ORLANDO, Fla. — Andray Blatche did not make the trip for the Washington Wizards’ game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night; he’s been instructed by doctors to stay off his strained calf as much as possible.
John Wall has been nursing a head cold for a month. Nick Young missed the lockout-shortened training camp and spent the first 10 games rounding into game shape. And Ronny Turiaf, who broke his hand Jan. 1 in a game against the Boston Celtics, won’t be back for a few more weeks.
The NBA schedule-makers had to have foreseen this — what a 66-game schedule compressed into a four-month window would look like. The 50-game schedule played after the 1998-99 lockout gave them a blueprint as to what this season had in store for the players.
There’s the physical exhaustion, with teams playing three games in four nights, and five games in seven nights, with little time for rest or recovery.
There’s also mental fatigue, which causes slower reaction times on the court, which leads to injuries that might not occur during a normal season.
And there’s a lot of bad basketball, because of shortened training camps, lack of practice time and a lack of teaching time for young teams and teams with new coaches.
“This lockout, shortened training camps … we’ve been lucky up to this point,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Then Ronny breaks his hand and now [Blatche’s injury]. We just got to continue to take care of ourselves, and hope we don’t have anything else along the way.”
Through 17 games, Blatche was averaging 10.3 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. He’s expected to miss three to five weeks.
“He’s disappointed, we all are,” Wittman said of Blatche’s injury. “Anybody that has to miss time, it’s a situation you don’t want to see any of your players in. It’s too bad that the injuries have come, but it’s happening to everybody in this league.”
For Wittman, there’s also the dual task of implementing a more up-tempo style of play but not overloading a team that can’t make too many changes. But there’s just not enough time.
“This season makes it even tougher, because we don’t have practice time. We have to use shootarounds a lot as practice time,” Wittman said. “I’ve done this once before, and one thing I learned is that if you do too much, it just floods their minds.
“I don’t need their minds flooded. Their minds have got to be clear so they can go out and perform.”