When the Washington Wizards started the season with 12 straight losses and had just four victories after the first 32 games, Coach Randy Wittman didn’t want to alienate the veterans who had earned their minutes or force them to surrender on a season that still had some faint promise once John Wall returned from a left knee injury.

Instead of developing the four first-round picks the team has selected in the two of the past three NBA drafts, Wittman provided them carrots to keep them motivated: leapfrogging from the bottom, chasing down ninth place, establishing home-court dominance. The result has been a dramatic finish in which the Wizards are25-22 since that abysmal start.

But in the process, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker got left behind. With three games remaining on another 50-loss, back-in-the-lottery season, Wittman is now focused on leading the team to 30 or more wins while getting minutes for players who have often been lost, forgotten or marginalized for various stretches this season.

“Hard,” Wittman said when asked about the balancing act that he has had to play with his four young big men and the team’s goals. “Once we got to playing well, it was a situation where they weren’t part of the rotation, or one of them was, but it’s tough.”

With the Wizards playing their final home game Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, the foursome is expected to receive more playing time with forwards Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza “probably not” available, according to Wittman. Webster signed as a free agent last summer, and Ariza was acquired, along with Emeka Okafor, in a trade from New Orleans. Those three, along with Nene, have provided quality, consistent production while helping the Wizards become one of the league’s best defensive teams.

The Wizards are also 22-18 at home this season, a record that is slightly better than the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks. They trail the 76ers by 21 / 2 games for the ninth spot.

Vesely, Seraphin and Singleton — the Wizards’ starting front court for the final 15 games last season— have combined to start just 22 games this season, and only as injury replacements. Booker has started 12 games but also battled various injuries to his right knee and left wrist, which cost him the opportunity to earn consistent minutes.