The fatigue was palpable. The exhaustion, physical and mental, was written on their faces. As the worst stretch of their season came to an end — four games in five nights for two straight weeks — the Washington Wizards entered the holiday break with a seven-game losing streak and a league-worst 3-22 record.
Depleted and injury-plagued for much of the season, the Wizards shortened their roster further by releasing center Earl Barron and point guard Shaun Livingston after Saturday night’s 96-87 loss to the Detroit Pistons at Verizon Center.
Barron signed as a free agent Sept. 19, and averaged 2.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11 games, including one start. Livingston signed as a free agent Nov. 15, and averaged 3.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 17 games, including four starts. The roster now has 13 players, four of whom are unavailable because of injury — guards John Wall, Trevor Ariza and A.J. Price and forward Trevor Booker.
“Even if our record was flipped, it’d still be nice just to get away for a little bit, spend some time with the family,” Martell Webster said. “[Coach Randy Wittman] gave us a couple of days. It’d feel a lot better if we were walking away [Saturday] with a win. But we’ve got to come back in Christmas Day and start all over again.”
The Wizards‘ past two games were a home-and-home against the Detroit Pistons. Friday night in Detroit, the Pistons handed them their worst loss of the season, a 100-68 shellacking. Saturday at Verizon Center the Wizards played better, but just well enough to make it another close loss.
“We get to that point to make a big play, to make a shot that might just put us over the edge,” Wittman said. “But it just isn’t going our way right now.”
On Saturday, the Wizards got back Bradley Beal, who missed the two previous games with a sore back, and Nene made his first start of the season. Wittman, who used his 10th different starting lineup, continues to try and find the balance that will give him some degree of consistency. That task is made all the more difficult with just nine players available.
“I’ve got to continue to mix players,” Wittman said. “I like what I saw from this group.” Wittman also put Jan Vesely back into the rotation. Vesely hadn’t played in seven of the team’s previous nine games, but he played more than 22 minutes Saturday and reversed the statistic that has kept him on the bench: He had more points (six) than fouls (four).
The Wizards are averaging a league-worst 88.8 points and give up an average of 97.3 points. Their shooting percentage also is a league-worst 40.2 percent.
“We’ve got to get in the gym,” said Jordan Crawford. “Everybody individually has to work on their game and just keep shooting. Our problem is getting off to slow starts and just digging [ourselves] in holes. And we’ve been doing it consistently for a couple weeks now. So we’ve got to work on that.”
Crawford, who now is the starting point guard and leads the team in scoring (15.5), refuses to blame the team’s record on injuries and is far from ready to give up on the season.
“We have players that are very capable,” Crawford said. “Everybody in this locker room can play. It’s not an excuse. We’ve got to realize there’s a lot of the season left, a lot of opportunities for guys. We’ve just got to continue to play. Everything will work out for itself.”
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