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Singleton latest to emerge from Wizards' bench


Singleton latest to emerge from Wizards' bench

If it seems like Wizards coach Randy Wittman has treated his roster like a Rubik's cube in the first three games, twisting and turning and manipulating pieces until he finds the right combinations, here's why:

Through three games, the Wizards' bench has outscored the starters by a jaw-dropping 161-103 count.

Despite that disparity, Wittman has stuck with his starting five of Trevor Ariza [11 points], Trevor Booker [21], Emeka Okafor [15], A.J. Price [30] and Bradley Beal [26] for the first three contests.

But the Wizards' bench has received sigificant contributions from Kevin Seraphin [team-high 35 points], Jordan Crawford [34], Martell Webster [29], Jannero Pargo [19], Chris Singleton [18] and Jan Vesely [13], along with spot duty from Earl Barron [8] and Cartier Martin [5].

So what does all this mean when John Wall and Nene return from their injuries?

"When Nene and Wall get back we'll be an even deeper team," said Singleton, who dropped 14 points on the Celtics Wednesday night when the Wizards' bench outscored the starters 53-41. "So I can't even imagine the rotation then."

The Wizards have been victims of poor starts in each of their first three games and that could force Wittman to shuffle the deck tonight when the Milwaukee Bucks visit Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN].

The above numbers would suggest it might be time for Seraphin to replace Okafor and perhaps Singleton to replace Ariza when the Wizards line up against the Bucks. Wittman admits he's been trying to find the right fit at the right time and so far, his bench is answering the call.

"Hey, I can't play everybody," Wittman said. "And we've got to be ready. We haven't gotten into a good rhythm yet of a certain core group of first and second units. I've been at times searching for offense.

"Our defense has been pretty good. But we go through periods, whether it's the start of games or stretches where you're getting stops but you're not scoring and you're looking for those kinds of combinations.

"Singleton came in [Wednesday] night and gave us that. I think he ended up playing 24 minutes and really was the last guy off the bench to get into the game."

Singleton, taken by the Wizards with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft, has plenty of experience as an NBA starter. He started 51 of the Wizards' 66 games last season, including their final 42.

Singleton, 22, said he worked hard on shooting with a higher arc over the summer and was hoping for an increased role in his second season with the Wizards.

But with the arrival of Okafor and Ariza, Singleton's role has been diminished, evidenced by the 18 seconds he played in the Wizards' home-opening loss to the Celtics Saturday night.

"It just shows you that nothing's going to be given to us," Singleton said. "We're going to have to earn every opportunity we get on the court and just take advantage of it.

"Like I said many times, I think we're one of the deepest teams. I think our second unit definitely gives us a lift and I think our second unit is maybe one of the best out there. Just go out there and play with energy and play the game right is going to put us above everybody."

While the Wizards have been competitive in each of their first three games, they've lost all three down the stretch. Singleton says the Wizards need to understand they can turns things around even without Wall and Nene.

"We're dangerous right now," he said. "It's just that at the end of the game, the last five minutes going down the home stretch we just got to execute. We're getting stops. But we've got to put the ball in the basket."

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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