The Washington Wizards' new practice facility features all sorts of bells and whistles between a virtual reality room and a sensory deprivation tank. The biggest takeaway, though, from players and coaches after the first day of 2018-19 training camp was the simple fact they have more space.
The Wizards used to practice at Capital One Arena at what was known as the practice court. Notice that 'court' is not plural. They had one, and all the Wizards players had to share it.
Now, the Wizards have two courts in their practice area and technically a third if you count where the Go-Go and Mystics will play their home games. All three are located at the newly-minted Medstar Wizards Performance Center in Ward 8.
Beyond simply having more room to stretch out their NBA-sized frames, Wizards players don't have to share hoops or wait their turn as often while practicing their shot.
"It just makes us better prepared," forward Otto Porter, Jr. said. "I think more guys can get more shots up, more goals. I'm tired of everybody shooting on my goal. I have the freedom to get extra shots up."
There are more courts and more rooms at their disposal. Front office executives even have offices that overlook the practice area.
"There’s so much space, and there’s so much room for the coaches. It’s like a coach’s dream," head coach Scott Brooks said. "You got a lot of baskets. You got all the facilities, the weight room, the training room, everything, the film room. Everything is outstanding. So, it’s important."
A brand new building helps the mindset of new beginnings for the Wizards as they open another training camp with another season on the horizon. Brooks said Day 1 was a productive one, highlighted by tone-setting conditioning drills and a sharp focus on defense.
The first message Brooks wanted to deliver to his team this season was that they have to improve on that end of the floor.
"First thing is defense," Brooks said. "We need to get better defensively. I really believe we should be top 10. I’m not saying we should lead the league in defense, but we should be top 10. Last year, [we were 15th in points allowed and defensive rating], middle of the pack. We don’t wanna settle for middle. We wanna be a top-10 team."
Brooks believes having newly-acquired center Dwight Howard protecting the rim can help that cause. And after the Wizards get their stops, Brooks wants to see more zip up and down the court.
"[Second is] playing with pace. We’ve got a lot of speed. We’ve gotta use that every time down the court, because it can be intimidating. We can score early in the shot clock. We got the fastest point guard in the league [in John Wall], and in order to do that, we need all four other guys running with him," Brooks said.
Mahinmi for 3?
Day 1 of training camp can bring all sorts of goals, some loftier than others. Like, for instance, is it realistic to expect center Ian Mahinmi to develop a three-point shot?
Mahinmi, like the other Wizards' big men, participated in three-point drills towards the end of practice and actually made a few.
Ian Mahinmi is working on his corner three. pic.twitter.com/3uMM1ru1wt— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) September 25, 2018
Mahinmi has never made a three-pointer at the NBA level and has just eight attempts in his 10-year career. Brooks, though, says it's not all that crazy of an idea.
"Don’t be surprised if he shoots threes. He made 65 out of 100 last week," Brooks said.
Like any season, reality will set in at some point. But don't blame the Wizards, now training in a new facility, for thinking bigger.
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