Wizards' veterans embrace race to the finish line

Wizards' veterans embrace race to the finish line
March 13, 2014, 6:30 pm
Share This Post

Andre Miller sees Wednesday's loss to the Charlotte Bobcats as a "letdown." Al Harrington couldn't sleep, and neither could some of his teammates which is why Thursday's practice session was like sleepwalking. That, he said, is actually a plus going into Friday's game at the Orlando Magic (CSN, 7 p.m. ET). 

"Last night was a huge blow," said Harrington, who led the reserves with eight points in 15 minutes. "I couldn't even sleep last night. A lot of these guys in here couldn't either. That's why we were in here tired today. They just can't get over what (happened). I think that's good. These guys really care. Now we're licking our chops to get back on the court." 

The Wizards (33-31) have seven players on the roster with playoff experience, which could prove valuable to John Wall and Bradley Beal who have never been there.  Both have struggled as they've lost consecutive games for the first time since the All-Star break. 

[RELATED: John Wall fined $15k for comments]

"We're not saying too much. We're just trying to lead by example. I think the young guys have a feel of what needs to be done, about not having to have letdowns," said Miller, 37. "Eventually we're going to have to speak up a little bit more and show more veteran leadership. We'll see how it plays out."

There are 18 games left in Washington's season.

"We have to take a little bit more initiative to be on these guys, let them know how its important to take care of your body and know that down the stretch we have to do everything right," said Harrington, 34. "We have no more time for errors and mistakes that we were making early in the year. It's time to go right now."

The loss to Charlotte tightened the East playoff race. The Wizards slipped from fifth to sixth place and now trail the Brooklyn Nets, who they play Saturday, by one-half game. The pressure only mounts. 

"You've got to embrace it. This is what it's all about," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "That's intensity level of playoff basketball. We need to play with that intensity for 18 games now. ... I thought (Charlotte) had that edge a little bit more. Listening to them talk, that was a playoff game for them. I don't know if we necessarily came out with that same intensity that it meant that to us." 

Said Miller: "It's not something you want to look at as stressful. You look at it as competition. It makes the game (more) fun."

Harrington is looking at the bigger picture, beyond this season even though he is playing on a one-year-deal.

"We don't want to make the playoffs one year and be done. We're trying to build to hopefully being a championship-caliber team. We need this to mature as a team," he said. "It's just another challenge and we've been through a lot of challenges in our career before the NBA, high school, AAU and all that stuff. It's all about that pressure and trying to be successful."