The Washington Wizards announced Wednesday that Chris Singleton had suffered a "Jones fracture" — a break in the fifth metatarsal, the bone that runs back from the pinkie toe toward the heel — that will require surgical repair and keep the third-year forward sidelined for "approximately six to eight weeks."
The injury "occurred during a voluntary workout at Verizon Center on Tuesday," according to the team, and likely removes Singleton from Randy Wittman's bench through at least the Oct. 30 start of the regular season. (You'd understand it if some Wizards fans are a bit skeptical that he won't be out for longer than that; this is the same injury that effectively ended Rasheed Wallace's season for the New York Knicks last year.)
That's a hit for the Wizards, but an even bigger bummer for the 6-foot-8 Singleton, who figured to enter camp waging an uphill battle to carve out a rotation spot in a frontcourt mix that includes incumbent starters Nene and Martell Webster, returning Trevors Ariza and Booker, fellow 2011 first-rounder Jan Vesely, 2013 top selection Otto Porter and recently signed free agent Al Harrington.
While those reserve ranks don't feature a load of world-beaters, Singleton found himself near the bottom of the totem pole thanks to two years of relatively undistinguished service since Washington selected him out of Florida State with the 18th overall pick in 2011. Singleton's struggled mightily on offense in the pros, showcasing shaky ball-handling and playmaking skills, and shooting just 37.6 percent from the floor. He's got the physical tools to serve as a versatile wing defender, but a tendency toward fouling too much on the ball and attention lapses off the ball have kept him from living up to the lockdown expectations that came along with the two ACC Defensive Player of the Year Awards he won in Tallahassee.
There's certainly a case to be made that Singleton's stunted development owes at least as much to the trying circumstances of his first two seasons (being thrown to the wolves as an unprepared starting three as a rookie, then transformed into a backup four last season and shuttled in and out of the lineup) as any personal failings of his own, but it's stunted development all the same, and an unimpressive stint in Las Vegas Summer League didn't help his cause all that much. And now, just three years after he was considered one of the better defensive prospects in the draft, he may soon find himself on his way out of the nation's capital — he figures to be, at best, the 14th or 15th man on the Wizards' roster, and his recovery from surgery eliminates any chance of Singleton having an impressive enough training camp/preseason to help convince the Wizards to exercise their $2.5 million team option to keep him around for 2014-15, which is a call they'll have to make by Oct. 31.
Perhaps Wittman, general manager Ernie Grunfeld and company still think a fully recovered Singleton can play a meaningful, if small, role on a Wizards team with aspirations of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2008. But being out of sight and out of mind for the next two months makes it increasingly likely that the frustrations surrounding Singleton will soon include the two sides parting ways before the Wizards can effectively tap his talent. It's a tough break for both player and team, in more ways than one.