Dispatch From Vegas Summer League — A Conversation With Oleksiy Pecherov | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Dispatch From Vegas Summer League — A Conversation With Oleksiy Pecherov

By
Updated: July 17, 2015
(Oleksiy Pecherov hanging out after July 12, 2015 summer league game versus Sacramento. Photo - A.  Rubin)

(Oleksiy Pecherov hanging out after July 12, 2015, summer league game versus Sacramento. Photo – A. Rubin)

The Denver Nuggets were one of the most intriguing teams entering summer league due to the presence of No. 7 pick Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay was a top high school recruit but skipped college to play one year in China before entering the NBA Draft.

The Nuggets opened summer league play on Friday, July 10, against Atlanta, and I made a point to grab a front row seat for the game. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up from my phone and saw none other than Oleksiy Pecherov, ex-Washington Wizard, standing before me.

The Wizards selected Pecherov 18th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft and signed him the following summer. I was in Vegas for Pecherov’s summer league debut in 2007 and, after Oleksiy registered an eye-opening 26-point, 14-rebound game on 11-for-21 shooting (3-for-5 3PT), I spoke with Ernie Grunfeld about the big Ukranian. He was understandably happy with the performance.

Pecherov ended up playing two mostly uneventful seasons with Washington before being sent to Minnesota along with Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and the No. 5 pick in the fateful Mike Miller-Randy Foye trade.

After one season in Minnesota, Pecherov has been playing in Europe the last five years. In June, Sportando.com reported that Pecherov worked out with the Nuggets, but no official summer league commitment was announced. Oleksiy was not listed on the Nuggets roster that was distributed in the press room in Vegas.

Tim Connelly, the Denver Nuggets general manager who worked for Washington when Pecherov was drafted, said Pecherov looks good but does not expect him to get many minutes in Vegas. Connelly said that Pecherov understands that summer league is for the young players.

I caught up with Pecherov after one of the Nuggets’ summer league games (Q&A below), and he could not have been nicer or more complimentary about his time in Washington. Incidentally, Washington closes out the 2015 summer league tonight at 10 p.m. EDT against “Pech” and the Nuggets.

20150713_172730

(Pecherov on the Denver Nuggets bench during the 2015 NBA summer league in Vegas. Photo – A. Rubin)

Adam Rubin: How did you end up on Denver’s summer league team?

Oleksiy Pecherov: “I was just working out with Denver for probably 10 days and they want me to come for summer league. But my main focus was just to work out and get better.”

AR: Did you know [Denver General Manager] Tim Connelly from back in Washington?

OP: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know Tim for sure.”

AR: What were your memories of playing in Washington? Did you enjoy playing for the Wizards?

OP: “Of course, man. It was a very good two years for me. You know, I always had very good memories of the city. Matter of fact, I am going to come to D.C. after the summer league.”

AR: For vacation?

OP: “To just work out, we’ll see. I love the city. It’s unbelievable and the organization … all the people who were there at that time were unbelievable to me and my family, and I will always remember D.C. Right now it’s my favorite city in the United States. It’s very warm and nice to be there.”

AR: Did you get a chance to talk with Ernie Grunfeld since you’ve been here?

OP: “It’s been a while. It’s been a while because I’ve been in Europe the last five years. Right now, it’s the first time I’ve come to the States in the last five, six years. So it would be good to see him again but, if not, I still follow him. They are doing a good job, they have a really good team who is competing in the playoffs and, hopefully, they will get it done soon and make a good result because they have a … over the last two, three years they have really stepped up, and it was fun to watch them play.”

AR: Is your goal to make a comeback in the NBA?

OP: “If it’s possible, you know. We’ll see. You never say no. It was kind of tough the last two years for me because I had some family issues, but now I have a desire and I have passion to play basketball again. [I’ll] try to get some work in and see what happens.”

AR: Do you keep in touch with any of your old teammates from the Wizards?

OP: “I saw Brendan Haywood today. It’s always good to see somebody I have not seen in a long time.”

AR: Do you still use the phrase “I get buckets, son”?

OP: “You know, it happened. Just try to do my best.”

AR: You have not had a chance to play yet in summer league. Do you think later in the week you’ll get some minutes?

OP: “Maybe, it depends on coaches. We’ll see. You know, like I say, the main goal was for me to get in good shape. I’ve been spending over two weeks and I feel really good about my self shape-wise, and it was the main goal to get better, to get some work in, so I did that. And right now if there is going to be a chance to play, I will play. If not, I’m still going to be working and keep looking forward for my next chance.”

2015-07-12 19.13.39

(Pecherov and teammates waiting for their summer league game to start. Photo – A. Rubin)

AR: What do you think of [Nuggets No. 7 draft pick Emmanuel] Mudiay?

OP: “He’s good, man. He’s talented, 18 years old. Him and [Nuggets 2014 No. 41 pick] Nikola Jokic are both 18 years old and have a long way to learn, but already you can tell they both are talented and have a passion for the game. They come every day [and] try to play hard every day. They are young and have a long way to go as students of the game, especially the first year will be very important catching up with the veterans and learning how to adapt to the NBA, because it is going to be a little different for them. But I think they going to be alright, and they are going to show progress every year and hopefully they turn into very good players.”

AP: Thank you. Enjoy your time in D.C.

OP: “I appreciate it. [Give my] love to everybody.”

AR: Do you have a message you would want to give to the fans?

OP: “Like I said, D.C. is my favorite city in the United States and all of them have been warm and nice to me, and I appreciate that because, at that time, it was very hard for me to come from Europe to America, and they were very helpful, the fans and D.C. organization. It was amazing people there and I feel warm over there, and I really appreciate it.”

AR: Was that your first time coming to the United States after the draft?

OP: “Yeah, for a long time it was my first time. When they drafted me I stayed a long period here, and it was a kind of new situation for me but [the people] were very warm and nice. They supported me all the time. I appreciate them for that.”

(Photo - A. Rubin)

(Photo – A. Rubin)

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.