Wizards run with young lineup and new faces in home finale against Knicks

© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

During Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, it was almost more noteworthy to look at who was in street clothes on the Wizards bench than who was playing in the actual game.

In their second-to-last game of the regular season, the Wizards were still absent Bradley Beal, but shut down Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the remainder of the season. 

In a 114-92 loss, the Wizards showcased their youth with some experimentation in both their roster and rotations. 

“We talked at length over the last 20-plus games with this group,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “You don’t practice a lot this time of year, and for guys to look past these moments and consider them meaningless is unwise. It’s a great opportunity to get out there in real time and play a good, competitive game when it matters. Whether you win or lose, you’re still creating good habits. Bottom line, that’s been what we’ve tried to do all year.”

All 13 Wizards players that were dressed played at least seven minutes, a lineup that included Vernon Carey Jr., Isaiah Todd, Jordan Schakel and Cassius Winston. Those four combined for 14 points on the night.

The Wizards tied their mark with a season-worst 22 turnovers, but a lot of that could be chalked up to new rotations and unfamiliar lineup combinations. 

“I hope to see, at least, us trying to get to our spots and run offense correctly,” Unseld said, when asked about reviewing the film. “Didn’t feel like it, but once again I’m not going to blame guys for not feeling comfortable playing different positions, having two traditional bigs out there in Gaff and Vern obviously late. I’m not overly concerned with that.”


The lineup wasn’t exclusively reserved to youth, though, as Raul Neto played 20:18 and scored 14 points. It was the most he’s played since March 24.

“It’s hard, but you’ve just got to try to stay locked in and just play basketball,” Neto said. “Both teams are in the same situation, not playing everybody, I haven’t played for a while. I think even when I was playing, I didn’t use to play strict minutes like I did today. So I was pretty tired. But you’ve just got to try to find energy, just trying to have fun. That’s the most important thing.”

The Wizards will, in essence, be forced to stick to their newer-looking lineup on Sunday in the season finale against the Hornets. With nearly an entire starting lineup of regular starters out, the Wizards will have some newer faces finish out the stretch.

“If you start thinking about the summer, that’s when you’re kind of wasting your time on the court,” Neto said. “It’s a hard league, you never know how many games you’re going to be able to play. For me, it was just trying to enjoy and have fun playing.”