- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2020

Under the NBA’s plan for its season to resume, the Washington Wizards were one of the last teams to qualify. League officials determined teams had to be no more than six games back of the playoffs — and at 5½ games behind the eighth seed, the Wizards made it. Barely.

But now that they know they’re heading to Orlando, the Wizards want to make the most of it.

General manager Tommy Sheppard said Monday his team is looking forward to playing “pressure-packed” games when the season resumes next month at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The Wizards spent the year focused mostly on the development of their younger players, but with the postseason in sight, Sheppard said the goal is to make it.

“This is a great, great chance,” Sheppard said. “You’ve got eight more regular seasons with the chance to get to the playoffs. These are pressure-packed games. … We laid it out to each player to what their expectations are. What it comes down to is show improvement. Go down there and improve upon what you did.”

First, the Wizards, like other teams, are tasked with having to formulate a plan of how to ramp up activity in a short period of time.

When play resumes, the 22 teams who return will have to play eight games in a span of two weeks — a stretch that would already be considered difficult under normal circumstances. But it becomes even more challenging when most players went without touching a basketball for weeks. Beyond the fear of contracting COVID-19, some players have expressed concerns about whether there’s an increased risk of injuries, given the time off.

So far, teams have been permitted to hold only individual workouts with no contact. Teams won’t be allowed to scrimmage until July 9, when training camp is scheduled to begin.

Wizards chief of athletic care and performance Dr. Daniel Medina said the Wizards would use a series of parameters to create weekly workouts for players. He said the team tracks each player’s workload throughout the season, such as how often they change directions or how fast the player runs.

Using that data as a baseline, Medina said the Wizards plan s to “build up” their athletes over the next four weeks, so that the workload from practice has them ready to sustain the effort players normally use in games.

“I’m confident we’re making the right decisions,” Medina said.

Besides Davis Bertans, who will skip the rest of the season ahead of his free agency, Sheppard said no one else has given any indication they plan on withdrawing from the league’ restart. NBA teams can take up to 35 people to Orlando, and Sheppard said 15 or 16 of those will be players.

One name who won’t make the trip is star point guard John Wall, who has been out the entire season while recovering from an Achilles injury. The plan is for Wall to rehab in Miami and go back and forth to the District while the Wizards are in Orlando, Medina said.

Another factor the Wizards will have to consider is if they’ll have to adjust playing time due to the result of games. For instance, if the Wizards lose their first four games and their chances of the playoffs are all but nothing, would they consider not playing star Bradley Beal for the final four outings?

Sheppard said the Wizards would be cautious, but didn’t commit to shutting anyone down.

“I don’t think that’s our desire what’s so ever,” Sheppard said. “These games are very valuable evaluation periods. If you’re healthy enough to play, you’re going to play. I think the players feel the same way.”

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