John Wall stood at the far end of the court as the Washington Wizards finished up the morning practice session on their final day at George Mason. With his feet firmly planted on the court, Wall put up shot after shot while a member of the team’s training staff rebounded the ball for him.
It was not the way he had envisioned spending training camp. Out for at least eight weeks with a stress injury to his left patella, Wall will have to watch from the sidelines as the Wizards try to find some much-needed offense while he and center Nene remain out of the lineup.
Washington played its preseason opener Sunday in Charlotte, falling 100-88 to the Bobcats. As the team shifts training camp to Verizon Center on Wednesday, coach Randy Wittman had a list of things he wants to improve before the team hosts the New York Knicks on Thursday: fewer fouls, better ball movement and better decision making.
Wall and Wittman developed the kind of communication that a coach dreams of with his point guard last season, an understanding that allowed Wall to be a coach on the floor. Without him, it was something the Wizards were sorely lacking Sunday.
“It’s an experience,” Wittman said. “It’s looking up at the clock and usually, I lay that on our point guard. Our point guard has to know time and situation every minute of the game. They’ve got to know we’ve got two fouls to give, or we’re in the bonus.”
A mild rib injury to Jannero Pargo continues to muddy the waters at point guard in a competition now featuring Pargo, A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack.
Pargo sat out Sunday’s game, while Mack made a case for himself with a seven-assist, no-turnover performance, although he scored just three points.
Price notched nine points but had one assist to five turnovers.
Of course, it wasn’t just the point guards Wittman had a few words for after Sunday’s game.
“I tell the bigs: We can’t afford any stupid fouls here,” Wittman said. “That’s communication. That was something that was lacking in Charlotte. You talk out here in practice. You talk, talk, talk, and in the game the air is taken out of your lungs. So we’ve got to learn how to talk in practice and communicate in the game.”
Although one preseason game is a small sample size, there were a few disturbing trends the team will have to address.
The Wizards shot just 33 percent from the floor, committed 31 fouls and made more turnovers (20) than free throws (16).
“It’s a long season,” Mack said. “Something is going to happen, like John getting hurt. We didn’t want that to happen, but it did, so it provides an opportunity.”
Mack is know for writing positive messages on Twitter and managing to stay upbeat despite any personal or team struggles.
“Just staying positive, you have the best chance to take advantage of the opportunity instead of staying negative,” Mack said. “When you’re down, you’re not ready for the opportunity and it slips by.”
Wall has been listening to his teammate. He began the week sitting on the sidelines with his head down. He ended the week shooting baskets at the far end of the court and joking with his teammates, a basketball in his hands at all times.