The atmosphere around the Verizon Center practice court was light and playful for once, and the Wizards players and coaching staff looked completely at ease. John Wall and Gilbert Arenas shared jokes while shooting free throws. Kevin Seraphin worked on his post moves with Gene Banks, trading jokes at the same time. Even the normally stoic Yi Jianlian could be seen cracking a smile while shooting free throws with JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
There was no talk about Arenas, his beard, his smile or his behavior, no visible residual sadness regarding the departures of Sean Marks and Adam Morrison, and no lingering effects from the loss in Detroit two nights earlier.
Earlier in the day, John Wall, Andray Blatche, Josh Howard, Nick Young, Hamady Ndiaye, Trevor Booker, members of the Wizards coaching staff as well as front office personnel, hosted a “Salute to the Stars” in honor of NBA Cares Week of Service. The Wizards staff served 200 combat veterans as well as wounded men and woman from various branches of the military. Josh Howard commented on how the event went:
“Soldiers give back to us all the time, so its nice to see the Wizards along with Morton’s [Steakhouse] come together and NBA Cares as well. It’s a great organization…”
In terms of how practice went, what the preparation will be for the next week until the opener against the Orlando Magic, and why Morrison and Marks fell short of making the team, Flip Saunders handled that.
Other practice notes:
- When asked how he felt about the Orlando Magic’s 21-game preseason win streak, Josh Howard made it clear that the Magic’s achievement was not to be easily dismissed.
“Coming from a team where it was important, in Dallas, as far as preseason, you have to be prepared, and I commend them on that. It took great concentration to do that, especially coming back from you [summer] vacation, so those guys are doing what they’re supposed to do, and we’re gonna take a page out of their book.”
- Kevin Seraphin dazzled the few members of the media who were there, with a brief rap in Creole. I must admit I was too mesmerized to record it, but Michael Lee of the Washington Post does have the video, and if it isn’t on Wizards Insider within 24 hours, I suggest you bombard his inbox with emails and demand he release it. Also, VP of Basketball Administration Tommy Sheppard mentioned to Seraphin, that he wanted him to play like Ben Wallace. Seraphin’s response, “I hope so.”
- Andray Blatche admitted that Coach Saunders has changed the philosophy of practice a bit. They are focusing more on conditioning, and he thinks the team needs that and to be mentally stronger. He admitted that the preseason games were tough for him coming off injury, but it gave the Wizards a chance to get to know each other and build chemistry with the young group of guys. And finally, he said that playing the Orlando Magic the first game of the season will serve as a good test.
- Lester Hudson and Cartier Martin stayed in the practice gym with Wes Unseld Jr., long after the rest of their teammates had gone to the showers. They strictly worked on shooting drills, and although I did not get a chance to speak with them after practice, one has to wonder if the extra work had anything to do with Morrison and Marks being cut earlier in the day.