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Wizards, Caps, Mystics preparing to be first to use virtual reality


Wizards, Caps, Mystics preparing to be first to use virtual reality

As a longtime executive in the technology industry, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is what some would call an early-adopter. So it's no surprise to see his face light up when asked about the Wizards' plans to use virtual reality, a system that he believes will revolutionize not only sports and how players are developed, but also training across other businesses.

Leonsis took some time to explain the new technology on Wednesday at the team's press conference to introduce their new practice facility in Southeast D.C.'s Ward 8. The complex will include a room dedicated to the cutting edge training method. That will help allow the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics to be the first in their respective leagues to use the system.

"You can't explain it until you put it on," he said. "I'm sure virtual reality is going to be the biggest change in training in business. When you read something, you retain 20 to 25 percent. When you read and hear something, 30 to 35 percent. When you read and hear and see, it's over 50 percent. When you interact, when you see, hear and read, it's like 70 percent. We think virtual reality is going to get you into the 90 percent potentially. So, imagine you're a rookie player and you've played one year of college ball and now you've come into a team and they give you a playbook. It's mind-blowing."

The Wizards are working with Stanford University where the program called STRIVR was developed. Associates from the school were in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with Leonsis and others about implementing the program for the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics.

He explained how the two sides are working together to get it installed.

"It is a really remarkable thing. It's a series of cameras like a tripod. It's like a dozen cameras that shoot a 360-degree view. You shoot it and then you send it digitally to Stanford University and they do their magic on it. Then they ship it back and it goes into this hard drive that loads into these oculus headsets."

Leonsis was given a demonstration recently and described being in different virtual situations. In one he was thrown an inbound pass at the top of the key with 15 seconds on the clock. In another he was on defense.

"It feels like it's in your face. The demos were remarkable, teaching someone how to draw a charge. You put it on and you've got it stop when you see the guy coming to take the layup," he said.

The Wizards are hoping to gain an edge with the technology that will put them ahead of the curve. According to STRIVR's website, they have already worked with the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.

"Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys were the first team to do it," Leonsis said. "I was watching the game on Sunday night and the announcer said 'gosh, Tony Romo is seeing the field better than I've ever seen him play.' He put that on and said to Jerry Jones 'you gotta get this.'"

Reviews from those who have used it in professional and college football say it's a game-changer. Leonsis hopes his teams can enjoy the same impact in their respective leagues.

"I'm very, very excited about it," he said.

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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