The Wizards will be without Deni Avdija when they open the preseason at the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, as the second-year forward continues to be gradually brought up to speed following a long rehab from a fracture in his right ankle.
Avdija, 20, played in 5-on-5 scrimmages on Monday for the first time after a week of 2021 training camp had passed. The Wizards have categorized it as a matter of conditioning, as much of his summer was spent rehabbing the injury.
"It was good to see him in 5-on-5 and get him out there and get him in the competitive stuff a little bit more today. I think everybody was pleased with that," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.
Avdija first hurt his ankle in April in a game against the Warriors. It was a season-ending injury, but was not expected to affect his 2021-22 season. So far, it has held him back in training camp, as the Wizards view him as behind his teammates in terms of rhythm and physical shape.
Before getting cleared for 5-on-5, Avdija had been working in individual drills against coaches, running sprints and, as of late last week, playing 3-on-3 against players likely to be on the G-League squad.
Unseld Jr. added the hope is Avdija will be available for Saturday's game at home against the Knicks.
"We’re still cautious with him and will bring him along [through the] week. Ideally, that puts him available for Saturday’s game, but we’ll see how it goes," he said.
Avdija was the Wizards' ninth overall pick in 2020. Their first round pick in 2019, Rui Hachimura, will also miss the game as he remains away from the team due to personal reasons.
Unseld Jr. said "essentially everybody" is available, meaning it's possible Spencer Dinwiddie plays despite coming back from ACL surgery earlier in the year. That said, it would not be surprising if they sit a collection of their veteran players, including Dinwiddie and star guard Bradley Beal.
Unseld Jr. said last week he views the team's final two preseason games as important dress rehearsals where members of their core rotation are expected to play significant minutes.