Being that this is our first time covering the Wizards mini-camps I cannot compare the experience to previous years. What I do know is that there was an energy in the Verizon Center practice court and it wasn't all about John Wall.
Media is only allowed to see the last 15 minutes of practice so I'm not going to even pretend to give you a full recap of the entire practice but we will go off of the quotes from players, the coach, the GM, and from the portion we were able to watch.
We started things off with a visit from Ernie Grunfeld who touched on topics including the acquisition of Kirk Hinrich and how he would fit in to the backcourt to some of the needs of the Wizards which include potentially adding a SF and another big.
Among the Wizards veterans not only in attendance but participating in the camp who are not listed on the Summer League roster were Al Thornton and Nick Young. Young who is undoubtabley going into one of the most important years in his brief career was not ruled out by Saunders afterwards as a candidate to be in Vegas with the team. Asked specifically about Young, Saunders said that the team has not made a decision yet and that after speaking with Nick they felt it was best if he came in and worked out in the minicamp. I couldn't agree more.
Also present and surprisingly in good spirits was Andray Blatche. Blatche was extremely vocal on the sidelines yelling out words of encoragement and even throwing in a little bit of trash talk to Cartier Martin after JaVale swatted a basket attempt. After a couple good plays the guys on the sideline would join Blatche in yelling out the nickname "Juice" for Al Thornton and "JDub" for John Wall.
Not in attendance was Michael Sweetney who was listed on the original roster. We were informed afterwards that Sweetney was dealing with a family issue and would not be attending the mini camp or be on the Wizards Summer League team so sorry to all the Hoya fans out there.
The players who grabbed my attention were Wall, JaVale, Trevor Booker, Hamady N'diaye, and Lester Hudson.
Hudson, drafted originally by the Boston Celtics showed some quick feet, a good shot and hustle on both ends of the court. Hudson was definately not shy about putting up shots but what else would you expect from the nation's second leading scorer in college the year he came out (behind Steph Curry).
The other two rookies not named Wall also had some good moments and interesting things to say after the practice. N'diaye showed off some low post moves and a good eye for cutters while Booker did what he said he was brought here to do - bang on the block and grab rebounds. Hamady said he looks forward to playing against and learning from JaVale McGee, while also seeming a bit surprised at how atheltic and long McGee actually is. Booker as mentioned stated that he knows his role on this team but also threw out the caveat that he is faster than John Wall - which brought out some chuckles from the small media contingency.
Speaking of JaVale, he looks different and I'm not just talking about his haricut or shoes. We were told right before entering the practice that Epic Vale has grown to 7 feet without shoes and 7'1 1/2 with shoes on. McGee also looks like he's put on some weight and not the type of restrictive weight that would make him sacrifice his athleticism. He was running the court hard, was on the recieving end of two alley oop dunks of which I'm sure there were plenty more in the closed portion of practice, and he had a seriousness about him while the guys were playing. You can't help but think that McGee knows he has a really good shot to make a name for himself with the addition of Wall but also for the fact that he is the lone true center on the team right now. He stands to benefit from a lot of mintues this year and I know I'm starting to get excited about the potential chemistry between Vale and Wall.
Which leads us to the Game Changer. What we saw from Wall was what we've pretty much all been told about him. He's quick, he can get to whatever spot on the court he wants to get to and he is a fierce competitor. He comes across as a gritty, hard working and extremely intelligent basketball player. Wall was fighting through screens, scrapping on the floor, getting knocked down only to get back up and more importantly than all of that was the fact that he looks as though he's got the respect of everyone in attendance already.
John talked about working on his shot with Sam Cassell, getting in better shape, learning the pick and roll and the biggest adjustments he's going to have to make in his interview after the first mini camp:
Post practice Flip Saunders talked about Wall's passion for playing defense, his coachability and his tremendous decision making. Also, don't look for John Wall's minutes to be monitored too closely this summer, which should make each Summer League game Must See TV. It's only day 1 but from the look and sound of things, the Wizards offseason is off to a pretty good start.
Wizards Summer League Minicamp Highlightswww.wizardsextreme.com