TOWSON, Md. -- The surroundings are familiar for Gary Neal, who ended his career at Towson University by averaging 26 points. But he never played here at SECU Arena, which was built six years after he departed in 2007 for a successful professional career that has led him to the Wizards.
"I didn't get to play in this. If I got to play in this I probably would've averaged 32 instead of 26," Neal said. "It seems like there's a whole lot more space on the floor."
With the way the Wizards are going to play mostly this season, with one traditional big and four perimeter players, there'll be even more room for Neal to find his range. He's a three-point marksman shot 42% in his first two NBA seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
"The way the NBA is changing and evolving right now, how everybody is going to the four out, one in, the ball movement, not holding the ball, getting away from the isolation play, coach Witt is trying to teach that," Neal said. "That offense is kind of new to him also. He went to a little bit of that against the Hawks in the playoffs and by playing Paul (Pierce) at the four he kind of liked that. So he was thinking about that throughout the whole summer. He's teaching it to us. It's new to us. Everybody's learning. We should be alright."
When the Wizards aren't playing well offensively, Wittman often laments about lack of ball movement. Sometimes it's his point guard John Wall who tries to do it all himself. Sometimes it's his shooting guard Bradley Beal who isn't moving without the ball to give the bigs better passing angles for kick-outs from the low post.
The Spurs have been a model franchise because of their ability to run a pressure offense system where they break down defenses with ball movement, where the leading scorer can be a different player every time and reserves share in the success. The result is being a perennial NBA championship contender, winning 50 games or more for 16 consecutive seasons including one being shortened by 16 games because of owners locking out players in a labor dispute.
"It's not totally San Antonio's offense. One thing, when you go from team to team, you have to pick up on is the terminology," said Neal, who played for the Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves last season before signing here as a free agent. "It might be the same scheme or the same play but it's called a different thing. That's one thing your mind has to get familiar with. ... It'll take about a week, week and a half and everybody will be good."
Wall might be the Wizards' best player and two-time All-Star, but the responsibility in this type of offense, based on Neal's experience, is shared equally. That's the point.
"You can't put the burden totally on the point guard. Last year he averaged 10 assists. Everybody knows is game. Everybody knows he's a willing creator and passer. When you play a system like this, the ball movement has to come from everybody," Neal said. "It can't be just John being a willing passer. It has to come from everybody, one through five. That's how you get ball movement, that's how you take advantage of mismatches, that's how you get the defense in bad rotations. That's what we're trying to build here, keeping the ball moving and playing at a quicker pace to take advantage of some defensive lapses."