Wizards Summer Fest: Season Sneak Peek and a Night of Fun Inside the Phone Booth
The Washington Wizards hosted a “Summer Fest” at Verizon Center on Tuesday night. The event was free for fans to check out the newly drafted players, Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., along with other members of this year’s summer league squad, including current Wizards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, as the team prepared for its upcoming appearance in Las Vegas.
For a summer evening after a holiday, there was a surprisingly decent turnout of few thousand fans. Those in attendance witnessed about an hour-long spirited practice scrimmage. Randy Wittman was coaching ‘em up and Summer League Head Coach Sam Cassell was his usual, animated self. Even former Georgetown coach John Thompson was there taking in the action.
Set up around the concourse were neat activities for fans to participate in, such as face painting, a bean bag toss, a hoop shot, a prize wheel spinning, and picture opportunities with the Wizard Girls. The staff was hospitable and pleasant to encounter. There were autograph stations with Ex-Wizards/Bullets. The complimentary free food stations were highlighted by Red Velvet cupcakes and one of the tasty treats had a Wizards logo on it.
Due to Mystics hosting a game on the night of the draft, this evening replaced the usual draft party. It is a nice perk for current season ticket holders to renew for next season and an enticing way for newbies to sign up.
I knock Monumental Sports and Entertainment for their basketball product—hard to sugarcoat a 72-158 record in three years of stewardship—but I have always been a vocal supporter of these types of events. They are a way to give back to those who spend their valuable time and money on this struggling franchise. The family atmosphere in the arena creates a genuine professional basketball community that critics might not realize exists unless they were there in person. Many of these committed fans are the backbone of this team and care about its success. It allows younger generations to interact with players up close and potentially develop lifelong fandom bonds. Helping this youth cause, the team gave away free sunglasses to those who came and they were a big hit. Several peeps online have already hit me up for a pair of the red Wiz shades. Sorry, I am keeping mine.
With the personnel blunders and all of the losing, it is often difficult to dish out praise on items this organization does well and evenings like Summerfest are one of those that Monumental is nailing. Much deserved praise and kudos to everyone involved.
Now to the basketball stuff…
Glen Rice, Jr.
Team President Ernie Grunfeld is definitely overdue for a second round gem, and initial impressions are that he might have found one in the smooth swing man out of Marietta, Georgia. A Wizards employee told me that Rice, Jr. had been killing it in the morning practices, displaying an array of impressive dunks and shot-making ability.
Rice, Jr. definitely stood out in the scrimmage that I witnessed. He simply showed he looked the NBA part. It was hard to tell between Rice and Porter which one was the lottery pick. I knew coming in that Rice was a heralded scorer but the most impressive aspect was him being the loudest player on defense, constantly alerting teammates of screens. I asked Rice about this surprising aspect of his game.
“That is the only way to play defense—vocally,” said Rice. “I have been vocal since Georgia Tech, for the most part. I just want guys on defense to know where you are at. The only way to let them know is talk to them.”
I think it took Nick Young four years to figure that out.
Rice’s time in D-League gave him an obvious confidence that few rookies reveal immediately. I asked him about having the green light to chuck it up. “The green light? Naw, I just go out there and play my game,” he said. “I am a scorer so that is what comes naturally to shoot the ball.”
It is premature to make bold predictions; yet, I have a feeling that there will be few regrets of Wizards trading two draft picks to snag GRJ.
Oh, Honza, what are we going to do with you? My mother raised me by the golden rule so I will try my best to stay positive with Jan. He hustled hard, had a few nice dunks and produced much perspiration. OK, sorry Mom, people are reading this for candor.
Vesely looked like … well, the Vesely you already know by now. He was pushed around by bigger guys down low, continued to kick the ball out when around the hoop and displayed zero confidence on offense. He uncharacteristically had numerous bad passes to the noticeable groans of the crowd. Vesely shook his head repeatedly after his many screw-ups. There has been much discussion about how this is a make or break summer for Vesely and it is almost four months before training camp starts, so there is time for him to progress. I still have some faith that he can turn it around but, man, it is a lonely cause.
Here is video proof of Jan’s shaky outing and I didn’t even include his spin post move from 4 feet out that completely missed the rim.
Otto Porter, Jr. was not intimidated by the competition and he showed his maturity on the court by allowing the game to come to him. The battles between Otto and Glen are going to be fun to watch as they both develop.
This play is what caused heart beats to skip throughout the Phone Booth.
Porter is fine and just cramped up. #SoWizards crisis averted.
I felt the need to mention C.S. because he is a former first round pick with a spot on the roster and needs to produce or his NBA career could be a short one. But I don’t have much insight. He is just kinda out there. Oh, Chris changed his hair cut to a closer shave.
Midway through the scrimmage, Martell Webster jaunted across the court to screams and cheers of fans when they noticed him. Webster, sporting a new ‘frohawk’ and lengthy goatee dapped and hugged about every Wiz employee he knew. Later, he was joking around with Bradley Beal (Beal was there dressed up in practice gear but did not play) and Beal challenged him to a shooting contest. Martell got the best of the encounter as he drained a long shot. Webster took a bow to the crowd and let media know afterwards that Beal backed out of a bet.
(Scroll to bottom for interview with Rice, Jr.)
Interview with Rice, Jr.
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