When the Washington Wizards finally returned to action following a prolonged absence linked to league health and safety protocols, there was no expectation for anything resembling normalcy.
In their 121-101 road loss against the San Antonio Spurs, the Wizards were without six players still in protocol and were playing for the first time since Jan. 11. In the interim, the Wizards had six consecutive games postponed, and against the Spurs featured two bigs recently signed off the street: Alex Len and Jordan Bell. Given those circumstances, the results were predictable.
On Tuesday, the Wizards will look to inch closer to a normal routine when they face the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. They will remain woefully shorthanded more than likely, but perhaps the opportunity to resume a regular schedule will offer something closer to the familiar. Maybe.
“The whole season in its entirety is just weird,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said. “It’s not normal. Everything is just weird. Granted we’ve got a lot of guys out now, a couple guys hurt, so we’re kind of doing a lot of things on the fly, but it just creates opportunities for more guys. It’s always (a) next-man-up mentality in this league. The players know that.”
What the players are unfamiliar with are long layoffs between games and rotations featuring new teammates or players unaccustomed to logging heavy minutes. There has been criticism over how the league has handled situations like what the Wizards faced and are facing, with the onus falling on coaches and players to sort through the morass and deal with the ongoing mess.
Specifically for the Wizards, that means competing with unusual odds stacked against them.
“That’s not an excuse,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said, “that’s reality.”
The Rockets have dealt with their own level of attrition but now appear to be turning the corner. Houston was without starting center Christian Wood (ankle) for both of its back-to-back road wins at Detroit and Dallas, and Wood remains questionable to play against the Wizards.
But the Rockets did welcome back forward Danuel House Jr. to practice on Monday, with House having played in only four of 15 games. Former Wizards guard John Wall returned over the weekend and Houston practiced with what amounted to a full roster for the first time in a while.
The benefits of such could not be overstated.
“We were able to go live,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “We went live in defensive stuff, we were live doing some offense. We were really intentional about our pick-and-roll coverage and protection. It’s one thing to walk through that stuff, but it’s also another thing to go live when it comes to that, and that’s what we were able to do. And it was great.
“It was great to actually have a practice where we can go live and guys can get after it a little bit and they can see not just the principles but the speed and quickness you have to have and the reaction time you need to have when it comes to playing defense especially.”
–Field Level Media