- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ATLANTA—The mandate for rebuilding the Wizards, as outlined by owner Ted Leonsis and president Ernie Grunfeld, is to play the young players and let them develop.

But after the opening-night collapse against the New Jersey Nets, when Washington blew a 21-point lead en route to a 90-84 loss, it also showed how important it is to have a few guys who have been around the block.

The Wizards have several veterans, including Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason Jr., Ronny Turiaf and Maurice Evans, who know how to help keep the young players from getting down in case wins are hard to come by.

“It’s always important to get wins,” coach Flip Saunders said. “Wins give you confidence that you’re doing something right. I think more importantly, especially with young teams, is you’ve got to play the right way. … If you don’t play the right way, you don’t have a chance to win.”

Another problem with young teams often is lack of consistency, but Saunders has outlined four areas to focus on to help bring that about.

“We have to defend, we have to rebound the basketball, we have to take care of the ball and not turn it over and we have to share the ball,” Saunders said.

“If we do those four things, two on defense and two on offense, and we become consistent with that ,then you’re going to put your yourself in a position to win.”

Another key is maintaining a good attitude through adversity, something Mason said he emphasizes to his young teammates.

“The one thing I’ve been trying to stress to the guys is that the biggest thing for us is to just compete,” Mason said. “If we compete, especially on the defensive end, we have a chance.

“Sometime’s its tough for young players, but I think we have good veterans on this team. Even though we’re only playing 66 games, it’s still going to be a long season. You’re going to have rough spots - the [Los Angeles] Lakers started out 0-2. They key is not to get too down on yourself.”

Mason and Lewis had the same message for the young guys - no one is going undefeated.

“Even though a lot of guys were frustrated after the home opener, you always have to know that there’s another game,” Lewis said. “Its a game we felt like we gave away, a game we should have won, but at the same time, you have to get yourself prepared for the next game. You’re not going to have a good night every night.”

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