The Wizards frontcourt, already without energy forward Trevor Booker, suffered another loss during the stunning win over Miami. Trevor Ariza pulled up lame with a calf injury during the third quarter which Wizards coach Randy Wittman confirmed Thursday was a "strain, nothing more than that." Regardless, "that" injury likely sidelines the starting small forward at least three weeks. The NBA schedule rolls on.
Washington takes on the Hawks Friday night in Atlanta before returning home to host Golden State on Saturday. Since facing the Heat on Tuesday, Wittman has had two days worth of practices to conjure up his non-Trevor small forward alternatives. Almost certainly the scenario will usher in the Wizards sixth different starting lineup this season.
"Like we’ve talked, we’ve got plenty of guys, Cartier [Martin] and Martell [Webster], and we’ve got Chris Singleton that could slide down there easily, depending on who you’re playing against," Wittman said.
Webster, the only player on the roster with at least 10 appearances this season who has yet to start a game, has carved out a prominent scoring niche off the bench. Washington's leading 3-point shooter at 41.9 percent, Webster is averaging 12.3 points over his last six games. Whether he opens the game on the floor or keeps the warmups on at the start, the engaging 6-foot-7 swingman is ready for more if needed.
"I'll just continue to do what I do," Webster said. "I just might have to do it for longer period of time. It's playing the game smart, understanding that maybe I can't go as hard as I want, especially when I'm going to be clocking in more minutes."
Singleton started 51 games last season as the Wizards primary starting forward. He entered the starting five for the first time this season against Miami - at power forward -, finishing with nine point and nine rebounds while continuing to provide vigor on both ends of the court. Singleton's athletic presence likely provides Wittman the best defensive option against Atlanta's Josh Smith, himself historically a small forward who has received more minutes at the other forward slot.
Martin played only six minutes over the previous two games, none against Miami. Since the streaky shooter drained all four of his 3-point attempts and finished 5 of 6 overall against Dallas on Nov. 14, he has gone 2 of 17 over his next three games including 1 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Like the Heat, the Hawks frequently use a small ball lineup. Wittman stated he could return to a three-guard look, pairing 6-foot-7 Shaun Livingston with Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford. Perhaps this latest injury pushes Jan Vesely back into the rotation. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft played sparingly over the last three games.
No matter the combination, replacing Ariza's defensive wing presence will be challenging. In the first meeting with Atlanta, the 6-foot-8 forward also grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds.
"I thought Trevor was really coming into his own," Wittman said. "I thought he was really playing at a consistent level this last week so we’re going to miss that obviously. We can put him on a lot of different guys to guard, and we won’t have that."
As for when he expects Ariza back, Wittman said, "The timetable is really going to be how he recovers, what’s his speed of recovery... Not a lot of swelling, which is good. He says he never swells...He’s out of the walking boot already so that’s a good sign."