Wizards, guard John Wall looking to put playoff loss behind them, build on small-ball success

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WASHINGTON — Wizards guard John Wall is finally ready to stop thinking about how last season ended.

In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Wall injured his wrist in Game 1 against Atlanta. He returned to play in the final two games of the series, but the Wizards were eliminated 4-2.

Did he ponder how things might have gone if he had been healthy?

"I did that all summer," Wall said Monday during the Wizards' media day. "But now that training camp is about to start, you kind of can clear your mind and prepare for this season.

"But throughout the whole summer ... that's what I was thinking about."

The Wizards finished 46-36 last season, fifth in the Eastern Conference. Utilizing a smaller lineup, they swept fourth-seeded Toronto before falling to the Hawks.

They'll look to build on that run, but without veteran forward Paul Pierce, who took his leadership and clutch shooting to the Clippers.

Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal will be expected to help fill both voids.

"It starts with us two," Beal said. "We both have to be leaders of this team now, we have to be vocal and lead by example. We're definitely looking forward to it."

In terms of who will take those late-game shots in Pierce's absence, Beal and Wall both responded with the same answer: "Me."

Asked how he and Beal rank among current NBA backcourts, Wall rated them the best.

"That's how I feel," he said "I'm not going to say anybody else is better."

Wall sees the Wizards continuing to have success using the smaller lineup.

"I think that's what a lot of teams are going to anyway ... going smaller and having a stretch-4 and spreading the court," he said.

"It's tougher to guard. That's what helped us in the postseason and that's what guys have been working on this summer to prepare for this season."

Looking at his roster entering training camp, coach Randy Wittman said the Wizards have the ability to play different styles.

"We can go really small," he said. "But I also like the versatility. It's been a strength of ours and we've made the playoffs for two years in a row and advanced to the second round the past two years. We're a physical team, too."

With Pierce gone, the Wizards added depth with Gary Neal and Alan Anderson via free agency, Jared Dudley via a trade with Milwaukee, and rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. was acquired on draft day from Atlanta.

"We had to play a little bit differently when we went to our bench," Wittman said of last season. "We haven't really had a guy behind Bradley like Gary."

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