Rotation changes again amid recent struggles
Who played for the Wizards as they erased nearly all of a 27-point deficit at San Antonio on Saturday was slightly more conspicuous than who didn't -- but no less important. As the fragile foundation of success that had been built over the last few weeks begins to unravel, rotation decisions again are proving crucial.
The Wizards (11-35) have lost four games in a row since they won six of their first nine with John Wall healthy again. They have dropped back into a tie for the worst record in the NBA, and as they return home from a three-game road trip to face the Los Angeles Clippers (34-15), they have dropped below .500 (6-7) with Wall in the lineup, a threshold team owner Ted Leonsis has espoused for the second half of the season.
The unselfish basketball that marked their resurgence -- with multiple players in double figures and no All-Star caliber scorer -- has proved difficult to sustain.
|Clippers at Wizards|
|When » Monday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » CSN|
"After having a little bit of success, we've crept in a little bit of minutes and shots and points," Wizards coach Randy Wittman told reporters after the 96-86 loss to the Spurs. "I thought that really crept in tonight, to be honest with you. We addressed it again at halftime tonight. We played some different guys, and we played together with enthusiasm and some heart in the second half. When we do that, we're a pretty good team. That's the team we were a couple weeks ago."
Against the Spurs, Wittman unexpectedly turned to Chris Singleton in the second half, giving the second-year forward his first competitive playing time in 16 games. Singleton responded with 11 points, four rebounds and three steals in 20 minutes.
"It felt good," Singleton told reporters. "Felt like I haven't missed a step."
But Wittman also benched Jordan Crawford and Jan Vesely for the entire second half and didn't play Emeka Okafor at all during the fourth quarter. Okafor's absence can be explained by a Spurs team that plays small and lost Tim Duncan to injury in the first half, and Vesely's playing time has been sporadic at best for much of the year.
Crawford, though, has struggled during the Wizards' recent skid, especially in the second quarter as the offense has ground to a halt. In three straight road losses, the Wizards averaged 10.0 points and shot a combined 19.7 percent (12-for-61) in the period. Crawford went 1-for-11 over that stretch, including 1-for-4 at San Antonio and 0-for-5 in Memphis.
Crawford lost his starting role to rookie Bradley Beal just after Christmas but had been playing increased minutes while Beal tried to fight through a sprained right wrist. With Beal on the bench the last three games, Wittman opted for the defensive versatility of Garrett Temple in the starting lineup, preferring Crawford's scoring punch off the bench. But it hasn't been there.
"We're a team that nobody's going to go out there and average 30 for us every night," Wall told reporters. "We need somebody that's going to move the ball and get everybody involved. It's going to be a different body very night. We just gotta keep trusting each other."