Wizards

COVID-stricken Wizards trying to adjust on the fly

Wizards

Davis Bertans sat at his postgame press conference after the Wizards’ 119-112 loss to the Heat on Tuesday in Miami and paused from speaking for a brief moment. 

He was trying to collect the names of his teammates. 

Bertans wasn’t being a bad teammate, in fact, quite the opposite, as he praised his new teammate Craig Sword, who’d played 14 games this year with the Capital City Go-Go and found himself on the floor in key moments against the Heat. Just hours before, Bertans found out who some of his new teammates were on Twitter.

With positive COVID tests throughout the roster, Sword is on a 10-day hardship deal, as is Jordan Goodwin. Alize Johnson signed a 10-day deal with the Wizards today, arrived with the team at 4 p.m., and was in the game against the Heat. Isaiah Todd, who’d played in just six games this season, played the most minutes of his career. In total, those four combined for nearly 40 minutes of game time.

“I give those guys a lot of credit,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We weren’t asking those guys to do a ton, but the fact that they’re here, available, trying to do the right thing, it’s tough. This is a tough environment to begin with, but not having a practice and just doing a ballroom walkthrough, we’re asking guys to be locked into terminology and personnel and understand some of our basic offense, that’s tough to do.”

 

The Wizards were able to play six regulars (Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, Corey Kispert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans) against the Heat, but were forced to rely on depth more than they had all season. 

With eight players (Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aaron Holiday, Raul Neto, Anthony Gill, Montrezl Harrell, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant) in COVID protocols, the Wizards were forced to rely on players that went through a ballroom walkthrough just before tipoff. 

“Honestly, I don’t even know if you can make any adjustments,” Bertans said. “Just communicate and help everyone else in that way, because it’s understandable not everyone is going to know immediately what to do. On the opposite side on offense, the more you’re sharing the ball, moving the ball, it’s not even so much about the plays…We still got some good looks.”

Before Tuesday’s games, the NBA already had more players play in at least one game than it had the last two years.

“That’s a great thing, guys get opportunities, but on the flip side, it’s so many revolving door moving parts to figure out from a chemistry standpoint,” Kuzma said. “You kind of never know who’s going to be out there on a night-to-night basis. It’s not no pity party, every team in the league has dealt with it, some worse than us.”

The Wizards are hopeful they’ll get Beal and Caldwell-Pope back in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Cavaliers, but for as long as players keep ending up on the COVID list, they’ll need to remain as flexible as possible.

“We’ve just got to go out there, play hard and really have fun,” Kuzma said. “It’s a tough situation for not just us, but for every team in the league.”