WASHINGTON -- Wizards guard Jordan McRae made his way around the parish hall of St. Francis Xavier in Southeast Washington slowly, stopping to greet kids one-by-one and bending his 6-foot-7 frame down to take pictures and shake hands. He handed out bags of school supplies to underprivileged youth that said 'work hard, play hard.' He told them each "good luck in school."
It was a day McRae got to do something he feels like he could have done more of last year. He was giving back to the D.C. community and helping out with a cause he believes in. Last season, when he played through the uncertainty of a two-way contract, he didn't have a real chance to lay down roots in the Washington area.
But now back for a second year with the Wizards, and with an NBA contract and a possible rotation spot to seize, McRae feels a new sense of comfort in D.C. Though he has been in town for a year, now it is home.
"Since being in the NBA, this is probably the best opportunity I've gotten," he told NBC Sports Washington.
"Last year, it was tough. It was different from what I've been through before, just the unknown. Not knowing was the hardest part."
McRae, 28, came to the Wizards last summer after rehabbing a shoulder injury and playing overseas. But he had two years of NBA experience under his belt, including a championship ring from the 2015-16 season with the Cavaliers.
At the time, a two-way contract made sense for McRae. He had to prove he was healthy and needed a team to take a flier on him. The Wizards did, but they couldn't offer McRae much of an opportunity to play. They were entering another year with high expectations and had loaded up on veteran players in the offseason.
Things, of course, didn't go as planned for the Wizards but McRae didn't exactly benefit from the turmoil and roster turnover. He spent much of his time in the G-League, appearing in more games with the Go-Go (31) than he did with the Wizards (27).
That was partly because late in the season McRae was close to maxing out the 45 days his two-way contract allowed him to spend at the NBA level. The Wizards had financial incentive to keep him in the G-League and in the final weeks of the season, when the two-way clock was no longer an issue, he suffered an Achilles strain that ended his season a few days early.
McRae felt like he showed the Wizards what he is capable of in his relatively brief time on the floor, but is looking forward to a more extended opportunity this season.
"I'm a person who can play multiple spots. I can be on the court with Brad [Beal] or without Brad," McRae said.
"I'm just looking forward to it. The opportunity is there. This is what you work for all summer, this type of opportunity."
There could be an opening for McRae at back-up shooting guard. The Wizards didn't address that position specifically this offseason like they did a year ago by trading for Austin Rivers. McRae may be their best option behind Beal.
It also may be the ideal spot for McRae, whose best attribute is scoring. He led the G-League last season with 30.3 points per game and showed some flashes at the NBA level as well. He scored 20 points or more twice and dropped 15 points in eight minutes against the Cavs on Jan. 29 when the Wizards nearly stole a victory after the benches were emptied in a lopsided game.
McRae can get buckets quickly. He can also play some point guard, which should come in handy this season as the Wizards play without All-Star John Wall for at least several months. They are also resting hopes on Isaiah Thomas as one of their top two point guards and he only played 12 games last season.
The Wizards' roster is in transition and it may not yield many wins in the 2019-20 season. The Westgate sportsbook set their over/under at 28.5 wins. That is about 10 short of playoff contention, even in down years in the lesser Eastern Conference.
It could work out well for McRae, though, as he could get much more playing time. He is excited about that possibility and also the style shift they hope to undergo as dictated by managing partner Ted Leonsis and general manager Tommy Sheppard.
"We're gonna be young and obviously we have to change up our style," McRae said. "We want to be one of those teams where teams don't want to play, a team that you know they're diving for loose balls, playing hard and playing fast."
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