- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2014

Groans from Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman would be fair at the end of a carnage-filled three-week preseason.

The Wizards finished beat up despite trying to avoid it. Players were suspended, hurt and ineffective. Too many turnovers, not enough points. Surgeries and dissatisfaction.

Wittman, 54 and a hard-scrabbled denizen of the Bob Knight approach, is not going to bother with excuses.

“We don’t have to do anything differently with what we’ve got,” Wittman said. “All the focus is still the same.”

The roster is not. The Wizards made predictable cuts Saturday when they waived forward Damion James and guards John Lucas and Xavier Silas.

Silas was given a large opportunity to make the team as its 15th member. He shot just 29.7 percent, however, and Wittman carried concerns about Silas’ defense.

That left the final roster spot to 35-year-old Rasual Butler. Despite entering his 12th season, the 6-foot-7 swingman often stayed after practice to shoot more.

Toward the end of the preseason, Butler said he was comfortable at shooting guard or small forward.

“I came here to make the team,” Butler said. “That’s my focus, first and foremost to make the team, then once that works out, then you worry about trying to earn some minutes.”

He’s accomplished that and the expansive list of injuries may provide him playing time early on. Starting shooting guard Bradley Beal (wrist surgery) is expected to miss another month. He’s stuck practicing a one-handed shooting motion with a removable cast on his left forearm. Swingman Martell Webster is still recuperating from offseason back surgery. Backup shooting guard Glen Rice Jr. is questionable to play in the opener because of a sprained ankle. He began to lightly practice Friday and Saturday.

That’s not all.

Forward Kris Humphries had surgery Oct. 9 on his right hand to fix a cut suffered in the preseason. His eight stitches were removed Saturday and he began to shoot for the first time since the injury. Humphries said he plans to play in Wednesday’s opener in Miami, though that is in question.

Veteran Paul Pierce banged knees with a defender Oct. 17 during a game against the Charlotte Hornets and did not play in the two preseason games afterward. He’s expected to be ready for the opener, however.

Power forwards Nene and DeJuan Blair will be suspended for the first game they are healthy enough to play in during the regular season because of an altercation in the first game of the preseason. If Humphries can’t play, that will give the Wizards nine healthy players for the opener against the defending Eastern Conference champions.

“We won’t do anything differently in this first game,” Wittman said.

Jumbled lineups that come from a preseason filled with injury helped lead to it also being filled with turnovers and stalled offense. Wittman lamented one-pass possessions, channeling another former coach from the state of Indiana, Norman Dale. He wanted the ball to move side-to-side, a concept that starts with point guards John Wall and Andre Miller.

“We’ve got to figure it out as a team,” Miller said. “To know mentally that when something’s not right, we’ve got to get the ball moving. It falls on me and John, [but] also falls on the rest of everybody.”

Wittman has concerns about freelancing trickling from the top down. When teammates see Wall move out of character — becoming a pull-up jump-shooter as opposed to a distributor — it can be contagious, Wittman said.

“Turnovers can be a rash of seeing different guys try different things,” Wittman said.

The offseason’s projected starting lineup of Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene and Gortat played together once in the preseason. They won’t be together for at least another month because of the non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid bone in Beal’s left wrist.

Nene and Blair can return for the second game, which is in Orlando on Thursday as the Wizards open the season with back-to-back road games.

The roster needs time to be complete, but the Wizards are out of it.

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