A regular season chock full of meaningful games is ever so close. In fact, the last Wizards preseason game is tonight against the Pistons in Detroit Toledo, OH … and then we have to wait a whole eight days until Washington basketball opens the regular season in Orlando against the Magic on TNT on October 28.
Summer is a speck in the rear view mirror. But just before it’s set to disappear, I took the opportunity to ask several Wizards what was the most relaxing thing they did this past summer. Most seemed to enjoy the time they were able to spend with family. One particular Wizard got his heart broken and spent a lot of time watching movies about love. Just watch.
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There are 18 players on the current Washington Wizards training camp roster, which means there were 18 different ways they chose to handle Media Day.
Gilbert Arenas took the stoic route by answering approximately six questions before the Wizards PR staff quickly whisked him away. Hamady Ndiaye and Cartier Martin did some interviews before they got their pictures taken, then they did more talking with the media, then they kind of walked around the Wizards practice court talking to whomever wanted to speak with them. Lester Hudson was visibly nervous and shy, and didn’t really give expansive answers. JaVale McGee rarely made eye contact, but was much more chatty than he was in his previous two media days. Still, even he looked like he really wanted to be elsewhere.
Arenas was the first player to speak to the media, and about five minutes later, Young made himself available. He stood in the corner of the makeshift media area and answered every question the press could muster. While he was standing there, Adam Morrison, Andray Blatche, Al Thornton, Lester Hudson, Yi Jianlian, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, and other players I am probably leaving out, started and finished their interviews, and Young was still standing in the same corner.
Hamady N’diaye only played eight minutes, 37 seconds in his Summer League debut with the Washington Wizards. He barely made an impression on the box score. He took one shot, missed it, had one rebound and one turnover. “H” almost had a sweet dunk, but got excited and traveled. He also got a 3-second defensive lane violation called on him.
Most would look at the box and think “Yuck, but that’s a late second round pick (No. 56 to be exact) for ya.” So why do I like Hamady so much? Let me explain.
No, N’diaye didn’t ‘wow’ me yesterday. And it’s just one Summer League game on his long journey to become a contributor on the court. But if my observations are true, Hamady has a solid foundation constructed in just over six short years of playing competitive basketball.
First, as much as I bragged about John Wall’s communication, I should do the same with N’diaye. I’m willing to bet that four years spent at Rutgers, where he acquired a degree in communications, helped him hone his verbal skills. He knows that it’s the center’s job to be that defensive anchor, to see what his teammates might not see and to let them know.
A couple weeks ago, I was invited to cover a WNBA game, the Washington Mystics versus the Connecticut Sun. Some people snickered. Some asked why. Some didn’t care.
And that’s fine. This post isn’t to convince anyone that the WNBA is great or that it’s even better than they think. Plain and simple, the WNBA is worth it. Worth the effort to make sure it works. Worth the support and subsidization of the NBA … although, the current level of the NBA’s assistance is somewhat mysterious.
WNBA president Donna Orender was recently interviewed by Fortune’s Poppy Harlow on CNNMoney.com. When asked if the league gets financial support from the NBA, Orender carefully said, “We are an entity that runs ourselves, but with … I would say we have support from the NBA, but there’s always been these rumors that they’re writing big checks for us …” Harlow interrupted and implored Orender to clear the record on if the WNBA stands on its own feet financially. Ordener responded, “At the league level, we do. Yes.” A bit vague, but certainly indications of progress from Orender.
Wall-Nuts over John Wall has led to a lot of positive attention toward the Wizards lately … distracting from fan curiosity over the return of Gilbert Arenas. But rest assured that people of the District-Maryland-Virginia area still care about the zeroed-out hero.
As the season’s games winded down, Truth About It.net media guy, Adam Douglas, took to the concourse and got the opinion of Wizards fans on Arenas’ punishment and if they want him to return to the team.
The interviews took place over two months ago, feelings about the Wizards have certainly shifted since then. But as far as I know, there’s no statute of limitations on interviews, and it’s interesting to look back on perception. I wonder how many of the interviewees would now think that Arenas and Wall can co-exist harmoniously.
Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado worked out for the Washington Wizards on Memorial Day. Below is a break down of his Chicago Pre-Draft camp measurements and his Wizards post-workout interview.
Jarvis Varnado is a very soft spoken guy. In fact, I’d call him downright shy … at least in terms of his interview demeanor. He’s the anti-Omar Samhan.
Varnado is an especially intriguing prospect to me. Being a Mississippi State alum and someone who worked with the men’s basketball team while there (I left MSU in 2003, Varnado started his four years as a Bulldog in 2006), I’ve followed his career very closely.
Varnado, nicknamed “SWAT”, is most known for his defensive presence. He finished his career with 564 blocked shots, the most in NCAA history, averaging four blocks per game over career. He has natural instinct, usually not leaving his feet to gamble on pump fakes, but also has “quick hops” in his ability to recover on second and third jumps. And as many shots as he blocked, he changed and intimidated a ton more, and often against players who thought they could out-smart him by going into his body. He is an intelligent, disciplined defensive player.
There’s been a bit of inactivity on this here blog because I’ve been out of town. But now that I’m back, let the John Wall mania re-commence … because us Wizards fans need to hype the guy up so much that madness will ensue should something crazy happen like Ernie Grunfeld taking Evan Turner or Derrick Favors with the first overall pick. Anything is possible, right?
Actually, let’s take a break from getting all Wall-Nuts for a second and check out some Wizards interviews from late last season … specifically when I asked a handful of players which sports teams they rooted for growing up and now.
Watch the video below to find out:
Which Wizard didn’t like Michael Jordan growing up.
Who is from Cleveland but continued to follow the Browns when they moved to Baltimore and now considers himself a Ravens fan.
Who has a dad who’s a diehard Redskins fan but chose to go against him and root for the Eagles.
Which Wizard only really roots for Brazil soccer as far as sports teams go.
Omar Samhan is most personable player in the draft. Having only met five potential draftees (I left before Hamady N’Diaye interviewed), I’m more than confident saying this. The kid can hold a crowd.
The best part about Samhan is that he comes across as genuine … or charming without arrogance. He took time to shake hands with each member of the media after his post-workout interview today, but didn’t come off contrived like a politician.
He sort of reminds me of Gilbert Arenas, whom Omar compares himself to at one point (“in some ways,” he says), but slightly more aware of the impression he makes. He’s glad to be candid, but he’s not a loose cannon. Surely some of this refinement comes from the fact that Samhan majored in sports journalism.
“As an athlete, it’s your job to entertain. It’s your job to bring the people in and be close with the community,” said Samhan when I asked him about the precautions he takes when it comes to his social media presence. But he also understands that it’s a fine line and that he needs to be careful, lest what he says might come back to haunt him.
What’s in nickname? Some are given by teammates or coaches. Some are given by friends and family. Some are given by fans. Some give themselves nicknames, although that method is certainly not very valid/credible.
Prior to a couple games before the season ended, I asked several Wizards about their nicknames, past and present. Not all players had fun with the question – i.e., JaVale McGee, who I’m sure, if members of the media were polled, would win the ‘Most Boring Interviewee’ award — but most willingly answered.
Watch the video below to find out who was called “Bucky” as a kid because of his buck teeth, who was given a certain nickname because he evidently walks like O.J. Simpson (whatever that means), and who isn’t willing to laugh at himself.