Price making strong starting case

Price making strong starting case
October 21, 2012, 7:45 pm
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Oct 17, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Washington Wizards guard A.J. Price (12) brings the ball forward against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Wizards 104-101.

(Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Even with only two games remaining in the preseason, Randy Wittman isn't ready to declare a starting lineup for the Wizards' regular season opener.

Still, considering A.J. Price's floor generalship over the previous two games, it's becoming hard to imagine the free agent pickup not on the court for the opening jump ball when the Wizards play at Cleveland on October 30.

With Price directing traffic for the first unit, Washington (2-4) topped 100 points in each of their last two contests including Saturday's 102-94 win in Milwaukee. The rising fourth-year guard tallied 17 points and 11 assists against the Bucks, knocking down 6 of 9 shots including 3 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"I feel good, confidence is growing each game - more as a unit than me personally," Price said following the team's Sunday afternoon practice at the Verizon Center. "We're gaining confidence the more we play with each other, the more we get to know each other. It feels good to get out there and put a performance together where you play well and finish up with the win."

The starter for the opening two games of the preseason then a reserve in games three and four, Price has 25 points and 19 assists with only three turnovers over the last two games.

"Probably his two best performances these last two games," Wittman said about Price, who is receiving his first taste of the Wizards attack after spending the first three years of his career with Indiana

"He kind of solidified running the offense, getting guys in spots. The flow of the game, the pace of the game has been good, his decision-making, good, obviously, when you go for 17 and 11 with low turnovers. "

Signed during the offseason for reserve depth, Price has been battling Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo for minutes - potentially lots of them. Washington expects the injured John Wall to miss the first month of the season. None of the three has Wall's talent and athleticism, but Price is proving to be a viable alternative.

"He's a big part of this team," said forward Trevor Booker, who joined Price in the starting lineup against Milwaukee and scored a team-high 22 points. "With John hurt, he's going to have to step in and do big things for us. He showed he can do that last night."

In Milwaukee, Price and company faced the Bucks high-scoring backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. The pair combined for 35 points, but Washington's guards harassed the duo into missing 19 of 31 shots from the field and committing 10 turnovers.

"From a defensive standpoint, those are two hard covers in our league, Ellis and Jennings. I thought (Price) battled those guys good," Wittman said.

Mack finished with four points and one assist in 20 minutes against the Bucks. Pargo did not play for the first time in five games.

Searching for the optimum combinations, Wittman plans on more mixing and matching over the final two preseason games, Wednesday against the Miami Heat in Kansas City and at San Antonio on Friday. Taking into account the chemistry exhibited by the opening unit of Price, Booker, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal against Milwaukee, expect this group together in some way against the Heat. That's fine with Price.

"More continuity comes when we play more, the more minutes we play together," Price said. "This is our (sixth) game now; I think we have a feel for each other between those games, the practices, gaining more of a confidence in each other, learning what guys want to do. [Saturday] night, those guys I first came out with, I pretty much know what those guys want to do offensively and defensively. As a unit, we looked pretty good."