Of course, no one with the Wizards is happy with the way the season has gone regardless of the injury situation. They should be better than their record and they know that, but how do they get there?
They're 20-21 as of today, eight games off of last season's pace when the Wizards were 28-13 but about to hit a swoon in which they'd lose 12 of 15 games.
"Even with the injuries we still could have been above .500. We let a lot of games slip," Wizards point guard John Wall said. "We have to routinely do better and get guys back."
The Wizards are four games in the loss column from the No. 4 seed and just two games behind the No. 5 seed which is where they've entered the playoffs the last two years.
They've beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1), San Antonio Spurs (1-1), Chicago Bulls (1-0), Indiana Pacers (1-1), Detroit Pistons (1-0) and Miami Heat (2-1). All of these teams are ahead of them in the standings.
"Being able to say that we can still make an easy push to get to the four seed, I'm glad to be able to say that," said Garrett Temple, who has made 22 starts in place of Bradley Beal who has twice been injured. "We're in a place where we don't want to be but it could be a lot worse."
- Coach Randy Wittman has been good with after-timeout calls and designing plays to get them baskets on set plays. At the end of the second quarter Wednesday vs. Heat, Marcin Gortat got a layup when they settled down to discuss the final possession with 15 seconds left. Where the Wizards have to be better is adjusting quicker in games. It took getting torched by C.J. Miles, who was 8 of 9 on threes the first time they played the Pacers on Nov. 24 with Kris Humphries starting, to going to Jared Dudley who was denying him on the catch. The difference was striking on Jan. 15.
- Nene, after missing 21 games, is not only healthy again but playing well. Since returning Jan. 6, he's 35 of 61 shooting (57.4%) and his presence alone makes the Wizards better in every way defensively. Nene can have issues when being forced to defend stretch players too far away from the basket but he fortifies the defense like no one else.
- Beal has played 23, 22, 24 and 25 minutes off the bench since returning from a stress reaction in his lower right leg, the fourth in a row in his fourth NBA season. He'll eventually work his way back into the starting lineup which should open up the floor for everyone else. The key is whether or not his presence will stop the ball from moving or make it better. Beal can stand stagnant too long during sets and doesn't always move off the ball as quickly as he should and it causes breakdowns everywhere.
- Temple has been the biggest beneficiary of the fast-pace style, getting out in transition, finishing in traffic and using his 6-6 frame to play lockdown defense. Temple is allowing his defense to create his offense and his form on his jumper has never looked better. His 8.3 points average is a career-best. Ramon Sessions is having his best season since 2013-14 for many of the same reasons, benefiting from the open-court play with 10.2 points. And Gary Neal, who is the best shooter of the group and the best backup the Wizards have had for Beal since he was drafted, fits right in. The bench can be a lethal scoring unit.
- Wall doesn't have to carry the offensive load for the starters all the time anymore. As bodies come back, namely Beal, he can be seen resting off the ball on the weak side of the floor and wait to get the ball on reversal for attacks at the rim. He hasn't complained about his aches and pains in quite a while which means he's feeling better. He's also taking practices off to preserve him. Ideally, the Wizards can get away with resting him going into the All-Star break but given their place in standings they probably can't afford to do much of that.
- The Wizards have a manageable schedule from here until the All-Star break. They have a chance to win every game, except maybe at the Oklahoma City Thunder and vs. the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks, 76ers, Bucks, Hornets and the like populate their upcoming games. While none of this guarantees anything, if they win the games they're supposed to win and bat .500 with the rest they'll be over .500 soon with enough cushion to maintain.