Injuries, illness result in a diminished roster
With the Wizards thinned out recently by illness and injury, the players left on the court nearly resemble the rebuilding team of the last two years. But the team as a whole continues to look as if it can't wait for next season to begin.
John Wall hasn't missed a game since he returned to action in January. He has played more games in a row (38) than he missed at the season's start (33). In the last two games, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton have reprised the starting roles they were thrust into last season -- before they probably were ready. Kevin Seraphin, Cartier Martin and Jan Vesely all have had to play more off the bench and for good reason: There's no one else healthy.
In Wednesday's 103-80 loss at Oklahoma City, Emeka Okafor and Garrett Temple were the only active Wizards who weren't around for last year's 20-46 campaign or the 23-59 run in 2010-11.
|Wizards at Magic|
|When » Friday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Amway Center,|
|TV » CSN|
"It kind of messes with your chemistry a little bit," Temple told reporters when asked about playing short-handed. He has started the last 11 games, averaging 8.5 points. "But as long as the guys who can play come out hard and play together, you have a chance to win."
The Wizards (26-45) enter Friday with eight more wins than the Orlando Magic (18-54); in the first of four meetings this year Dec. 19, Washington had eight fewer than Orlando. The Magic won that game 90-83, but Washington has won the last two, including the most recent clash in January by 29 points. While the Wizards are 6-3 in their last nine games, the Magic are riding an eight-game skid.
"At this point, it's about building steam and building confidence and everybody getting used to everybody, just going out there and playing," said Okafor, who had 21 points in Monday's win over Memphis, his second-highest scoring game of the year.
Booker's minutes already were on the rise before his latest promotion. Averaging 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds over 15 games in March, the third-year forward is having his best month since November, when his role was increased as the Wizards started the year 0-12.
Singleton has played at least 40 minutes in each of the last two games, a testament to coach Randy Wittman's trust in the second-year forward. But Vesely, a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick, hasn't been able to turn an injury-riddled roster into a lengthy audition. With continued struggles rebounding in traffic and playing consistent defense, the second-year 7-footer remains on the fringe of the Wizards' plans.
Bradley Beal (sprained left ankle), Martell Webster (abdominal strain), Trevor Ariza (flu) and A.J. Price (groin strain) have missed at least the last two games; Price has missed the last nine and Beal 10 of the last 13. All four joined the team last summer.
Nene has missed the last two contests with a sore knee, and Jason Collins (flu) sat out against the Thunder.