Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman gave his players two days off, then brought them in on Christmas Day for a late evening practice. He had to take a look at one new player, Garrett Temple, and one returning player, Shelvin Mack.
The Wizards have been a revolving door at point guard, with Jannero Pargo and Shaun Livingston not working out and A.J. Price breaking his hand.
Jordan Crawford has filled in as the starter, but Wittman needs Crawford, the team’s leading scorer, at his natural two-guard spot. So the Wizards opened up two roster spots by releasing Livingston and center Earl Barron, and signing Mack and Temple. Both players called the surprise call up the best Christmas present they could have hoped for.
Mack was with the team last season as John Wall’s primary backup, but struggled to run the team during the summer-league. With the injury to Wall, Mack was released after training camp so the team could go with a more veteran presence.
Mack, 22, had been playing in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws when the Wizards contacted him and asked him if he’d be interested in rejoining the team.
Temple, 26, has bounced back and forth between the D-League and the NBA since finishing college at Louisiana State in 2009, mostly on a series of 10-day contracts at the end of the season. He’s played for the Rockets, Kings, Spurs, Bucks and Bobcats. He started the season with the Spurs, but was released.
The December call up is the earliest of his career.
Wittman talked after practice about why the team made the roster moves they did and what he expects out of his two new point guards.
How much do you expect out of the new guys?
Randy Wittman: “We’re going to find out, both he [Mack] and Garrett. We’re going to throw them to the wolves right away, see what they can handle, what they can do. Obviously Shelvin has a better understanding of what we’re doing. We’ve changed some things, but a lot of he still knows, picked right up. That will obviously help him a little bit quicker than Garrett. Today was a good day. For the first day they didn’t struggle to bad.”
Was it a blessing in disguise that Mack went to the D-League and did so well?
“That’s the reason they’re here, that alone. I told our players that, I told our team that, I told them that. They took advantage of an opportunity. It might not have been an opportunity that we all would want - we all would want to be in the NBA from start to finish - but the opportunity was presented to both of them to help their development by going to the D-League and both of them took advantage of it to the fullest.”
“[The way] Shelvin put up and how he played was impressive, from a lot of people that I talked to as well as watching some of his games. Same with the Garrett. A lot of guys go down there and out and mope, ‘woe is me, this isn’t fair’ and then they stay there or are out of the league. So, it’s a credit to them. I told Shelvin I didn’t bring him back up here because I knew him, because he was here but also because of what he did while he was down there. That’s a credit to them.”
Why make the moves at this time?
“We got to continue to grow there. I’m not happy with our guard play. Plain and simple. We’ve got to get better. I don’t know how else to put it. Over the course of A.J. [Price] being hurt we brought in a number of different players to work out, just individually. Of those, we felt those two stood our more than any of the others.”
“We were going through that stretch of so many games and not enough practice that it didn’t make a lot of sense to pull a trigger where we didn’t have any time to teach these guys some semblance of what they need to know when they’re playing. The three days that we’ve had off, even though we didn’t practice, we’ve ben able to give them prepare them a video as well as hard copy stuff of what they need to know. They’ve had two days to look at that as well as then today, coming in today and physically getting on the floor.”
Will you start them tomorrow?
“I don’t know yet, I’m being honest. We’ll see how I digest today. Come in here tomorrow and talk to my coaches.”
Have you been keeping track of Mack?
“Oh sure. Absolutely. He’s a good kid, and I wanted to see how he’d react. It’s tough when you’re a last cut to accept, and I really wanted to see how he would respond to it, and that told me a lot about him. As I said, that’s one of the reasons why he’s back.”
“Experience I think is what we were mainly looking at at that time with John’s [Wall’s] injury and A.J. being fairly young, too. Jannero’s [Pargo] first look was more his ability to spread the floor but then his experience, too, I thought was important at that time.
“It’s always about building something. We’ve got to build something, a momentum, create a momentum, and I told them, the only chance we have of that is staying together and continuing to work hard. We’re going to continue to do some things, we’re doing things differently, we’ve got to continue to try to develop these guys, I’ve got to continue to try to instill them with confidence. I think that’s a main ingredient in anything we do positive, is you’ve got to have confidence in doing it. We’ve got to keep plugging and work to build ourselves a momentum.”
What is that momentum?
“Obviously, it’s winning some games, but how many, where we’re at, how many in a row, let’s just get some momentum going and see where it can take us, see where it takes you and see what you can build on from that. There’s no magic number or goal, it’s too fight ourselves out of this hole and how far can we fight ourselves up and out of it. Are we going to continue to fight and stay together and be in this thing together? It’s the only way you can do it. If we’re not then it’s going to be a lot of the same.
What does Garrett Temple add to this team?
“I think number one, he gives us size and he can defend. I thought with where we were at, we really started getting broken down there at the point with the different guys that we had faced with Shaun [Livingston] and JC [Jordan Crawford]. I wanted to make sure defensively that we became, had the potential to become more solid at the point with a defender, and he’s got good size, too, with it. That was the thinking with him.”
What is the news on the injury front?
“Trevor Ariza, he’s running on his own, nothing with the team, still has some tightness and a little bit of soreness, he’s getting closer, nothing where he could’ve got out and done anything with us today, hopefully tomorrow maybe do some dummy stuff in shootaround and in practice, maybe get into a practice after that.”
“John Wall is still moving around good. He came in Sunday and had another good workout, a hard workout with cutting and running and changing directions and lateral movements. We gave yesterday off with him, and then everything looks good today after amping it up again for him on Sunday. He’s doing the same thing now.”