Wizards hopeful for positive start to season
If receiving an advanced preview of the Wizards' opening night starting lineup equates to Christmas, then consider Randy Wittman the Grinch.
"I don't have any idea who I'll start," the coach said on Tuesday before the team headed to Detroit.
You mean you have an idea, but aren't sharing it with us, right?
"I have an idea," the coach conceded behind a devilish grin of someone with knowledge others want, but isn't ready to share.
Sometime before Wednesday's tip against the Pistons (CSN, 7:30 p.m. ET), the protective wrapping will be no more and the basketball world will know Washington's starting five.
John Wall, Bradley Beal and a healthy Nene are locks. Based on the preseason lineups, Trevor Ariza staffs one forward spot.
The true secret is the identity of the fifth Wizard. Sooner than later, newly acquired center Marcin Gortat's name will fill in the blank. Whether he's ready for the starting challenge - or more to the point, whether Wittman thinks the 29-year-old is ready for the starting assignment after just two practices and Wednesday's pre-game work, is the question.
"We'll see," Wittman said. "Second day. He's still on roller skates a little bit right now."
If not Gortat, Trevor Booker is another likely option, having started five of Washington's seven preseason games.
If the "Polish Machine" convinces Wittman his on-court instincts are kicking in, then the 6-foot-11 center could make his Wizards debut with Wall and the other starters.
"Obviously you want to try and keep [Gortat] in a situation where he isn't thinking too much. You can't be a player who is thinking and expect to perform at a high level," Wittman said. "He's got to get a comfort level to him. He'll show me how much time he really deserves as he picks things up. I haven't coached him in a game, even a preseason game yet."
The team's point guard, for one, sees progress.
"He's just a veteran guy," Wall said of Gortat, who provides the offense with another scoring threat. "He came in yesterday and went through all the plays with us, stayed after. Today he went through the plays with no problem. That's the main thing. He's a veteran who can catch on pretty quickly."
Whether Gortat starts against the Pistons or starts the game in his Wizards warm-up gear, it would indeed be helpful if he caught up rather quickly considering the matchup. Detroit sports the anti-small ball era starting frontcourt of 6-foot-11 Greg Monroe, 6-foot-10 Andre Drummond and 6-foot-9 Josh Smith.
"His size will help, definitely," Wittman said of the 6-foot-11 Gortat. "Playing against this front line, probably one of the biggest frontlines we'll face all year with Josh at the three with Monroe and Drummond. Obviously, his size will help us."
At least we know Gortat will play. As for the remainder of the Wizards' rotation, that's another mystery. Specifically, how deep into his bench Wittman intends to go.
"I'm teetering, nine, 10. It's going to be one or the other," the coach said last week, hours before the team traded for Gortat. "We'll see how that plays out as we get rolling."
Martell Webster, Eric Maynor, Kevin Seraphin, and Al Harrington are the other primary contenders for minutes. If circumstances dictate a need for more bodies, Wittman will have Garrett Temple, Jan Vesely and Glen Rice available. Injured forwards Otto Porter and Chris Singleton remain sidelined.
Wittman's starting lineup plans remains under wraps, at least for a few more hours.