Plan B for Wizards?

Plan B for Wizards?
September 28, 2012, 8:05 pm
Share This Post

The franchise owner issued a playoff push mandate this summer.The team's top interior presence is out some if not all of training camp with an ongoing foot injury.Training camp starts Monday. The 2012-13 season tips off in a month.In other words, Wizards coach Randy Wittman and President Ernie Grunfeld already have plenty of stress in their professional lives.Finding out face of the franchise John Wall will miss eight weeks, including the first month of the regular season, with a stress injury to his left knee is just piling on. Wall, Washington's leading scorer and one of only three NBA players last season to average at least 16 points and eight assists, was examined Thursday after experiencing discomfort in his left knee. An MRI revealed the early stages of a non-traumatic stress injury.
The MRI alsorevealedan early roadblock on Wittman's way to establishing team chemistry and determining the best way to utilize his many new pieces including Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal, A.J. Price and Martell Webster.The eight-week prognosis means Wall would miss the entire preseason plus approximately 10-12 regular season games assuming he returns on-schedule, around Thanksgiving. Washington opens the regular season on Oct. 30 at Cleveland. Grunfeld revealed earlier this week the team intends on taking a "very, very cautious" approach during camp with Nene after the forwardcenter aggravated his plantar fasciitis injury during the Olympics. That means on Day One of training camp and perhaps several more to come, the Wizards figure to be without their top two players. Rather than having Wall orchestrate the action from the start of this pivotal campaign, the Wizards must turn to an ensemble approach when it comes to replacing their fast-breaking maestro."It's not going to be about one player taking over for John. It's going to be about a whole team effort," Grunfeld said on a conference call with reporters following the injury announcement. Price, signed as a free agent this summer, went from likely primary backup to likely opening starter.The 6-foot-2, 181-pounderaveraged 6.0 points and 2.0 assists during three NBA seasons with the Pacers.The most experienced point guard on the Wizards roster, Price has made a total of three career starts. Now he must learnWittman's system and fast,a scenario that cuts both ways. "A.J. Price, I know who A.J. Price is because I've coached against him, but I've never coached him," said Wittman, emphasizing that there is no simple answer on how the team will replace Wall with camp yet to begin.Incumbent starting off-guard Jordan Crawford, first-round pick Bradley Beal and last season's primary backup point guard Shelvin Mack round out the current backcourt options. Ariza, Cartier Martin and Webster could also swing down from their natural forward spots.During the conference call, Grunfeld acknowledged the team would also take a closer look at the free agent market, though no addition is imminent or necessarily in the cards.
Washington enters the season with 14 players under contract, leaving one spot open. Former Gonzaga star Steven Gray, who played on the Wizards summer league entry, is also with the team as a non-roster invitee.Crawford's volume shooting ways do not lend itself to running an offense for any length of time. As for Beal, earlier this week Grunfeld said the 19-year-old "surprised with some of the playmaking ability" during the Las Vegas Summer League. That's doesn't mean anyone should expect the Wizards to burden their prized rookie with additional responsibilities. Summer league is one thing. Actual NBA play is another."He probably is going to have to learn the other position, his natural position at the two-guard, but that remains to be seen. I don't think we'll have him primarily at the point guard position but he can make some plays in certain situations," Grunfeld said.Speaking of Vegas, anyhopes the Wizards had about gamblingwith Mack as their primary reserve point guard this season disappeared after his suspect job running the offense during the summer league. Entering his second season, Mack still has an opportunity to prove lessons have been learned now that more minutes are available early on.Perhaps the playmaking option Wittman turns to most with Wall out is not a guard at all.With Nene's quality passing skills from the high post - and the likelihood that he plays up high more often while paired with Okafor or Kevin Seraphin - expect more of the offense to run thru the Brazilian big man."Obviously you saw what he did for us when he came here last year in the 11 games that he played," Wittman said. "That definitely does help us, to be able to play through him."Of course, the 30-year-old must be on the court if he's to help absorb Wall's absence, assuming that's even possible.If not, that would take the stress to another level - and put a major crimp in the Wizards plans to do the same with their recordthis season.