The Wizards went through their third straight day of practice Sunday without restricted free agent Nick Young, who remains in Los Angeles without much progress being made toward a new deal. Jordan Crawford and Roger Mason Jr. have spent most of the time playing at shooting guard. Mason shot the ball well in the two scrimmages that were open to reporters, and Crawford still hasn’t met a shot that he isn’t afraid to take – or make.
“Jordan was lights-out shooting today. He was probably our leading scorer, as far as things he can do. He has the ability, he can score,” Coach Flip Saunders said after Sunday’s practice. “We feel good with how he and Mason have played. No question, but we’d also like to see Nick back here.”
Saunders doesn’t want to get used to not having Young around, but Crawford is playing like someone who wants the starting the job, no matter who is on the roster. “We like the things Nick does, no question. But Jordan also did a pretty adequate job when Nick went out and he played,” Saunders said. “The biggest thing is, you want to have depth. You want to have a solid eight or nine.”
The Wizards concluded another long evening practice with Saunders handing a white construction workers’ helmet, symbolizing the team’s hardest worker for the day, to Andray Blatche. Blatche didn’t even attempt to wear it. Instead, Blatche quickly said: “I’m sorry. I gotta give this to JaVale” McGee. He then placed it upon McGee’s head.
“Sign of a good teammate,” Saunders said afterward. “He recognized the other guys.”
Blatche wasn’t on the court when reporters were allowed to watch players scrimmaging, as he sat in a chair after his right leg cramped up. He still got up and ran gingerly through some final drills, so it wasn’t anything serious. “Probably a little dehydration. I probably just need to drink more water,” he said.
McGee looked good in the low post on Sunday, as he backed down new arrival Ronny Turiaf and knocked down a pretty jump hook he said he has been working on all offseason. McGee appears to be playing more within himself, not looking to dribble or take any shot outside of 10 feet.
“I think JaVale had a great practice today. He was really, really good,” Saunders said. “I think ’Dray worked hard, really pushed through a lot of things that he’s had. Three straight days where he’s given great effort. I said to JaVale, ‘You had an unbelievable day and could’ve been right there.’ ”
Rookie point guard Shelvin Mack did a solid job running the show during the scrimmages, as he found McGee for a lob dunk that simply looked too easy to execute. Mack made a great pass and McGee threw it down so swiftly that the defense never reacted to either move. Mack also got fellow rookie Jan Vesely involved with a sweet dish inside for a layup. “Shelvin has made a lot of progress playing the point position. made progress being able to iniate the offense,” Saunders said.
Chris Singleton still continues to impress with his aggressive play, especially on the defensive end. Singleton arrived with a reputation as someone who can guard four positions. Make that five: Singleton guarded McGee on a few occasions and held his own.
“He’s been one of our high-energy guys, every single day,” Saunders said. “One of the best defenders that we have. He’s been guarding everybody. He’s not afraid to challenge. If he’s out there scrimmaging and some guy scores, he usually is pointing to try to take him and guard him. He doesn’t back away from a challenge.”
It’s hard to really get a sense of what this team is really going to look like when they start playing, but they have a lot of athleticism and length. Saunders can play with a number of different lineups. He has tried a lineup with the 7-foot McGee, the 6-11 Vesely and the 6-10 Rashard Lewis. Add in a 6-11 Blatche, a 6-11 Ndiaye and a 6-9 Singleton who has a 7-foot wingspan, and the Wizards could get a lot of deflections and be effective on the defensive end, if the players are committed.
“We have our fun times, but our approach is serious,” Saunders said. “Much more aggressive and we have a lot of competiteness from top to bottom.”