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Wizards notebook: It's the final countdown

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Wizards notebook: It's the final countdown

Wizards coach Randy Wittman has made it clear he intends on sticking with the "mix and match" approach over the final two preseason games rather than establishing a set lineup or rotation. With no John Wall (knee), Nene (foot) or Kevin Seraphin (calf), it's not as he has much of choice - though he probably wished he did seeing as the Wizards are set to take on NBA powers Miami and San Antonio.

"There are injuries. There is not much I can do," Wittman said following Tuesday's practice, one that also did not include Bradley Beal (ankle). "I don't know if Bradley is going to play tomorrow. That's going to change things. We're not going into tomorrow's game or Friday's game with this as our starting group."

(For all those craving hoops, both games are televised on Comcast SportsNet, including tonight's matchup against the Heat starting at 8:30 p.m.)

Then again, the Oct. 30 regular season opener at Cleveland is rapidly approaching so it's hard to fathom the coach not favoring those he intends on using when the games turn real (there is another argument that Wittman might want one final look at certain players before having to make roster cuts. Also a valid stance).

Even factoring in Wall's projected month-long regular season absence, Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo may well be battling for one spot. Both have only partially guaranteed contracts and the Wizards may need another roster slot for a big man if Nene and Seraphin are not ready to answer the bell in the near future. Though Pargo has started two games while Mack has only come off the bench, the 33-year-old did not see the court in Saturday's win at Milwaukee.

Final cuts are due October 29 at 5 p.m. Don't expect much if any movement from the locals before then.

"We're running out of bodies," Wittman said when asked if any cuts could come before completing both games. "We've got to maintain a chance to get stuff done practice wise."

Regardless of who is out in the court, the Wizards realize they must take advantage of these final fine-tuning situations.

"Clean up our defense and offense. Coach put in some new plays and we want to go out there and execute them versus other teams," guard Jordan Crawford said. "On defense, get back on transition, [grab] loose balls."

Preseason or not, facing the reigning NBA champs and the defending Western Conference regular season champions presents a viable measuring stick.

"it's a great challenge to see where we're at,' Crawford said. "You know they're going to play the right way."

* Beal was more spectator than participant during Tuesday's final practice before the Wizards headed out to Kansas City for Wednesday's meeting with Miami. The rookie took a tumble toward the end of Monday's session and gave those on hand a brief scare before hoping up and walking off with only an apparent minor ankle tweak.

"He's sore so we held him out," Wittman said. "Not very much swelling, so that's always a good sign. We'll see [Wednesday]. Obviously, we'll have to gauge what the improvement was from today to tomorrow during shootaround, see if we give him any time on the floor."

Asked how about how he was feeling following the previous day's nasty spill, the coy 19-year-old initially responded, "What happened yesterday?" before coming clean.

"I'm fine, just tweaked it a little bit. Coach held me out today, but I was able to shoot and stuff. I can still run some. I'll keep icing it and hopefully I'll be able to go [Wednesday].

If Beal is able to go, he'll likely square off against Miami's star guard Dwyane Wade. Still working his way back from offseason knee surgery, the perennial All-Star sat out the Heat's Tuesday night game against Charlotte but is expected to face the Wizards, the Sun Sentinel is reporting.

Earlier during training camp Wizards forward Martell Webster made a favorable comparison between the two wing guards.

"[Bradley] says he wants to compare himself to Ray Allen, but he has a little more flash than Ray Allen,” Webster said. “I’d say he has a little of The Flash – [Dwyane] Wade – in him.”

We'll see if the initial side-by-side comparison comes Wednesday or when the teams first meet during the regular season, Dec. 4 at the Verizon Center.

*Tuesday marked guard Crawford's 24th birthday -- and made for a perfect excuse for some mild and musical rookie hazing.

"We made the rookies sing today for Jordan," said Cartier Martin, noting that even those second-year players who missed out on last year's training camp due to the league's labor issue were tasked with performing.

So, how'd they do?

"They weren't too vocal, man," Martin said. "We might have to get them to do it again. Depends on how JC feels once we get to Kansas City."

Asked at the end of his media session for his take on his young players singing ability, Wittman paused, and then thought better of offering an opinion. "No comment," the coach said.

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.

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For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

 

 

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

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Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

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