A 5-Point Guide to Washington Wizards Media Day and Training Camp | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A 5-Point Guide to Washington Wizards Media Day and Training Camp

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Updated: September 27, 2016

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The Washington Wizards once again kicked off training camp, and their 2016-17 season, on Monday by dedicating a day to media. Damn, Daniel, the NBA season is back at it again—already. Here’s a five-point guide of what you need to know…

#1) Expectations and Mottos

Bradley Beal said he was aiming for 50 wins; check that, he wants to win a championship. Of course he does. (Everyone should, he’d reinforce.)

“I don’t want to talk about all the playoffs and stuff,” said John Wall, when asked about the playoffs. “All I want to do is go out there and play.” This was right after Wall called this season’s team “the most complete team we’ve had” and just before topping off his outlook cupcake with that one special word: health—as in health being the key to life, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, and all that good stuff. (My words, not Wall’s.)

When new head coach Scott Brooks was asked to define his team, specifically the offense, versus the “pace-and-space,” and before that “grind-it-out,” of yesteryear, he asserted: “I don’t believe in catch phrases and naming things to dress it up.”

Later, Brooks would relay the phrase “new normals” when asked about his general philosophy and how even returning Wizards players would be getting a fresh start: “We want to create new normals everyday.”

Brooks didn’t care much to acknowledge the debut of ESPN.com’s “power rankings” that pegged his Wizards as the 19th-best team in the NBA. All things considered, no where to go but up, or down.

I think the fans and anyone left who cares have ‘expectations fatigue’—in other words, let’s see how training camp and the preseason goes, first.

#2) “Health!!!”

Always a painfully magical word ‘round these parts.

John Wall had procedures on both knees this summer and, considering his history, the organization from the top-down is in no rush to get him back on the court. “I’m in no rush,” were Wall’s own words. And while he’s currently cleared to play one-on-one and three-on-three, which involves contact, Brooks could not say whether Wall would play in any games this preseason. The Wizards are fully aware that they might be forging on under the conditions of a new coach, several new faces, a revamped bench, a lack of a playoff berth last season, and no Wall to start this season. A test in the beginning could be good for the big picture, but a bad start could also shake the confidence in a core that returns its top six players. (Also, a bad start could screw the Wizards, real hard. After the All-Star Break, they have seven back-to-backs sets and play 17 of 27 games on the road).

Wall was asked if he’d be on a minutes restriction. He smiled and lowly, almost uncomfortably, said, “I don’t know,” twice.

And if you must know, when he was not rehabbing this summer, Wall said he worked on the following parts of his game: 3-point shooting, getting shots off the dribble, jumping off both legs instead of one, better body control, and getting better at posting up on offense (credit to Sam Cassell).

Otherwise, no other current injuries, nagging or otherwise, for the Wizards. Even Bradley Beal feels great merely by not having to rehab an injury or have his action restricted this summer—even if he did opt out from Team USA pre-Olympics participation to get his body right. Brooks said that as of the moment, there were no minutes restrictions on Beal, but indicated that the team would use various technical measures in place to monitor the health of all players, conveying that managing game minutes was just a small piece of the pie. Worth noting that last January Beal claimed that he’d “probably” be under a minutes restriction for the rest of his career.

#3) New Coach / Old Coach

Scott Brooks used the term “two-way team” more than once in his opening statements. In contrast, Randy Wittman rarely cared to acknowledge offense as an equal. Not to say Brooks doesn’t see defense as a primary target, asserting that he wants his Wizards to be a, “defensive team that can score, not a scoring team that can play defense.”

And while most players, especially Marcin Gortat, did not want to dwell on the departed Randy Wittman, there was very much a ‘ding-dong, the witch is dead’ feel to large portions of the day.

And maybe Gortat put it most accurately with a semi-challenge to his new coach:

“At the end of the day, we got to win basketball games, so basketball games will say if this is the right coach for our team.”

But ultimately, Gortat conceded that Brooks is the chief and the players are his puppies, and that it’s on the players to earn the trust of the new leader.

#4) The Case of John Wall vs Bradley Beal

You might have heard something or another to do with John Wall and Bradley Beal this summer. And to think it all started because of something—let’s call it a challenge—volunteered from John Wall via an interview with Chris Miller that aired over television on August 23rd. A more full quote from Wall via CSNWashington:

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball.

“Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star.”

Wall issued the same “getting paid brings expectations” challenge on July 1 via Twitter, moments after Beal agreed to a $128 million contract with the Wizards.

And the banter seemed fine at the time…

But in the Jerry Springer era of humanity, magnifying conflict is the route—and Wall’s use of “dislike” was the fuel to drive down it. And henceforth went efforts in crisis management; Wall’s noodles against the wall, if you will, might not have been intended to evoke so much reaction, but it seems that his message the whole time was true. The media day highlights:

  • “It’s great,” deadpanned Beal followed by an awkward pause when asked to describe his relationship with John Wall.
  • “We talked about it, we’re both two grown men,” Wall said.
  • “I didn’t take what he said as a backlash or him taking a shot at me.” —Beal
  • “We all knew Brad was going to get paid a certain contract, and he deserved it.” —Wall

And of course both players spoke of being competitors at media day. And of course Wall reinforced his “you got paid, now you got to put up” challenge to Beal.

Ultimately, Scott Brooks probably put it best: “If you have a team that bickers constantly, you don’t have a good team. And if you have a team that never has disagreements, you don’t have a good team.”

#5) Everything New & 3 Burning Questions

There’s a new coach, only eight of the 18 players on the training camp roster saw action last season (and three were in-season additions in Jarell Eddie, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Thornton), and according to Gortat, there’s a whole lot of other new shit around.

Three Training Camp Roster Questions That Will Burn A Hole In Your Soul:

  1. Starting positions 1, 2, 4, and 5 are all but set. The biggest roster question going into the season is the 3 spot being up for grabs, or “earned,” according to head honcho Brooks. Will it be incumbent Otto Porter, the upstart Kelly Oubre, or even a darkhorse candidate?
  2. Center minutes are up for grabs, too. Gortat has averaged 30.9 minutes per game as the starting center over his three seasons with the Wizards. After re-upping Beal, Ian Mahinmi was the prime, attainable target of Wizards free agency—the former Pacer averaged 25.6 minutes per game as a starter last season and is now the Wizards’ third highest-paid player. Gortat said on media day that he hopes to play alongside Mahinmi but that he’s “99 percent sure” that won’t be the case. With 48 minutes available at the 5 spot and maybe even some small ball/“death” lineups in Scott Brooks’ repertoire, how will this play out? Marcin Gortat, as one would expect, had plenty to say about the matter, which can be viewed here and here on Twitter.
  3. The backup point guard battle. With Wall set to potentially miss the entire preseason, the lanes will be open for his deputy-to-be to make an impression. Will it be Trey Burke or Tomas Satoransky or “other”? Gortat claimed that Burke and “Saty” will have a nice lil’ battle for backup point, but most signs point to the more experienced (NBA-wise) Burke having the edge.

To be determined… all of it.

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[images via instagram.com/truthaboutit]


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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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.