Midway through the fourth quarter of last night’s game, the Atlanta Hawks were on offense, and they were looking to get the ball in the post. Forward Josh Smith had position on Washington Wizards forward James Singleton, and he was passionately calling for the ball. Hawks guard Mike Bibby finally saw that Smith was open, and he threw an entry pass down to him. Smith took two hard dribbles and attempted to get even closer to the basket, but Singleton was not budging. Smith then tried to spin, but Singleton beat him to the spot, and quickly closed that avenue to the basket. Smith was completely flummoxed at that point, and was forced to throw the back out to his teammate Jamal Crawford.
On the very next offensive possession, Smith was once again engaged in a low post battle with Singleton, except this time, he found it a bit more difficult to establish position. Singleton anticipated the Hawks would again throw the ball in the post, so this time he decided to get in front of Smith. No matter how much jostling, pushing and shoving Smith attempted, he could not get open long enough to recieve an entry pass. The Hawks ended up swinging the ball to the other side of the floor and a frustrated Smith just looked at the referee in disbelief.
Both of these plays unfolded in less than ten seconds, and no one patted Singleton on the butt, high fived him, or showed his highlights on Sportscenter later that evening. But on every team there is dirty work to be done on both ends of the floor, and on the Washington Wizards squad, that is what James Singleton has to do on a nightly basis.
“This team is lacking a certain physical-ness, ” Singleton told me after the Houston Rockets game on Tuesday. “That’s not a slight to [Andray]Blatche or JaVale[McGee], but I have a little more bulk than they do. And I’m not getting plays run for me, so I have to make my mark being physical, and I actually like that.”
During Tuesday night’s matchup against the Rockets, Singleton had the task of trying to guard Luis Scola who had been giving Blatche, McGee and Fabricio Oberto fits in the low post. There was pushing, shoving, grabbing and kneeing done by both players, but, to his credit, Singleton was able to briefly slow down Scola and get in his head a little.
Singleton later told me that he had to work the referees a bit while guarding him.
“When I checked in the game, I told the refs that Luis likes to initiate the contact, grab, pull and do whatever, ” Singleton explained to Hoops Addict. “In that third quarter when you saw us really going at it, the ref called a foul on me and right after I got that foul, I reminded him what I said earlier. The next time, the ref called an offensive foul, so it worked out. I earned that one”
On the offensive side of the ball, Singleton does occasionally receive rewards for his hard work on defense. Against the Rockets, despite having to defend Scola, he found time to score 12 points, while setting screens and fighting for offensive rebounds. However, against the Hawks, Singleton went scoreless in 18 minutes of play (0-5 from the field), although he did grab six offensive rebounds (seven total). And, at one point in the third quarter against the Hawks, despite his hard play all evening, Singleton was still yelled at by Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman, for not coming to the ball when Shaun Livingston was trapped.
Still, Singleton knows his job and how he can contribute to this team.
“I play hard every night man, that’s what I do,” Singleton said. “Some nights I play hard and you can see reflected it on the scoreboard, some nights you can’t see it unless you break down the film later. But it’ll never be said that I don’t bring it, and that’s all that matters. ”
I asked Singleton where that type of toughness originated from, he was quick on his feet with a retort.
“I played football in high school, so that’s why I like the contact. I played receiver and quarterback, so this is nothing to me.”
Considering Singleton and the rest of his Wizards teammates are in the midst of playing three games in three nights that is exactly the type of toughness they will need.