[Not many breaks for the weary -- photo: K. Weidie]
The third day of Washington Wizards training camp entailed a spirited scrimmage toward the latter stages of Sunday evening. JaVale McGee showcased nifty jump hooks, John Wall finished at the rim with ease, and Roger Mason Jr. flashed his superb shooting ability by drilling numerous long-range shots. The weekend two-a-day practices were taking a visible toll on the team, however, as Andray Blatche sat out of portions with cramps, Kevin Serpahin played with a wrap on his shoulder, and players labored through their final conditioning drills. McGee sarcastically mentioned afterward that compact schedule was different than camps of the past, and “Pierre” relayed a similar sentiment on Twitter.
The mood conveyed to the assembled media was one of leadership and workmanship. Blatche again discussed his pre-lockout meeting with Flip Saunders about being a leader. And while Dray again hilariously could not recall the name of the book Flip gave him to read, he did recite the literary themes quite well. McGee said that he sees himself coming into his own as a leader. Saunders praised the leadership skills of veterans Rashard Lewis, Mason Jr. and the new addition, Ronny Turiaf. There is no training camp motto this year like 2010′s “Back to Basics” or 2009′s “Our Time.” The construction hard hat given out after each practice to the hardest worker symbolizes the no frills approach.
McGee described the new business-like atmosphere:
“I feel we came into this camp…..and forget all the hype, make up a motto and all that stuff, just get to work and do what you do.”
The other significant news was the arrival of Turiaf and his practice debut with the Wizards on Sunday. Recent events have been such a whirlwind for Turiaf that he could not even recollect what day he arrived in the District. His game was exactly as advertised: hustling, battling down low and throwing his physical body around while having a big smile on his face.
Turiaf explained his role as professional basketball player, while being cognizant of advanced statistics:
“I am not there out to shoot three pointers, I am not out there to do crossovers, but I know when I step out on the basketball court that my plus-minus is usually pretty good.”
Coach Saunders sang the praises of Turiaf’s intelligence:
“He’s got a very, very high basketball IQ. He really knows how to play in terms of how to get guys open, how to set screens, he knows all the Veteran type moves.”
- Jan Vesely looked athletic but definitely raw. McGee said Vesely is a shy kid, and I noticed Wall has already shortened his name by calling him “Ves.”
- According to Saunders, rookie Chris Singleton has been guarding all five positions and feeds off the defensive challenge.
- Mason was very vocal, telling others to push it and to finish the practice strong. “Nice shot Rook,” could be overheard in his reaction to a made jumper by Singleton.
- McGee described his alter ego, “Pierre,” to the media as conceited and arrogant, which is the opposite of him.
- The scrimmage had referees calling fouls, and Jordan Crawford was not a fan of their whistles. J-Craw was probably the leading scorer of the scrimmage with red hot shooting.
- Saunders stated that McGee has had more assists in the past two days than all of last year combined, and that the younger players are playing more under control with a purpose.
- Blatche awarded the hard hat he received on the day to his teammate McGee.
- Turiaf could have a profound impact on the development of Seraphin due to their personal experience together on France’s National Team, but most importantly, Turiaf’s ability to translate will eliminate some language barriers that occurred with Seraphin last season. Although Kevin’s English improved vastly, and Hamady N’diaye is fluent in French as well, Turiaf’s presence will provide another linguist resource to reduce communication issues.
- Plenty of emphasis is being placed upon vocal leaders, but by far the most chatty on the court is Wall. He talks non-stop with the ball, without it, and on defense. Wall is not shy to remind defenders that he just made a good play on them either. Bravado, swag, confidence, or whatever you want to call it, Wall’s competitive fire and athletic flare witnessed in games last season and on the summer league circuit shines in practice too. This is who he is and all the encouraging signs are already there — especially the smoother jumper — for fans to expect great things out Wall in his sophomore season.