Wizards Place Focus on Defense

Charles E. Sutton | 10/29/2012, 8:58 p.m.

During this season's Wizards training camp, Coach Randy Wittman has done much of his communicating non-verbally. He's become known for glaring at a player with lowered eyebrows to get a teaching point across. Once he's effectively communicated with a player, he'll flash a slight smile to indicate that things are well. Of course, if a player makes another mistake, the process starts all over again.

But Wittman has kept his foot on the gas pedal this preseason. He has not let up on his team. In return, despite significant absences due to injury, the intensity among his players in practice has been fierce. It must be for a team that will start the season without two of its best offensive weapons. The Wizards have to build their identity on defense and strong effort.

"Our intensity level this year has been a huge difference, both in games and practice," Wittman said. "As I said even prior to coaching these guys one day, I thought the competition was going to be great, and it has. That wasn't the case, I felt, last year this time."

On Monday during practice, first-round draft pick Bradley Beal tweaked his left ankle as a full court scrimmage was coming to a close. A short time earlier, Martell Webster and Trevor Booker battled in the paint before Booker took a short jump shot. During the practice, the trash talk on the court escalated to the point where Wittman had to quiet players down.

At this point, the Wizards don't have an established starting lineup. This could be a two-edged sword, but Wittman has had the advantage of shuffling his rotation in the preseason against teams actually playing to win. In their home opener at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets put starters back in the game to ensure a win. Last weekend, the Milwaukee Bucks tried something similar and was defeated at home by the Wizards.

In the final preseason game, there is far less incentive for the experienced San Antonio Spurs to take the same approach. But Beal, who is just growing accustomed to a more aggressive approach defenders are utilizing against him, doesn't want to alter his. He sat out practice on Thursday and his return date is still in question. The Wizards have high hopes for Beal this season and they expect him to play a key role in their perimeter game.