- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2012

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — It was about 14 degrees when the Wizards arrived in Auburn Hills on Saturday, on the outskirts of Detroit. But Washington isn’t exactly used to warm receptions these days, even when playing at home.

The Wizards’ past two opponents — the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat — drew Verizon Center crowds that spent a lot of time cheering for the newest NBA sensation, point guard Jeremy Lin, and the league’s most polarizing superstar, LeBron James.

But as the Wizards began a five-game road trip, all on the West Coast after a Sunday stop to play the Pistons, the players were looking forward to the challenge.

“Our mindset is that we want to put together a string of wins,” Roger Mason Jr. said.


It’s a tall order, since the Wizards’ upcoming opponents are Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah and Phoenix. Only the Suns have a losing record.

“We approach it as a challenge,” Mason said. “As a team, we just want to get better every game. You can only look at it as a challenge and hope that we can start seeing some improvement in the win column.”

But the Wizards’ task is that much more difficult, with three of their frontcourt players hampered by injuries.

Andray Blatche did not make the trip because Wizards coach Randy Wittman thought it would be better for Blatche to continue his rehab in D.C.

“His treatment is going well,” Wittman said. “That’s why I thought it was important for him to stay home. The stuff he can do from a conditioning standpoint, he can do much better at home than when we’re on the road.”

Ronny Turiaf still is several weeks form returning as he continues to rehab from a broken hand, but he did make the trip.

“Ronny’s a good, positive influence on the road,” Wittman said. “He’s close [to coming back].

“He is practicing with us, and I want to make sure he’s familiar with what we’re doing from an offensive standpoint and is getting his legs back. It’s going to be important for him from a conditioning standpoint.”

Rashard Lewis also is day to day with a sore left knee, and he is expected to see limited action. Lewis like will be a game-time decision before each start.

Wittman is just hoping that the team can get off on the right note.

“It’s important to come out with a strong start,” he said. “Anytime you face a five-game road trip, it’s important to come out with a good effort, which leads to positive things.”