- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cautious optimism was the atmosphere surrounding the Washington Wizards as they opened the 2012-13 season Tuesday. Cautious, because so many of the Wizards key players are sidelined with injuries. Optimistic, because this year’s team has a better balance of veterans and young players, and the knuckleheads have left the building.

After taking off early Monday morning, just hours before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the Wizards began the season against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night in Cleveland, and came away with a 94-84 loss. Coach Randy Wittman wasn’t baffled as much by the defeat itself as he was the group of strangers he appeared to be coaching.

“That wasn’t the team I’ve seen the last four weeks,” Wittman told reporters after the game. “I don’t know if it was because it’s the first game or not. Execution offensively was horrendous. We were doing things out on the floor that I’ve never seen these guys do before.”

One of the things that plagued the Wizards last season was a tendency to stop playing team ball and resort to a one-on-one style whenever the opposing team built up a lead. Despite this year’s revamped roster, which includes seven new players, the ghosts of Wizards past came out in Cleveland.

“We tried to be somebody we weren’t and that wasn’t good,” Wittman said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and try to find our team.”

The Wizards had just one player in double figures, Jordan Crawford (11), hit a dismal 60 percent from the free-throw line (12 of 20) and shot an awful 35 percent from the floor (32 of 90).

Defensively, they allowed Kyrie Irving to torch them for 29 points on 55-percent shooting, and Anderson Varejao had three career highs — rebounds (23), offensive rebounds (12) and assists (nine).

“We fought, we never quit,” A.J. Price told reporters. “We could have laid down but we fought back as a team together and we made it interesting at the end of the game on the road. That’s all you can ask for.”

Rookie Bradley Beal started at two-guard and connected on two 3-pointers early, then scored just two points the rest of the game.

“I should have played a lot better than I did,” Beal told reporters. “I think I got lax. I felt good at the beginning of the game and made some shots, and then I got lax and kind of disappeared.”

Beal must have been channeling his coach, who talked as though the team he’s been preparing during training camp and practice had disappeared as well. The Wizards will need to find themselves quickly, since they’ll face the Boston Celtics in their home opener on Saturday at Verizon Center.

The Celtics won’t be in a very good mood after losing to the Miami Heat 120-107 on Tuesday as the Heat held their NBA championship ring ceremony. Adding insult to injury, former Celtics guard Ray Allen, who signed with the Heat in the offseason, lit them up for 19 points.

Crawford has already moved past the opening night loss and is ready for Boston.

“I definitely want to get back to it,” Crawford told reporters. “I want to get a win on the board early and start rolling.”

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