Capital City Go-Go get back up and running for training camp


While the NBA was able to operate several steps closer to normal last season, outside of a bubble and with all of their teams participating, that was not the case for the G-League. The Wizards' affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, essentially went on a yearlong hiatus, at least partially. They joined forces with the Pelicans' team to send some of their players and coaches to the G-League bubble in Florida.

Because of that, Monday's first day of Go-Go training camp meant much more than the first day of a new season. It was the first official day that the G-League franchise was back in full operation with a full roster, coaching staff and front office. They were back to business with their first practice under newly annointed head coach Mike Williams.

Williams is overseeing the Go-Go now after spending last year as a player development assistant for the Wizards. He has an intriguing roster highlighted by former Michigan State All-American Cassius Winston, the Wizards' second-round pick in 2020 who is currently signed to a two-way contract. They also recently drafted Rodney Pryor, who played at Georgetown.

Overall, it's a relatively young team, comprised of many players fresh out of college who do not have professional experience at any level. Williams is also for the most part new to this.

Though he served as a head coach for the Erie Bayhawks for two games in the G-League bubble last season, that was game experience. Monday was the first time he had run a practice before to that extent.


Aside from adjusting to talking more during practice than he did as an assistant, he's now in charge of putting together schedules and keeping everything in order.

"I think the biggest thing is one having a very clear plan before practice even starts," Williams told NBC Sports Washington. "Obviously, I've been planning for this practice for a couple of months now. Just having a very clear plan. What do you want to get out of this day?"

Williams saw firsthand how to run practice from former Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and current head coach Wes Unseld Jr. With Unseld Jr., he will work closely on which offensive and defensive concepts to implement. The idea is to create a seamless transition between the G-League and the NBA so that whenever the Wizards have to call a player up, they know the playbook and terminology.

Unseld Jr. said he sat down with Williams during the Las Vegas Summer League to begin that process, months before the Go-Go opened camp.

"We sat down at length," Unseld Jr. said. "I said 'look, you have to run your own team and personnel will kind of dictate what you can do.' But I do like having that synergy where we're kind of speaking the same language. It doesn't have to be the same drill, but it's the same teaching points, the same points of emphasis, the same terminology."

Unseld Jr. came to the Wizards very well-prepared to be an NBA head coach, but one area he did not gain much experience in while he was with the Denver Nuggets was coordinating with a G-League coaching staff. The Nuggets earlier this year became the 28th NBA team to acquire a G-League franchise. 

It will be a learning process for everyone involved, but Unseld Jr. sees great value in the relationship. He loves how the Go-Go are based in D.C. and play at the Wizards' facility, making it easy to transfer players. He even mentioned sending injured NBA veterans there on rehab assignments to get up to speed before rejoining the Wizards.

"Wes does have his fingerprints [on the team], but he's given me a lot of autonomy and freedom to do what I like to do," Williams said.

The Go-Go will also be used as a testing ground for the Wizards. They can experiment with offensive plays and pick-and-roll coverages. With an expanding analytics department under Monumental Basketball, the Go-Go have received guidance from people like assistant coach Dean Oliver and VP of research and information systems Katherine Evans when it comes to on-court strategy and draft scouting.

There are also plans for a speaker series of sorts. The Wizards have several key players who spent time in the G-League, most notably Spencer Dinwiddie and Thomas Bryant. Williams expects them and others to address his team at some point this season.

The goal is synergy between the Wizards and the Go-Go. It was difficult to accomplish that last season amid a pandemic with extenuating circumstances affecting both teams. But now they are all back in the same building, working in lockstep as they strive for the same big picture goals.