I spent the days beginning with ‘S’ milling around Wizards training camp this past weekend. Media is only given access at the very end of practice. I basically got to see the team shoot free-throws on Saturday, and the end of situational scrimmaging on Sunday. Once practice is over, we’re allowed down on the floor for interviews. On each day, Flip Saunders was the first to come over and was very personable and gracious in answering whatever question was thrown his way. After that, we just try to catch the players as they emerge from the training room … most glad to stop and talk for several minutes, and a few opting to talk on the move as the media guys tried to keep up. No one dare approach Gilbert Arenas on either of those days lest he run away screaming, “No media, NO!,” possibly hurting himself in the process.
Unfortunately, because of some personal travel between the days, I wasn’t able to post as much as I would have liked. Below are some of my notes/observations/comments/quotes from those two days.
Previous Training Camp Posts:
- Andray Blatche Continues Down The Development Path
- The Competitive Nature of Javaris Crittenton’s Injury
Haywood’s Mid-Range Game
In one of the Saturday scrimmages that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to see (sometimes doors have windows), Haywood’s mid-range game was on point. He’s never been much for other teams to worry about outside the paint (his past jump shot numbers via 82games.com are below – his 6 games in 08-09 not included). ESPN’s John Hollinger in his 09-10 scouting report on Haywood says, “Offensively, he’s effective on short hooks around the basket but is useless if he has to catch the ball more than a few feet from the rim.”
On the contrary, this year I’m thinking teams (and Hollinger) will sleep on Haywood’s jumper and he could really be a dangerous threat … if left open. On Saturday, I asked him about it.
“In Flip Saunders’ offense, mid-range jump shots are definitely there for the big man. If I can hit that shot, I’ll open up driving lanes for guys like Foye and Gilbert Arenas.”
Brendan said he worked on the mid-range a lot this summer (evident by his video with the Hoops Whisperer), so he’s feeling more comfortable taking them from the 15-foot range. He also feels the coaching staff wants him to have confidence taking those shots.
Side-By-Side: Mike James & Gilbert Arenas
The last scrimmage of Sunday featured heavy doses of Mike James running the point and Gilbert Arenas play off the ball. This black squad also featured various combinations of Young, Butler, Blatche, and McGee playing with those two.
For the most part, lineups in practice and intrasquad scrimmages can’t be taken to heart as something that will translate to the game. Nonetheless, I asked Saunders about James at the PG spot and if Gilbert playing off the ball was an ‘experiment’ that he might consider when the season starts (at his pre-camp press conference, Saunders said, “Right now I plan on playing him strictly as a one.”). On Sunday he said:
“We’ll play Gil, it just depends. But it was just more of a situation in practice. And Caron … he had someone step on his toe, so he stepped out. More than anything, it was just a situation thing.”
Now, the media was let into practice after Caron evidently went out. But even when he came back, Saunders continued to run through several situational scenarios (around 30-40 minutes worth) while keeping James and Arenas together in the back-court. Make of that what you will, but it certainly seems like something to think about.
The Shooting Guard
On Saturday I spoke with Nick Young about his offensive role. He shed a little light on how the back-court rotation might play out.
“My scouting report says to be a spark off the bench and be a scorer for them … Me coming off the bench, coming off screens and knocking down shots alongside Randy Foye or somebody good like that.”
Nick also said that at times, he finds himself reverting back to the “old” Nick Young, but is really trying to focus on the Richard Hamilton/Reggie Miller-esque role Saunders has given him.
Caron Butler On…
For being known as a coach who gave ‘tough love’, Eddie Jordan allowed a pretty loose locker room. Part of the locker room dynamic is a reflection of how the players get along and interact with each other off the court. On media day, Haywood dubbed himself and Gilbert Arenas as the “blenders” of young and old in the locker room (and seemed to reference how that was missed last year). Curious to see what Caron Butler thinks as a well-respected vet, I asked him about the importance of off-the-court interaction and if it’s now different from the past.
“We did a lot of things before as a team off the court on our own, but just something a little more supervised (in reference to how it is under Flip now) … Getting together and doing karaoke. Getting together and being hypnotized. Going on walks to sports bars and just interacting with each other so much. I know a movie is going to come up pretty soon … as soon as they come out with another ‘gladiator’ type movie, I know we’ll be going to see that.
