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Wizards focusing on small details and big picture


Wizards focusing on small details and big picture

With their preseason opener at Charlotte just 24 hours away, the Wizards wrapped Saturday's practice working on last second plays. The specific instructions from Coach Randy Wittman and his staff of when to cut or who receives the pass and where came without a defensive presence on the court. Just five offensive players learning the movements, the play designs, each other.

With only five days to get the undermanned and still learning the playbook team ready for its first live action, the focus for Wittman during training camp has been on his squad, not any other.

"Pretty much just leading up to the last couple of preseason games you're really just concentrating on yourself." Wittman said inside the Patriot Center on the campus of George Mason University. "We're really not doing scouting reports on the teams we're playing or anything of that nature like a regular season. I want these guys to concentrate on us and the things we want to do."

For "right now it's about the little things," Wittman said. "The big picture starts when the season starts obviously. Right now, it's a step of building. We've got a lot of new faces that have no idea what we're doing. The guys that were here have a little idea because we are doing a lot of things that are different from what we did last year too. It's a balancing act of how fast and quickly we can go."

The Wizards won't be as fast without the injured John Wall or as powerful with Nene (plantar fasciitis) also watching action from side, but mentally the available players have impressed their coach.

"The thing that I've liked about these guys so far is that our basketball IQ is pretty high. They've been able to retain things pretty quickly. Now are they going to be able to retain them come game time? That's the stuff we have to work on tomorrow."

Getting the players in maximum shape and fighting through the pain that comes with five days worth of practices is what they will have to continue working on.

"Oh sure, they're beat up a little but, no question," Wittman. "That's what this is about, getting their bodies back to condition of playing up and down every night, 3 days in 4 nights kind of thing. No they're tired mentally and physically right now."

Point guard A.J. Price won't argue with that last assessment - and credits the coaching staff for providing the needed grind-it-out push.

"It's very grueling first of all. By no stretch of the imagination is it easy," said Price, who turns 26 on Sunday. "We have to get up - you have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff. They're the guys that will get you in here and get you motivated cause there are plenty of times when you come in and just feel like you can't do much. The coaching staff gets you into it, get you motivated. After that it's pretty much easy."

Price and Shelvin Mack are expected to handle the primary point guard duties against the Bobcats. Newly signed veteran Jannero Pargo missed his second straight day with a left rib injury.

"(Jannero) said he felt better," Wittman said. "Noting showed from X-ray, no crack, nothing of that nature. Obviously if it's feeling better today already, we're anticipating it will be ok.

Forward Trevor Booker (hamstring soreness) also sat out Saturday's practice.
As for opener, Wittman warned not to expect a thing of beauty.

"Tomorrow is usually not a real pretty sight. They'll be going 100 miles an hour as they were here on Tuesday the first practice. I had 18 guys out here an hour before practice. Today, it was dwindling to nobody an hour before practice. We'll see that tomorrow. You're going to play your first game; we're going to be going 100 miles an hour, just getting back and playing again."

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense help him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!