Last season, as the Wizards did things as a franchise they hadn't accomplished since the 1970s, they enjoyed near perfect health with their starting lineup. This year, with still weeks to go before the season begins, that will not be the case.
Starting power forward Markieff Morris is set for a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks following the sports hernia surgery he had on Friday. That means he will miss somewhere between two weeks of the regular season or a month. Either way, that's a longer absence than any Wizards starter had last season.
The Wizards will have to adjust and the good thing is that they have time on their side. Head coach Scott Brooks doesn't have to adjust on the fly in the middle of the season. He can spend all of training camp and the preseason tinkering with his lineups to prepare for life without Morris, one of the team's most underrated players on the court and a unifying personality off of it.
"It's not the ideal situation to have one of your starting players out for an extended period of time due to surgery, but that's part of the game. You have to have that next-man-up mentality, which we have," Brooks said.
The timing of Morris' surgery is unfortunate, but there were a lot of factors in play. Morris didn't start feeling discomfort until about a month ago and in recent weeks he has been dealing with the birth of his first child and a legal case in Phoenix. The Wizards had to work around all of those things to get him under the knife.
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Brooks remains confident the Wizards can make do without Morris because he likes the options left on his roster.
"We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly [Oubre] in there. We can throw Jason [Smith] in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There's a lot of players that we can throw into the mix," Brooks said.
Based on how Brooks described it, don't be surprised if Otto Porter also gets an extended look at power forward. The Wizards found success last season with small-ball lineups playing Porter and Oubre together and that could be the play with Morris out.
"Otto definitely has the ability to play four. It's such a smaller league. In the 80s or 90s, Otto at the four probably wouldn't be the decision. But now with all the shooting fours in the league, I think he can play that position," Brooks said.
Porter, 24, is fine with that scenario.
"I've played a lot of minutes at the position with Keef. It's a position I've played before and I think I can definitely step up and fulfill that role until he gets back. But we have guys here. Mike Scott, he can step in as a veteran guy that can come in and play the four with me also. We can go small. Coach Brooks is going to definitely evaluated the situation and put us in the best situation moving forward," Porter said.
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The question then becomes how many minutes the Wizards can rely on Porter early in the season, knowing they don't want to rush Morris back and knowing how important Porter is to their chances further down the road. He is one of their best outside shooters, rebounds well and is a versatile defender.
Under the direction of a new training staff, the Wizards closely monitored the workload of each player from games to practices to shootarounds last season. They want to keep Porter fresh and will sacrifice when needed to do so.
Getting by without Morris won't be easy on several fronts. He is valuable as a basketball player, but also as an enforcer on the court. Starting center Marcin Gortat thinks that's what the Wizards will miss about Morris as much as anything.
"He is a tough guy. We all love when he gets those technical fouls because he's pushing people, hitting people and talking to the refs. Sometimes you need that. We're going to miss that. We're definitely going to miss that," Gortat said.
Morris was not with the Wizards at media day on Monday and it's not clear when he join the team. He has a long road back, but the Wizards feel good about their options to replace him while he recovers.
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