

Wittman also didn’t quite summon any nostalgia for the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves (17-22), where he was 38-105 as a head coach.

“As many years as I spent there you always, it doesn’t matter if you’re a player or a coach, you still follow situations that occur there and watch what’s happening,” Wittman said. “I still have a home there so we go back there a lot in the summer.”

Wittman said there are no changes yet on the cards for John Wall, who has played 25 minutes or more in each of the Wizards last five games, all off the bench.

“Each day I think he gets better,” Wittman said. “He’s still a work in progress, and the minutes will stay the same as they have.”

Trevor Booker is also showing signs of his former self, having appeared in the last four games, but he said that similar to Wall, he’s not quite in full game shape. He does, however, like the mood of the team.

“We know we’re improving so we’re pretty confident right now,” Booker said.

Washington’s only injured player is Cartier Martin, who remains sidelined with a hyperextended left knee.

In a reversal of sorts, it’s the Timberwolves who have lost seven of the last eight games and are currently inundated with injuries. Kevin Love (fractured right hand) is out until March, they’ve come to Washington without Nikola Pekovic (right thigh contusion) and Alexey Shved (sprained left ankle), and starting guard Ricky Rubio remains limited to 28 minutes as he recovers from knee surgery. Rubio vented about not playing in the fourth quarter of the Wolves’ most recent defeat but apologized Friday morning and said the air was clear between him and coach Terry Porter, who is filling in for Rick Adelman, who has been out indefinitely since January 5 to be with his wife, Mary Kay, while she battles an undisclosed illness.

Friday’s game will be the first Martell Webster against his most recent former team following a strong outing against Portland, where he started his career. He struggled with injuries during his two years in Minnesota but has been a consistent and important veteran presence as the Wizards have turned things around.

“Now that we’re finally healthy and really showing teams what we’re capable of,” Webster said. “Now it’s just a matter of building that camaraderie and that chemistry and getting some repetition with the guys back. Once we get full circuit, we’re going to be a tough team to play.”

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