Much has been made about the Wizards' injuries this season with John Wall's knee the headliner. Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker have also been watching from the sidelines for several weeks now. While not having the 6-foot-8 forwards limits coach Randy Wittman's options, it means playing time opportunity exists for others.
And yet Chris Singleton sits. For three games straight and four of the last five, the second-year forward's warm-up gear never came off. Even when the Dallas Mavericks offense torched the Wizards during the decisive third quarter of Tuesday's 103-94 loss, the defensive-minded presence couldn't crack the rotation. Even though for chunks of the season he and Martell Webster were arguably the team's most consistent performers, the 2011 first-round pick is currently out of the playing mix.
"It’s been stretches like this, early in my career before," Singleton said following Monday's practice. "Just take from that. I’ve just been learning. Still trying to support my team and do what I can do to get on the court."
Actually, as a professional, the 23-year-old has never been through a stretch like this before. During his rookie season it didn't matter what the Florida State product did or didn't do, he played. In fact, he played every game, all 66 during the shortened season with 51 starts. Only four times did he receive fewer than 10 minutes of playing time. None of those appearances came consecutively.
Singleton opened this season as a reserve before starting eight straight games, the last of which came at home against Atlanta on Dec. 18. Wittman benched the 6-foot-9 forward starting the second half against the Hawks in favor of Earl Barron, who was waived eight days later. Singleton's DNP's started a few games later.
"Right now with Nene, there is not enough minutes to play everybody," Wittman said before the Mavericks game. "I think you guys think we should play 15 guys sometimes. You got Nene, Kevin [Seraphin] and Emeka [Okafor], who's playing probably the best stretch he's played, and Jan [Vesely]. One of them has to sit. You can't play them all."
Fair point and the lack of potential minutes for Singleton and others was one made back during the preseason when the Wizards were at their healthiest, when optimism about the current season flowed. Now for the shorthanded and 4-25 Wizards, the losses keep coming. The current slide is two straight losses and 10 of 11.
What's also worth noting is that four times this season Singleton has played at least 30 minutes. Washington won two of those games, which is half of its season win total, and lost to Charlotte in double-overtime. Singleton also did not play during the Wizards' latest win on Dec. 28 against Orlando.
Though his basic statistical numbers - 4.7 points on 38 percent shooting with 3.8 rebounds - are hardly robust, they are in line if not slighty better than last season despite averaging three fewer minutes per game. They also don't tell the entire story for a player who is usually cast as a role-playing defender and often as a power forward, despite entering the league as a natural 3-man.
Asked if Singleton has regressed, Wittman responded, "He has to be more consistent, both he and Jan. They have to be consistent in their play, that's the main thing. They're good one day, bad the next. "
Vesely, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, recently went through a no-playing stretch, though his offensive struggles in particular are more pronounced.
When asked, neither the coach nor player explained the Atlanta benching, but both talked a similar talk about what Singleton must bring now.
"[Wittman is] basically just looking for more consistency on the court. Wants my energy to be up, every time I touch the court."
For now, touching the court isn't happening. He isn't the only Wizard to sit for several games at a time this season, just the current one, and arguably the most curious. With Ariza expected back over the next few days from his lingering calf strain, minutes will be even more at a premium.
"Chris is a mature kid," said the veteran Ariza, who has taken over the starting small forward role when healthy. "He understands there is going to be stretches where things change. It happens everywhere where sometimes you'll play a lot, sometimes you'll play a little. You still have to work on your job to stay ready for when your number is called."
Whether Singleton's number is called Wednesday when the Wizards play at Indiana, we'll see.