Last year during training camp, Washington Wizards forward-center Kevin Seraphin was doing all he could to fit into a new team and a new country. The hard part wasn’t necessarily the basketball — although there was an adjustment to the NBA’s physicality — as much as it was processing another language.
Born in French Guiana, Seraphin has become proficient enough in English that understanding Coach Flip Saunders and the rest of the coaching staff is almost second nature. That has helped considerably during this training camp in which the second-year player has been inserted at backup center behind JaVale McGee.
“One, he understands when you talk to him,” Saunders said. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to understand the language. Language is a big key. It’s not like we always have to do everything so slow. He has the ability to pick things up a little quicker.”
Seraphin was among the Wizards’ busiest players during the lockout. He played 16 games with Caja Laboral after signing a contract with the Euroleague club in September that included an NBA out clause if the labor dispute were to be settled.
Caja Laboral included other NBA players such as Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Fabricio Oberto. The coach was Dusko Ivanovic, regarded in Euroleague circles as a taskmaster who conducts rigorous practices and demands much from his players.
“With [Ivanovic], when you play, when you practice, he always wants you to run 200 percent,” Seraphin said. “He pushes you all the time, and on the court he hepled me with my game. He talked to me a lot. After every practice, he would just tell you, ‘When you go home, you just think about the practice tomorrow.’ ”
Seraphin said that drill-sargeant mentality has made him more aggressive around the basket. At 6 feet 9, that toughness will come in handy when matched up against bigger players in the post.
“I can read the game more,” Seraphin said when asked how his skills have improved from last season. “I can make [better] passes. I’ve just gotten confidence.”