Despite the news of John Wall having to miss 8-weeks to start the season, I have to say, the mood at Wizards media day on Monday was still very upbeat and positive. Everyone was excited about the new season, new pieces, new goals & less distractions.
With all that said, there was a common theme among most of the players… uncertainty.
How’s this team going to look? No one knows, not even the players. Who’s going to be the leaders of this team? Some hinted towards Okafor, most said we’ll have to wait and see. What’s everyones role going to be? Almost all said, we’ll find out over the next month.
It certainly gave me the impression that this is absolutely “new beginnings,” a new-era, ready to start fresh, create a new identity and in year-three of the rebuild, this is the group that looks set on not duplicating the efforts of the past two years.
Here’s a round up of some of my favorite quotes and takeaways from Wizards Media Day:
“Dribbling and handling the ball” – was the main area Ariza thought he needed improvement. Prior to his comment, I never knew that to be a weakness from him, something we’ll certainly keep an eye on. “I was playing with Wall the day I heard I was traded but I never got a chance to play with him again this summer, he was on the move a lot” when asked about playing with Wall. For those that follow Wall on Twitter/Instagram, this comes as no surprise, his frequent flyer miles must be insane. When asked about how the chemistry can grow quickly within the team: “We need to spend time together on and off the court to accelerate the process” – he emphasized off-the-court. I get the impression these guys need to be locked in a hotel room for a week together to begin learning one another, so many new pieces.
Easily my favorite person of all the interviews because of his entertaining responses but also cause he doesn’t look at the person asking questions, he just stares straight ahead and answers. I got a kick out of that.
“I was shocked, but at the same time, I noticed he hadn’t been playing in any of the open gyms recently” when asked about Wall’s injury announcement. How does that change things for Crawford with Wall being out? “I can move into that (point guard), I’ve had some conversations… I’ll just leave it at that.” Crawford was asked about now being one of the older guards (with Mack and Beal being the younger guys) if he thinks he can be a leader for those guys “its a natural ability for me, players tend to gravitate to me” – easily my favorite quote of the day. Crawford was then asked about his reputation of being a gunner: “when its time to score, I can score… look back at our team, we’ve had a lot of injuries, sometimes only 8-guys playing, somebody has to shoot”
When you read that Nene is a class-act, great-guy, etc. please understand that is not just PR talk… that is the real deal. The guy is terrific. He’s respectful, genuine, mature and will certainly be a leader on and off the court for this team. When you replace a guy like McGee with a guy like Nene, the impact transcends through more than what you see on the court.
What are your thoughts on playing in the 2016 Olympics in your home country Brazil? “2016? I’m just trying to play in our season-opener this year.” Nene did not hide the fact that his health is a major concern and that his foot when he first hurt it and had the flare up it was one of the most painful injuries he faced going into detail about how he couldn’t feel his foot for a few days. He can feel his foot today… thats good news. ”My health, I think about it day to day” when asked what his main focus was on during the offseason. Besides for his time in London for the Olympics, Nene also spent time in Vail seeing a foot specialist and doing various foot exercises to build strength back up in the foot.
Nene needs to be on the court, its essential for this team to succeed, its just hard to be optimistic with Nene’s foot when its been such a long, lingering injury.
“I can’t do much of anything right now, no running and all that… really just rehab, play video games, sleep, play more video games” – Wall. That about sums things up right now John Wall. Despite his injury, he was very upbeat, having fun (trying to make Vesely laugh behind the camera during his photo shoots) and was a positive presence on during the session.
As he mentioned on Friday, his injury didn’t come from one thing in particular but more so just a reality of working hard. When asked about what part of his game he focused on, “I worked on my shooting… everyone knows that I need to get better with that.” That obviously is Wall’s biggest weakness but I was intrigued to hear him mention that “everyone knows that” as he acknowledged the conversations, discussions, etc… around NBA circles of his glaring weakness. If there is anything that motivates players more, that is to have a weakness spotlighted in so many public circles, their pride doesn’t take to well to that.
Wall was asked about his partying and the critics who follow him on Twitter & Instagram who comment that hes always going out, etc… “its the offseason, I like to enjoy my family, friends, etc… but when you’re still up at 7AM hitting the gym working out, does it still matter?
“The locker room is a lot better… different, but better” when Wall was asked of the vibe of the new team in the locker room.
My second favorite interview award goes to Seraphin… the guy is just so honest & genuine, its hard to not like him.
“I like the way Coach Wittman coaches me… all growing up, all my coaches would always just tell me I’m the best, not Coach Wittman, he’s tough on me,” when asked about Wittman.
Couple quick hitters from Seraphin that I took note of:
- When asked if John needs to be more of a vocal leader “John Wall? He already is a vocal leader, he is very vocal”
- Playing with Nene & Okafor: “I don’t see myself playing on the court at the same time with Okafor, we’re both 5′s”
- Happy to be back in DC?: “Yes, I’ve already been to Fogo De Chao [favorite restaurant] twice since I’ve been back.”
- Thoughts on new flopping rule?: “I love it. I don’t flop so not allowing others to flop against is a good thing”
- When asked if he was excited to get back on the court: “Yes, I haven’t played an NBA game since February”
- Asked about his personal vibe of DC: “its been great, I’ve been greeted at the airport each time I’ve arrived in DC” (Third time since the trade)
- Thoughts on Verizon Center from his UCONN days, NBA days: “I’ve always liked this arena, I am guilty of sometimes still calling it MCI Center”
- Main offseason focus: “Durability.” ”Its not that I haven’t been durable during my career I just know how important it is moving forward”
- Thoughts on flopping: “Thank Goodness” He touched on a “couple people” who need to get their flopping curved (he wouldn’t name names… thoughts?)
Stay-tuned for part two of the Media Day round-up with Quotes from Pargo, Webster, Price, Webster, etc…