Under Wittman, Wizards are born to run

Under Wittman, Wizards are born to run
October 2, 2012, 8:06 pm
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If Tuesdays practice at George Mason University was any indication, Randy Wittmans first training camp as head coach of the Wizards will be all about speed, with or without star guard John Wall.

The good thing is were in decent shape, Wittman said after conducting a two-hour morning practice that will be followed by a two-hour practice in the evening.

Were not going to change our tempo just because Johns out," Wittman said. "And to be able to run up and down the floor youve got to be in shape and I was pretty pleased with that.

With Wall sidelined eight weeks with a stress injury to his left kneecap and Nene out with a left foot injury, Wittman broke his 19-man squad into three groups. Presumably, the top five that practiced together on Tuesday will be the group that takes the court when the Wizards open the preseason on Monday night in Charlotte.

That group had Shelvin Mack and Trevor Booker at the guard position, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Crawford at forward and Emeka Okafor at center. Wittman downplayed the importance of the groupings, saying they would change on a daily basis.

Well try to look at a lot of different combinations and see how well they play together, Wittman said. Its hard to sit here and tell you what the cohesion is right away.

Tuesdays practice under Wittman was the first for Ariza and Okafor, who came to the Wizards in a June 20 trade that sent Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick to New Orleans.

Everybody was learning plays, Ariza said. We have six new guys trying to figure everything out, so it was a learning process today.

Ariza said that while many of the new Wizards are digesting Wittmans sets, they are also learning each others tendencies and finding their sweet spots on the court.

You can learn what they like to do, he said. You can see what they worked on through the summer and what they want to implement into their games. So, in this practice we learned where players are comfortable getting the ball and playing.

Wittman said Tuesday nights closed-door practice from 5-7 p.m. would feature 5-on-5 play that will allow the players to defend against one another for the first time.

Newly-signed point guard Janerro Pargo said he already sees the makings of a Wizards team capable of running opponents into the hardwood.

Ive been on a few running teams, but this is definitely a team that has the ability to get out and run, Pargo said. We have guys on the wing that are athletic and get out and fly; weve got big men who can rebound; and guards who can push it.

We all know John Wall is one of the fastest guys in the league end to end. So I think we have a great opportunity to get out and run.

With the benefit of a full training camp, Wittman said he intends to put a few new wrinkles into the game plan he used last season, when the Wizards went 18-31 following the dismissal of Flip Saunders, including a season-ending stretch in which they won eight of their final 10 games.

Wittman said he had trouble sleeping Monday night, knowing he was about to start his first full season as head coach of the Wizards.

The excitement is there to have a chance to start this thing from the beginning and do some things I wasnt able to do last year, he said.

One thing that wont change is Wittmans desire to push the basketball up the floor quickly and decisively, with or without Wall.

This team wasnt built for one player to carry us, Wittman said.

For the first day of practice guys are amped up, especially with this being such a new situation for a lot of them. The energy level is really good, but it better be on the first day.