Sizzlin' and Fizzlin' at SummerFest: Markieff Morris and the Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About

Sizzlin’ and Fizzlin’ at SummerFest: Markieff Morris and the Wizards

Updated: July 8, 2016


The Washington Wizards held a SummerFest event for fans at their home arena this past Wednesday night. It appeared to be well-organized, was Polynesian-themed, and generally included your standard school carnival-like fare. It might not have facilitated the same sizzle had the Wizards signed Kevin Durant, had a lottery pick, or even convinced Al Horford to join them, but this is still the only local pro basketball team worth caring about.

Those in attendance, given leis upon their entrance, seemed to enjoy themselves with calm relief, as if coming to the realization that the loud pop they just heard was merely a party balloon bursting, and now its only job was to deflate and go in unpredictable directions. The team had plenty of handlers à la Walmart associate-style just in case there was a flux of interest in the open-to-the-public affair—after all, late just the night before the Wizards agreed to terms with third-string free agent center Jason Smith.

With plenty of space to roam on the Verizon Center concourse, attendees were welcome to check out an array of offerings—face painting, decorating doo-dads, pictures with G-Wiz (team mascot with synthetic blue fur), a line of humans that led to a table of John Wall bobbleheads, a guy mindlessly strumming on a ukulele, coconut bowling, and virtual reality consoling (sponsored by Mountain Dew). The line for free Italian ice was especially populated. There were no Warriors or Cavaliers paraphernalia visible, likely out of respect, but one passerby did mention to a companion, “We usually get to a couple Knicks games here each season.”

As the evening progressed, the events moved to the main basketball court. The Secret Service dunkers (a small cadre of people tasked with manufacturing energy with trampolines, balls, and baskets) did their thing; Polynesian dancers brought the heat, literally, with sticks and ropes on fire at their ends; and the Wizards Girls (the team’s gender-specific dance squad) added the appropriate undertones of sexuality.

The squadron of summer leaguers and hopefuls were introduced not by individual name, but rather as a collection of 15 individuals. Reaction was akin to seeing a police lineup emerge on the other side of a two-way mirror only to be told that you are picking your child’s babysitter for the evening. The basketball upstarts, already appearing sweaty from toiling away on the team’s practice court, broke into formation with a Lunchable-like offering of basketball—3-on-2 and 2-on-1 fast break drills for the bread, full court five-on-five for the meat and cheese, and a half-court shooting contest for dessert. Aaron White, 2015 Wizards second-round draft pick who honed his game in Germany last season, made a half-court shot to win a prize for a child. After the on-court festivities, the summer league squad broke into groups throughout the concourse and signed autographs for long lines of fans.

No grand, public proclamations were made nor consolement offered by team brass or personnel over loudspeaker. Seats available for ticket package purchases were, however, highlighted with 8.5x11s taped to their seatbacks. Usual game-night host, Rodney Rikai, served as the evening’s mouthpiece; and unrelated, Kelly Oubre seems to be bringing back the short shorts.

Toward the end, Markieff Morris, incumbent 4 man who’d dedicated time attending and signing autographs for fans, spoke with the media. He seemed much more relaxed and open than when he first arrived in Washington near last February’s trade deadline, which is understandable. The highlights:

On shooting more 3s:

“That’s what the game is now, so I got to work on them. But, I mean, if you score, you score … it can be 3s or 2s. I’m just not going to be a 3-point shooter, though, regardless of the situation.”

On how he expect the new coaching regime to be different:

“It was a great group of guys that was here before I came, and when I came. But with Scottie (Brooks), it’s a little different, man. It’s a lot more organized, it’s going to be a military kind of feel.”

On if he paid attention to Kevin Durant’s free agency:

“You gotta pay attention to it. I don’t think it’s right, but it is what it is.”

[Morris was asked what he means by that.]

“You know what I mean by that, it ain’t right, but …

[He was asked if it’s more a player issue or a system issue.]

“The money is going to be there for anything, it’s not about that. It’s the whole situation—you don’t do that, man.”

[Morris was asked if he would have stayed.]

“I mean, I wouldn’t say that. But I wouldn’t have went there (Golden State), for sure. First of all, they just beat us, so that’s more important. It would have been a fire inside me to beat them next year. But a lot of guys are different, man, I just ain’t expect that from Durant. I know him a little bit, I ain’t expect that from him.”

Sidney Lowe, local DMV product and new assistant on Scott Brooks’ staff who will be leading the summer league efforts, also took time to chat.

On Kelly Oubre:

“I’ve seen Kelly try to employ some leadership with this group, which is different for a young guy. He’s doing a great job of directing guys, communicating to guys, whether it’s on the floor or in the locker room.

“He’s obviously trying to develop his game in different areas. Coach has got him running pick-and-rolls, which he didn’t run a lot of before. It wasn’t something he was comfortable with, but now you can see he’s starting to do a little more of that. Want to see him stay aggressive. But I think the first thing that coach wants to see, and we all want to see, if for him to stay consistent on the defensive end, which he can do.”

On Aaron White:

“I like his ability to step out, I like his ability to stretch a little bit—saw him put it on the floor a few times. I think he’s one of those unique players that can play 3 and play 4. And obviously in our league, the way it is now, there’s no more ‘power forwards,’ it’s a 4 or a stretch-4. I think he’s going to have that ability to supply us with that type of situation where we can play him at the 4 spot where he can stretch the defense.”

On the transition to a new coaching staff (per Morris’ “more organized” and “military” comments) and balancing structure with being a players’ coach:

“I think it’s that balance. When players know that you really care about them, they can accept the constructive criticism or the corrections, the correcting. They can accept that a little better. I think Coach Brooks does a great job of that. I don’t think he reacts certain ways than players think he might to a certain situation. Where they think he might get really upset at something, he might make a joke about it. So I think he just has a great feel for his teams, and I think that’s so key … to have they pulse of your team and mentally find out where they are. And I think that guys are going to enjoy playing for him.”

And on Durant’s decision:

“I don’t talk about other teams’ players, I don’t.”

But as a fan?

“I don’t talk about other teams’ players.”

[Faint voice of PR staff in the background: “Thanks, guys”]

Off into the summer they go, en route to Las Vegas, Nevada, after a morning practice session in D.C. on Thursday. The Wizards will play Utah on Saturday, July 9 (6:30 p.m. ET); Atlanta on Sunday, July 10 (4 p.m. ET); and Brooklyn on Tuesday, July 12 (4 p.m. ET) before the summer league tournament starts.

Reps from Truth About (yours truly, @truth_about_it, and Adam Rubin, @LedellsPlace) will be on hand for coverage, so stay tuned.







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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.