Ariza: "I feel like I'm the starter"
Trevor Ariza's view accurately represents what every Wizards player who was here last season believes: The familiarity they have with each other, coupled with the veterans, will make the transition smoother for 2013-14.
The early returns, however, don't show it for a group hoping to not only win more than 29 games, but qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
"I definitely feel like going through last year has helped everybody," Ariza said. "We're more comfortable with each other. We know each other's tendencies. … That makes it a little bit easier."
Granted, this is only the preseason and there are five exhibitions remaining. The Wizards play the Miami Heat at Verizon Center on Tuesday (CSN, 7 p.m. ET).
Last year was ruined by injuries to John Wall and Nene that caused them to miss training camp and the start of the regular season. They're dealing with injuries again as Emeka Okafor (herniated disk), Chris Singleton (left foot/toe surgery) and Otto Porter (right hip flexor strain) are out. Al Harrington (left thigh strain) missed Saturday's game vs. the Chicago Bulls.
But the Wizards still should be better-suited to handle these rough spots provided some key reserves do their part.
"We have a really good team. We all want to be good," said Ariza, who started the first two preseason losses. "We know we had a lot of things that were up against us last year. It wasn't our fault. We just couldn't get right. As time (went) on we just kept fighting through it. We stuck together."
Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis has made it clear that he won't tolerate using injuries as an excuse again. Wall and Nene are the two best players and their health appears just fine.
Ariza is averaging about 20 minutes per game and is shooting just 3-for-11 from the field. He's in the final year of his contract, as are coach Randy Wittman and president Ernie Grunfeld.
As long as the kinks have been worked out by opening night Oct. 30, all of the hiccups from the exhibitions will be ignored.
FROM PRACTICE: The Wizards trained late Monday morning at Verizon after having Sunday off. Come back to CSNWashington.com/Wizards to stay updated on what happened and what they were saying going into Tuesday's game with Miami.