Between star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal missing games and the early struggles of newly-acquired veterans, the Wizards' bench has already evolved quite a bit just nine games into the 2016-17 season. Some players have seen their minutes pared down by head coach Scott Brooks, while some have seen a window of opportunity open that wasn't there when the season began just a few weeks ago.
Perhaps no one has benefited most individually from all of it than rookie guard Tomas Satoransky, who has filled in for Wall when he rests his surgically repaired knees and, even when Wall is in the lineup, has emerged as the team's primary back-up point guard. Satoransky is averaging a modest 4.7 points and 2.7 assists per game, but had 12 and nine against the Bulls on Saturday night in his most recent outing.
The 6-foot-7 native of the Czech Republic has impressed when given minutes and as a result has drawn praise from teammates and coaches for his quick adjustment to the NBA game.
"It's going great. I would say faster than I expected," Satoransky said. "I don't feel like a rookie. I am a rookie, but I'm 25 years old and have already played seven years of professional basketball in Spain. So, it's different."
Satoransky may have not been in the NBA before this season, but he played pro ball at a high level with FC Barcelona. He performed in front of big crowds and played with and against former NBA players.
On his team were current Magic swingman Mario Hezonja and former NBA players Carlos Arroyo, Joey Dorsey and Juan Carlos Navarro, a former Wizards draft pick. He competed opposite NBA veterans like Andres Nocioni and Sergio Rodriguez.
Some of the basics, of how to prepare for games and opponents still apply now that Satoransky has switched professional leagues. But there are, of course, differences.
"It's the smaller details. There are longer games, it's 48 minutes, so you never can be sure with the lead. The game is never finished until the end. You have a lot of different rules. I think the game is a little wider. The 3-point line is further. That makes for some adjustments on defense for me. You have so much talent here. Individually, the guys are amazing. It's more tactical in Europe, I would say. This is a change for me, but I think I'm getting used to it pretty quickly and it's nothing new for me now," he explained.
Satoransky said Marcin Gortat - who is from Poland - and Wall have helped him out most of his Wizards teammates. Gortat has helped him adjust to life off the court, while Wall has been a great asset in helping his game on the court.
The biggest difference for Satoransky in the NBA, he says, is the level of competition. The NBA is the best and most exclusive league in the world. The skill and athleticism is like nothing Satoransky had experienced before while playing in Europe.
That's not to say he wasn't familiar with the NBA. Like most who love the game of basketball, Satoransky followed the league growing up and had his favorite players. He happened to play against one of them recently.
"It's crazy," Satoransky said. "I've been following NBA games a lot. So, the other day when we went to Memphis, Vince Carter was one of my favorite players. This is like a dream come true, being able to be on the same court as these guys.
"But at the same time, you can't take it like that when the game is on. You have to play against them like they are regular players. You can have the respect, but you cannot fear them. I've been trying to compete hard against them, but after the game I'm always so excited because I could play against those guys."
Satoransky has been exposed to many new things over the last few weeks, from sharing a court with Carter, LeBron James and James Harden, to visiting cities he's never been to before like Memphis and Orlando. There is a lot more travel in the NBA than there was when he played for Barcelona. But that's okay, because Satoransky enjoys life on the road.
He also likes his new home in Washington.
"I love D.C., man. It's an international city and you can find anything here. It's been great so far. I'm glad I'm in D.C., the capital city," he said.