After a thrilling overtime victory over the 76ers on Election night in the nation’s capital, the Wizards players and coaches appeared in an upbeat mood at practice on Wednesday morning. Then again, this year’s team always seems to be in good spirits. The Four Bigs ‘(Dray Blatche, Yi Jianlian, JaVale McGee and Hilton Armstrong) were playing a rotating game of one-on-one with coach Gene Banks at one end, while other Wizards took part in a game of 3-on-3 on the side baskets at the other end. Gilbert was in this game and he looked pretty healthy. John Wall, against a wall, was chatting with Coach Saunders and observing both workout contests. The big topics post-practice were Cartier Martin’s off-balance three that sent Tuesday’s game into an extra period and the spectacular play of Wall.
Check out the video mix:
- Blatche bet assistant coaches Sam Cassell and Don Zierden that he could make six baskets in a row. Both took that friendly wager and when practiced concluded, Dray faced up against McGee. I believe Dray had made three or four straight before losing; an elated Sammy-I-Am jumped up for joy.
- After practice, Kirk Hinrich nailed a half-court shot, which Cassell disputed that he was behind the line. Wall calmly dribbled in and drilled his half-court shot. Nick Young missed his, but tried to jokingly convince Zierden that it went in. These guys are very entertaining to observe in these moments. I would love to get commentary from Cassell or any other assistant coach, but team policy remains that they are off limits to the media. From those in the know, the Wizards remain one of the few teams with access to assistants blacked-out. This is unfortunate because, as a basketball nerd, I would love to talk strategy with them. Plus, Cassell sound bites would be hilarious.
- Oh Gilbert Arenas … S0me were anticipating that Gilbert might talk to the media Wednesday. While players were still shooting around after Flip had ended the formal practice, I over heard Gil try to convince Wall to leave the practice court so the press would follow him and he could play a game with other players, sans the watchful eye of the media. (Hey, Kornheiser, maybe Gil thinks YOUR ilk causes cancer.) I did not hear how Wall responded, and he never did leave, but I did make out Wall later talking to Arenas about the defense of 76ers guard Jrue Holiday.
The TV cameras and media eventually wandered into the hallway waiting for someone to chat with, but after a few, reporters jaunted back inside the practice court to observe Gil’s assembled game. A surly Arenas snapped at a Wizards PR employee to close the door. and that was that. Later, I saw Gilbert, wearing all black attire, target the media scrum with a frown as he made his exit. Being snubbed by Arenas and a general target of his wrath means that I must have arrived as a “media member” — whatever that means for peeps who blog it out with access in 2010. Or maybe Gil felt I gave off carcinogens. My ego hoped he knew that I nicknamed him Emo Gil Niner, but I highly doubt it.
- Cartier Martin was surprised that the media wanted to talk with him again. It sure is refreshing to see his genuine responses to reporters, and to hear him candidly admit that he could not stop watching ESPN Sports Center highlights of his game-tying shot.
- Flip Saunders is confident that the team will play somewhere in the New York area on Friday night. At this point, it looks like it will be in Madison Square Garden.
- Dray has driven me loco in this short season already with his dependency on fade-away jumpers, lack of defensive awareness, few free throw attempts, sluggish conditioning and not using his fouls wisely. However, he did deliver on Tuesday with two huge free throws, and he fouled out Elton Brand so he was unable to take part in the Sixers’ last offensive possession.
A reporter inquired to Dray about Wall’s vocal leadership skills and he responded that Wall actually talked too much. Dray stated that Wall loves to say “Pick it up” over and over. Blatche mockingly joked “We get you the first time John.” He did emphasize that Wall is respected as a natural born leader. Blatche admitted to Washington Post’s Michael Lee that he was nervous before knocking down the game deciding free throws. My flip camera was not rolling so these two exchanges are paraphrased.
- At practice, there was some type of team or Comcast video shoot going on with Blatche and Yi where they were suppose to teach each other about their respective homelands. Dray was asked what he knew about China and he started breaking out lines from The Karate Kid. He was immediately informed that it was Japan, not China, and Yi started cracking up — a pretty funny exchange. Blatche was also wearing some hideously bright sneakers with “Wizards” pasted all over them.
- Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix attended practice after he witnessed the win over Philadelphia. Good to see the team getting pixel love from national reporters that’s not about finger or real guns.
- Wall did not know he became the first player ever to finish with a line of at least 29 points, 13 assists and nine steals. He also joined the prestigious company of Oscar Robertson as only two players with 70 points and 30 assists through their first three pro games. Wall’s frequent hard crashes to the floor are worrisome. Every time he gets up after going down, internal relief takes over me. Reason I mention it is that Wall wears a padded tank top and padded tights (like both Arenas and Dwyane Wade do, among other NBA guards who venture into the paint). This information should ease the worry of Wizards fans. (TWO HUGE KNOCKS on WOOD!) I asked Wall about his Dougie pre-game introduction dance, his answer will be coming up soon in its own post.