With 4:18 remaining in the first half and the Atlanta Hawks in the midst of a 9-0 run Tuesday night, Wizards coach Randy Wittman called a timeout, scanned his bench and told 7-foot, 250-pound center Earl Barron to strip his warmups and replace Emeka Okafor.
It was as much an indictment of the trio of Okafor, Chris Singleton and Kevin Seraphin as it was a show of faith in Barron.
“I’m not getting enough activity out of that spot,” Wittman said after watching Barron record a season-high 14 rebounds and four blocks while playing a season-high 26 minutes in the 100-95 overtime loss.
“I’m looking for somebody that’s going to step up and show me like he did tonight. We can’t just continue along and just go through the motions and think you’re going to play night in and night out.”
Okafor managed just six points on 3-for-9 shooting and pulled down just two rebounds in 25 minutes of work against the Hawks. Seraphin had just four points on 2-for-6 shooting and five rebounds.
But it was Singleton Wittman seemed the most upset with. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward started the game but played just 11 minutes and recorded two points and two rebounds. Singleton did not play in the second half or in overtime. Okafor also sat the bench in the overtime period and Seraphin played just 17 seconds.
“In the second half I found guys who were going to go out there and play the right way,” Wittman said. “I though Earl was fantastic. He goes 2-for-10 [from the floor] but he gets 14 rebounds, four blocks and I thought he did a hell of a job on [Atlanta forward] Josh Smith in the second half.”
Barron’s 26 minutes were by far his most this season, but it doesn’t guarantee he’ll see any action tonight when the Wizards visit the Orlando Magic [7 p.m. Comcast SportsNet].
- In the Wizards’ season opener on Oct. 30, Barron logged 16 minutes against the Cavaliers and posted eight points and eight rebounds, but sat on the bench the next four games.
- On Nov. 19 against Indiana, Barron played 15 minutes off the bench and picked up four points and three rebounds. But he didn’t play in the next two games.
- And on Nov. 26 against the Spurs, Barron played 16 minutes and recorded no points and three rebounds and sat six of the Wizards’ next nine, playing no more than six minutes in the other three.
“It’s a matter of being ready when your name is called,” Barron said. “He put me in there unexpectedly [Tuesday night] and I was ready to battle.”
Wittman made that clear when he allowed Barron to start the second half in place of Singleton and Seraphin.
“He just wanted to try to give us a little boost,” Barron said. “Get out there and play hard and try to change the game. My shot wasn’t falling, but I was trying to do all the little things on the defensive end.”
Given his history of leaving Barron on the bench following his most productive performances, it will be interesting to see if Wittman gives the big center from Memphis his first start of the season tonight against the Magic.