After Saturday night’s heartbreaking loss, I wrote a piece about the makeup of the starting five and how Coach Wittman needed to switch it up in order to get over the slow starts that have plagued the Wizards so far this season. I fully believed switching Ariza, Price and Okafor out with Webster, Pargo and Seraphin (respectively) would help the Wizards get off to a good start.
While I did not believe all of those changes would be made, but I did think that Wittman would pull Ariza out for Webster.
And the Wizards went down 11-2 early in the first quarter.
But again, the Wizards made a comeback thanks to the play of Seraphin, Singleton and Webster and the bench outscored the starting five 53-41.
The comeback was familiar for a different reason, however, as the late-game collapse (due to silly turnovers) lead to another Wizards loss. This time, it was more heartbreaking as it came in overtime.
If this starting five is not altered for the game against Milwaukee on Friday at the Verizon Center, the Wizards are doomed for another slow start; and if it happens again, I have no defense for Randy Wittman’s decision anymore.
It’s understandable to give these guys a chance to get into their groove. Bradley Beal had an awful first two games, but he came alive (finally) in last night’s game going for 16 points with three 3-pointers.
There is still faith to be had in Emeka Okafor, who went 1-2 last night with two points in 11 minutes. That faith exists because he looks like he wants to be on the court. While his productivity hasn’t met anyone’s expectations, there is effort coming from him. But at the same time, when your backup big-man (Seraphin) comes off the bench for 16 points and nine rebounds in 36 minutes, there is just no point in starting Okafor anymore. A bench player should not average over 25 minutes per game and a starter should not average under 15. This should be a flag for Wittman. Seraphin has earned the start. He obviously has more confidence in Kevin than he does Emeka, and although I do believe Okafor will show his worth on this team, a coach has got to go with the player who’s performing for him.
As for Ariza, it’s only the third game of the season and the fanbase (and apparently Wittman) has lost complete faith in anything he does on the court. He went for two points on 1-6 shooting, his third straight game with under double digits in scoring. I haven’t seen a player so uninterested in playing for the Wizards since Drew Gooden sought his buyout after being traded to the team in 2010. It’s hard to believe I’d use the word “cancerous” to describe anyone on the Wizards roster after Blatche was dropped, but it’s getting to that point again.
When you’ve got weapons such as Martell Webster (16 points and three 3-pointers last night) and Chris Singleton (14 points on 6-10 shooting last night), there’s absolutely no reason why one of those two should not start over a slumping Ariza, no matter what his paycheck is.
I understand why Wittman started him again. It was to prevent a confidence-collapse in the NBA veteran. But with three games like this, the team is seriously in danger of starting the season 0-5. Oddly enough, it’s very plausible to believe that Ariza’s stroke can be re-found coming off the bench. Decreasing some of that pressure of being a starter could increase his production in smaller portions; that is, if he wants to.
It’s hard to see how switching out these players with a more energetic, up-tempo offensive core wouldn’t help the Wizards’ slow starts. In fact, to me it seems impossible see how it couldn’t happen.
So for now, it’s time to reward the bench for their efforts in outscoring the starting five and give them an opportunity to turn this season around. If that doesn’t work, then it’s back to the drawing board.