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With Wall down, Crawford stepping up

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With Wall down, Crawford stepping up

If the Wizards are going to keep their heads above water in the Eastern Conference standings without John Wall for the first month of the season, theyre going to need a strong start from third-year guard Jordan Crawford.

Three weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Crawford finished third on the Wizards in scoring last season with a career-high 14.7 points per game. He also posted career highs in assists 3.0 and rebounds 2.6.

Most of that production came with Crawford riding shotgun to Wall, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman believes the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder from Detroit is capable of making a major contribution while Wall recovers from a stress injury to his left knee.

Ill tell you about Jordan, Wittman said Wednesday on the second day of training camp.
Its his three best practices Ive ever seen him have.

Is it maturity? Is it growing up a little bit? Thats a testament to him. I think he probably had one of the better summers than anybody on the team in terms of his growth and understanding of me and things hes going to have to do to take that next step.

Crawford has never had trouble finding the basket.

He finished 21st in the nation in scoring in his final year at Xavier in 2009-10, averaging 20.5 points per game, and he averaged 16.3 points for the Wizards in 2010-11 after arriving in a trade from Atlanta.

When its time to score, I score, Crawford said. Thats how it should be. Weve had about 18 players hurt since the time Ive been here. If you go into an arena with eight players, whos gonna shoot?

It is the other aspects of the game that Crawford says hes hoping to improve, like distributing the ball, playing better defense and having a stronger voice on the court and in the locker room.

I can easily move into that role of point guard, he said. Its a natural position for me. Ive got the natural ability to lead in the locker room. People look up to me and gravitate to me. Im excited to be like a veteran to the team.

Wittman said he saw Wall becoming more of a leader on the court in the final weeks of last season and he wants all of his guards, including Crawford, to be the same coach on the floor.

Wall has an ability to control the flow of a game without me having to stand up on the sideline and dictate everything that were doing, Wittman said. I dont want to coach like that.

This is a game that will always be a game for the players. The players win the game. Its my job to prepare them to go out and do that so I want them to be able to have that understanding that this is the way we need to attack and not so much always looking over to me to get them the direction that they need to take the team. Its a process, and not everybody can do it, so well see.

Wittman said hes pleased with the approach Crawford has taken with his third NBA training camp and he believes the Wizards will reap the benefits

Its a very important step, Wittman said. Hes in his third year as well, and its important for all our young guys to have growth, maturity, and understanding the work that its going to take to become a good player in this league. You go through that sometimes the first couple of years and you think its just going to happen. Its good to see the response that Ive seen from him.

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Capital City Go-Go to hold open tryouts in search of local talent in D.C. area

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USA TODAY Sports

Capital City Go-Go to hold open tryouts in search of local talent in D.C. area

The inaugural season of the Washington Wizards' G-League franchise, the Capital City Go-Go, will bring a lot of new experiences for the D.C. area and that includes the process of open tryouts as they seek the best players in the community to fill out their final roster spots.

There will be an opportunity for the best basketball players in the region to showcase their talent in front of Go-Go executives. They don't know if there will be one or two tryouts, when or where they will be held, but the expectation is sometime in September. 

Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu is hoping for a big turnout.

"I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how many people and what kind of talent we can have coming out to those local tryouts. Once we got those dates, we’ll get them out to the community and hopefully we get a ton of guys coming out here to represent their area," he said.

"Whoever comes out, we’ll love it. The more the merrier. It might make our job harder to choose, but I’m okay with that. It’s an expansion team. We’re looking to put this team together and if we have 200 guys come out, that would be great. It just gives us more of an opportunity and a bigger pool to look through. I’m okay with a lot of guys coming out."

Tryouts are commonplace in the G-League, but the Go-Go expect to have an advantage based on their location. The D.C. area is a hotbed for basketball talent and over the years has produced many NBA players and Division 1 college stars.

Mensah-Bonsu can attest to that, having spent many years in the area. He was a star at George Washington University, was with the Wizards in training camp during his professional playing days and has since stuck around to make the city his home.

"The DMV area has a wealth of basketball talent," he said.

Go-Go head coach Jarell Christian is relatively new to the area, but he expects the tryouts to be productive for a G-League talent search. He has held open tryouts before when he was a member of the G-League staff in Oklahoma City. But this isn't Oklahoma City.

"The talent level in Oklahoma City is different than here in D.C., so I think we’ll be able to find some really good players, locally in those tryouts," Christian said.

Christian said that those who want to sign up will likely need to get in contact with members of the front office, either by themselves or with the help of an agent. He mentioned Mensah-Bonsu and also Scott Schroeder, their assistant GM.

Christian and the coaching staff will run them through drills and scrimmages to evaluate which players to keep. Once they see the basketball skills, they will put them through background checks and get testimonials, just like any other job.

"We just want to get a feel for what the players can do. Also, we’ve gotta get to know them and their character. If we do like a player, we’ve gotta make sure we call their references and they check out as being people that we want in our organization at the end of the day," Christian said.

The G-League allows each team to invite up to five players from their tryouts to participate in preseason training camp.

There are several stipulations when it comes to who can try out. Players have to be at least 18 years old and international prospects are often not allowed. The tryouts also generally require a registration fee. More information on the requirements for the Go-Go tryouts will be released once the dates are set.

Open tryouts for other teams around the G-League have produced some unique success stories. Guys who have gone on to make the NBA include Jonathan Simmons and David Nwaba. Perhaps the Go-Go will find the next diamond in the rough.

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Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

The city of Washington, where he grew up near and was a star in college at Georgetown University, isn't the only factor that makes joining the Wizards familiar for Jeff Green. He is also reuniting with his former coach, Scott Brooks, who now leads the Wizards.

Long ago, Brooks was cutting his teeth on the sidelines while Green was finding his way on the court. When Green was a rookie on the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, Brooks was a 42-year-old assistant coach. The team moved to Oklahoma City the following year and by late November of 2008, Brooks was the head coach after P.J. Carlesimo was fired.

Brooks helped oversee Green's first four seasons as an NBA player and Green remembers those days well.

"He looked way better than he does now," Green joked.

Brooks, now 53, has a knack for taking playful shots at those he works with, whether that be players, fellow coaches or the media. Green is clearly on that level and feels comfortable ribbing his head coach, knowing he can both dish it out and take it.

All jokes aside, Green is still appreciative of the tutelage he received from Brooks back in the day.

"Scotty was my No. 1 guy, he’s always been, but when I first stepped foot on an NBA floor, he was there for me. He was a coach with Seattle when I first got into the league," Green said.

The NBA has taken Brooks and Green to very different places in the seven years since they split ways. Green left for the Celtics and has since played for the Grizzlies, Clippers, Magic and most recently the Cavaliers. Brooks stuck around with OKC through the 2014-15 season before he was let go. After taking a year off, he joined the Wizards.

Much has changed in Brooks and Green's lives. They have lost and gained jobs. Their families have grown. Now, they are back on the same team and Green is excited about it.

"We’ve been close and tight ever since. We never lost contact. So, I’m looking forward to being coached by him again. I know he’s going to put us all in great positions to succeed. We just have to do our part on the floor," Green said.

Green spoke with Brooks on the phone before deciding to sign with the Wizards as a free agent in July. His presence was one of the many reasons he felt Washington was a good fit.

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