Eight observations from Jan Vesely’s introductory press conference Monday morning at Verizon Center. The image comes from the Wiz Twitter account, which notes that Vesely will wear No. 24 next season.
1. His nicknames have included Honza, the Flying Czech, the Helicopter and the Russian. His teammates in Serbia called him the Russian, while “Honza” is a standard Czech nickname for Jan. I’d say his American nickname has not yet been coined.
Also, he said he learned Serbian, or possibly Serbo-Croat, in about two months. He said it was easy because he could already speak Slovenian. And yet, when asked what languages he can speak, he mentioned only Czech, Serbian and English. I asked what happened to Slovenian; “I forgot,” he said.
2. His skills are a wonderful assortment of NBA cliches.
“High energy, very aggressive and he’s got a great personality,” Flip Saunders said.
“He has a great motor, he’s very competitive, he plays hard all the time, he has a high basketball IQ, he’s a team player,” Ernie Grunfeld said. “His competitive nature, his willingness to mix it up, he brings good toughness to the floor.”
“In terms of timing and what’s going on in the league right now, we’re gonna be very well positioned come the out years,” Ted Leonsis said. “And that was our promise to the fans, be patient with us but we will bring in young exciting players that are coachable, we’ll fill the building and we’ll get that spiral to go up.”
3. Fast fast fast fast fast, dunk fast.
“It’s gonna be very exciting,” Saunders said. “I guess we’ll have another guy that we can put on [highlight shows] for a few dunks.”
“I like Washington,” Vesely said. “We can run the floor, we can work. We can work....I think we can work, we can run fast break.”
“His game is very well-suited for the NBA game, which is an up-tempo game, a lot of athleticism, you get up and down the floor,” Grunfeld said. “And any time you play with the kind of energy and intensity that Jan plays with, that’ll transfer well to any level.”
“He plays all-out,” Saunders said. “That becomes very contagious. When you see John coming down the floor, there were many times last year we didn’t have people that could run with John, he was so fast. That’s Jan’s strength.”
4. Trivia: He loves hockey and is familiar with Michal Neuvirth, but they’ve never met. His mom played high-level volleyball but Jan only played on the beach. He likes Serbian music better than American or Czech music. And he enjoyed his first night in D.C. on Sunday, when they whirled past the Capitol Building and the White House and the monuments.
“It’s very beautiful city,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. It look like a European city. I like it. I like very much.”
5. The kiss continues to resonate.
“All the news is writing about that,” Vesely said. “I think nobody knows about the picks, it was on that night, everybody talking about the kiss. I think we went to history.”
6. Ted Leonsis wants to use the Caps as a model for integrating Vesely into the community.
“We have lots of experience through the hockey team with bringing players in and making them feel welcomed and comfortable and assimilate them culturally, and I think we will celebrate this diversity and make sure that the Czech Republic is well-represented. I think we’re seeing that here. But it’s incumbent on us as owners and in management to make sure that these young players not only adjust adapt and flourish from the sports side but also socially, and I think we will do our best to make Jan and his family feel comfortable, because I think if players feel comfortable and enjoy everything around the city that their game flourishes. And comfort and integration into what we do and into this great city is one of the things that we’ll be focused on.”
Now, somebody open a restaurant called the Czech House, stat.
7. His NBA role model as a kid and now?
“When I was kid, I was watching Dirk, his game,” Vesely said. “Now, I still watching Dirk.”
8. Aside from the Czech thing, the Wiz leadership continues to talk about a cultural change.
“I thought it was important to look around the league and see how tough teams were,” Leonsis said. “And Seraphin is a really big, tough kid. Singleton is like that too. And I do think we’re changing the core personality and makeup of the team to be tough. You look at the teams that flourished in the playoffs, and they were big, they were tough, they played defense. And so we’re trying to remake the team. And you can’t teach some of those things. And so a player like Singleton, I saw him in the workouts, he just looked tough. He just looked mean. And adding that kind of bulk and strength, along with great talent, is what we promised John Wall, that we would be rebuilding the team and coach would be implementing a system that took advantage of the strengths and character of the players that we were bringing in.”
“Our style of play and the things that we’re looking to do, I feel that he should fit into our rotation,” Saunders said. “There’s no question. As far as being a runner and high-energy. When Milt Newton went and saw Jan two years ago, he came back and he said to me, you’re gonna love him, he reminds me a lot of Garnett, from a standpoint of his energy and his motor. And a guy that plays like that, as a coach, it becomes very difficult for you not to find somehow to play him....I think the biggest thing when you notice him and you watch him play is the aggression he goes to the basket with. Guys can make spectacular plays, but he goes relentless.”