Just bringing that team continuity … I think every team needs that, early on in the season. Get away from your home-front, go off, and all you got is the brotherhood. Get a rhythm with each other off the court and on the court, and expect big things. And I think that’s what we’ve established already.”
On if he’s a “blender” too:
“I find myself doing that, I’ve been trying to do that for a long time. You know, trying to relate to the younger guys because I can … just trying to talk to them, and help guide them through. But I still demand a lot of respect, so I don’t try to get too friendly with nobody (smiles) … because you gotta have that respect out there out on the court, so I don’t show nobody my whole hand. I try to just keep it modest.”
Randy Foye on working against his teammates last year in Minny vs. this year in DC
“Last year mostly I was the guy on the perimeter and Al Jefferson was the guy in the post. Really, when I played, I could probably do anything I wanted because those guys were smaller. Here, everyone is the same height at the guard spot. Everybody is between 6’3″, 6’4.5″ and 6’5″ and you’re just battlin’. It’s just a battle everyday and you you learn something new everyday playing with veterans.”
I’m really getting the sense that Saunders “gets” today’s generation of basketball players. Sure, the old school staunch methods of someone like Jerry Sloan seem to stand the test of time. But the fact that Saunders uses modern techniques as teaching tools keeps what can be a monotonous basketball learning process interesting. It also shows that he knows how to relate to his players, which can make it easier to translate into success.
Coach Flip Saunders said he would try to reduce the minutes for Jamison and Butler, who averaged 38.2 and 38.6 minutes per game respectively, last season. Saunders said that is possible with a deep team, with players who can swing between multiple positions. He has tinkered with several different lineups this week in Richmond, using a big lineup that featured Jamison, Blatche, Haywood, Miller and Arenas; playing Arenas off the ball; Butler at shooting guard and even Nick Young at small forward.
Flip On Antawn’s Communication
“Until you coach somebody, sometimes you’re not totally aware of all that they bring to you. I wasn’t aware that he was as much of a communicator on the floor, and I thought he was more of a silent leader. But he’s a lot more vocal as far as that. So he brings that vocal leadership when he steps on the court.”
On Saturday, there were multiple reports that Jamison was on fire and determined not to let his team lose any of the scrimmages. Flip said he looked like the old AJ from his 50 point Golden State Warrior days and praised his work ethic.
The Post’s Michael Lee thinks that Jamison will be much more important than most realize because there’s no one reliable behind him at the four spot. Read Lee’s piece: “Jamison Is Eager for Team Rebound: Forward Is More Focused Than Ever”
Jamison Scouting Report
In regard to how he treated Jamison when he coached against him, Saunders indicated that guys like Kevin Garnett, who have both quickness and length, give Antawn the most trouble on defense.
“What most guys do … how you attack a good offensive player is you attack them at the defensive end. You make them guard and try to wear them out as much as you can.”
I imagine a lot of teams treat Jamison in this regard.
The Huddle: Black vs. White.
Day 7 Coverage:
- Wiz training camp Day 7 [Wizards Outlet]
- Training camp day 7 notes [Bullets Forever]
- Day 7, Final Rundown & Miller’s Shoes [Wizards Insider]
…before he steps on the court, Miller may have to get a new pair of shoes. Unaware of the Wizards’ rivalry with Cleveland, Miller has been wearing LeBron James’s signature sneakers during training camp. You already know that’s trouble.
Miller has been wearing Adidas since he was a sophomore in high school but switched to Nike after signing a contract with them this summer. He’s been urged by Deshawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to wear any pair but the ones donned by the could-be King.
“We already talked about that,” said Stevenson, a noted James agitator. “He got to get ‘em out of here. We already had a discussion. He said he going to try some new shoes. Me, Caron, Antawn told him about how we feel about them. LeBron shoes — we off that. We already got war against them. He can’t wear that. It’s all beef right there.”
Miller joked that he has not been able to avoid getting ribbed in the locker room for his footwear. “They’ve been on me for it,” Miller said. “When you’re unathletic and white like me, you got to have the lightest shoe out there. They feel good on my feet. It’s no disrespect. I didn’t know you guys hated each other like that. I’ve been on Front Street in the locker room. I told them ‘No disrespect.’ ”
Butler is also signed with Nike. Would he wear a pair of Carons? “That’s what I might go to,” Miller said with a laugh. “If they’re light enough and they fit my feet right, I’ll do it. I’ll go out there in Chuck Taylors if they don’t hurt my feet.”