Whether or not rookie Kelly Oubre is ready, Alan Anderson's second left ankle surgery that has him out indefinitely will thrust him into at least spot duty for the Wizards when the regular season opens Oct. 28. The 19-year-old admits the experience so far has been humbling though he's not deterred.
"I told one of the coaches earlier today I feel like I'm at square one again," Oubre said after Thursday's practice. "You start playing basketball, you get real good, you're one of the top in the nation, you get to the NBA and no matter where you're drafted at you're back to the bottom. You're a rookie. You don't really know much."
He'll play his third preseason game Friday, when the Wizards play at the Philadelphia 76ers. It'll be the teams' second meeting, with the Wizards winning the opener at Verizon Center. Oubre had a right ankle sprain that kept him out of that one and has had to catch up.
"Whether it's drills, whether it's the game speed, there are different things. At this point and time we add things from a defensive philosophy as well as offensive," coach Randy Wittman said. "It's a lot coming at a kid like that so we'll see. ... He'll pick things up."
Jared Dudley returned to practice this week but he's not ready to play. Even when he returns, Wittman plans to use him more as the "stretch" power forward. That leaves Oubre as the only natural small forward behind starter Otto Porter. Martell Webster (right hip strain) still is unable to practice.
Oubre is 1-for-10 in two preseason games. He missed an easy transition dunk last weekend that typified his struggles. Even simple tasks are proving more challenging than he thought.
"He's tense. He says he is," Bradley Beal, who started as a 19-year-old for the Wizards in 2012, said. "He said, 'I'm out here feeling nervous.' He's putting a little to much pressure on himself.
"It's a growing process. He has to learn his first year he's not going to be an MVP, he's not going to be an All-Star. He has to realize that everything is a step to each level. Me and John (Wall) have been through the same thing. He's going to realize he's going to continue to learn. ... He's already ahead of the game. He's super athletic. He's smart. ... He's going to be good."
The risks and gambles that Oubre could take in high school and during his one year at Kansas can't happen in the NBA. He'll leave his teammates exposed.
"It's different defenses because it's better competition. You make one mistake, if you're not in one spot at the right time it's a dunk or it's a game-winning shot," Oubre said. "(Defense) is kind of more important, it's kind of more amped up, and its' kind of better competition with guys that know where they're supposed to be onthe court so you have to know it as well.
"Throughout high school, throughout college that's how I got away with stuff because I'm long. I could just get an easy steal because a guy's not as good as me or something like that. Now I'm at the bottom of the barrel pretty much on my knowledge of the game. I now have to be smart and hone in on the fundamentals."
Oubre's cockiness nor youth has posed any problems with fitting in with such a veteran roster. When the Wizards held training camp at Towson University, Nene made him carry his Xbox case. The book on him from the staff at Kansas was that he accepts coaching and criticism well. He doesn't pout or take it personal. He works harder and gets better.
"I'm the only rookie on the team as of right now. I'm just trying to listen to the guys and feed off their energy because they help me out a lot,' said Oubre, referring to Beal, Wall and Otto Porter who have been the most recent players to go through first-season struggles. "A lot of the guys in there, they have families and kids so I just try to stay quiet. I hear a lot of slick remarks about me being young but they don't treat me like a rookie."