Quick Links

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.

Quick Links

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually exist. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclomations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!