We are barely a quarter into the season and the Wizards roster sheets have already began to ooze with ‘DNP’ listings. Depleted with injuries, the team’s nurse’s office is overcrowded with five players, three of them on indefinite timelines.
Bradley Beal’s recurring stress injury has kept him out of the past five games (he also missed three earlier this season due to a shoulder injury). The timeline for his return was initially two weeks but as we’ve learned from the past, it could be longer.
Alan Anderson is practically learning how to walk again after having a bone fragment removed from his ankle. The target date for him to just fully practice has already jumped from “at least mid-December” to now being “at least January.” At least there’s hope.
Nene is a walking myth.
Drew Gooden hopes to be back by this weekend.
And most recently, Otto Porter aggravated a thigh bruise and sat out against Charlotte. He is likely to sit out again tonight against Sacramento, per Jorge Castillo.
With the roster basically reduced to eight guys, Randy Wittman is enduring the sick challenge of winning basketball games with mysterious crapshoot lineups. Of course, I say there’s only eight guys available because, well, only eight played in their last game, meaning the decision to let Ryan Hollins and Dejuan Blair play is only when Wittman likes to live dangerously.
Injuries have defused the Wizards on the hardwood, and consequently has infused some pizzazz on the sidelines as the sight on the Wizards bench has virtually become a catwalk for men’s fashion.
But Wittman is living in times where danger is inevitably present. Having to shuffle out the randomest combinations of players requires critical adjustments to game prep and perhaps a total reform in philosophy. What you expect from a healthy lineup of John Wall and Bradley Beal and Otto Porter is not what you can expect from weird rotations involving Gary Neal and Ramon Sessions and Kelly Oubre Jr.
With Otto out, Wittman started Machine Gun Kelly against Charlotte, and used a lineup of him, Wall, Temple, Dudley, and Gortat more than any other combination (18 minutes).
His most productive lineup, albeit in just 7 minutes, were the same guys except for Neal being in place of Oubre. In their limited time together on the floor, this lineup achieved a net rating of 55.6 (net rating is the difference between offensive and defensive efficiency) and scored 17 points, good enough to be a lineup-best +9.
There’s no surprise here. The insertion of Neal over Oubre adds a fresh wooden stake to the otherwise sputtering offensive bonfire, while the defensive intensity remains with Wall, Temp, Dudley, and at times Marcin Gortat. If the matchups against Sacramento allow, I’d expect to see more of this lineup.
Regardless of how this diversion of musical chairs fares out, the Wizards will remain bottled up in a congested tunnel of broken players and not much light at the end of it. This means Wittman will need to continue to get creative with his lineups on a night-to-night basis as different opponents present different matchups and challenges.
How long Wittman can withstand the bottom of the barrel remains to be seen. At least we’ll know when whoever he has on the floor impresses Alan Anderson and his grandfather’s vintage plaid blazer.