Here is the second part of Flip Saunders’s news conference, with his comments on Rashard Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, his third season with the Wizards and experience coaching during a lockout-shortened season. You can read Part I here.
On expectations in his third year: Every year is a challenge. Has it been different teams? Yeah, we’ve probably had five different teams going into the third year when you look at the roster changing and the trades that were made. What I feel very good about is I feel good about where we’re at. We’ve made changes that put this team in a situation that at some point’s going to be able to go and try to win a championship. We’ve done that because there’s no question that when you talk to people about our team, they’re going to say that team is extremely athletic, has a lot, very much, athleticism.
From my standpoint, I’ve always challenged myself, and always prided myself, on the fact of being a team that can become very disciplined and a team that becomes an execution team. So your teams that have the ability to win big are the teams that are athletic but have the ability to play that type of style. That’s going to be the challenge as far as moving forward.
As a coach, when you have time off, what you learn is the things that you miss. You miss the camaraderie of your players, your staff. Even you guys [reporters]. . . . You guys are a lot more fun to be around when we’re winning.
On whether a veteran team or a young team has an advantage in a shortened season: It’s interesting, because you can have an argument for whatever you want to. Veteran teams are going to say that the shortened training camp and the shortened season is a benefit to them because they’ve been together playing, young athletic teams are going to say that the advantage they have is that they’re young and athletic and they have a quicker recovery time.
Whatever you have, you can make an argument for making that a positive. What it comes down to is that you’re going to have to have a blend of of both. There’s going to be times with the shortened season when you’re going to have to utilize the ability to recuperate quickly, which is good for younger, athletic teams, but in close games, veteran teams tend to win close games. It makes for an interesting season.
On Rashard Lewis: I look at Rashard getting back to playing how he was in Seattle and getting back to playing how he played for me when I had him at the Goodwill Games. Being able to play small forward, being able to punish people at the small-forward spot with his size. I think now that he’s more healthier, where he’s had an opportunity to get his legs back in shape, also be able to go out on the floor, put it on the floor, shoot perimeter, and also be a more diversified player, not a one-dimensional player, and give us leadership. That’s one thing he did do: He gave us more leadership last year than I thought even he could, even when he wasn’t playing. He did give us some good, veteran leadership.
On Jordan Crawford: Well, I didn’t know he was as good as Michael Jordan. I wasn’t sure of that. I didn’t know that. That’s one thing I didn’t know. But I did know he had a lot of confidence. So I think I had a pretty good handle of where he is and the things that he can do.
This training camp is going to be really good for him. He’s got a tough spot, because he’s got to play two positions at a high level. He’s such a great scorer. And he has the ability to play the two. But yet he’s going to have to have the ability to play backup one to John and change a little bit how he plays at times when he’s playing that spot. He can’t just go have that same mentality that, ‘I’m going to score every time I touch it,’ like he does sometimes when he’s at the two. So he’ll have a little bit of an adjustment from the standpoint of just learning but I think he can do that.
I mean, the one thing about Jordan is Jordan’s a player. He loves to play. I like his competitiveness. I heard the situation, what happened this summer with KG, and I’ve seen that many times, believe me, and it doesn’t surprise me. He’s not going to back down from a challenge. We all do know that he has a lot of confidence.
On the need for a backup center: Kevin [Seraphin] has had a great summer and a great fall, playing over in Spain. He’s really, he’s the one player that I’m excited to see him come back and play in camp. He can play that backup center position. he can push and he does have lower-body strength. We’re going to look and see. The free agent list is not great, from a standpoint of, when you say great, you have those big marquee players, those players get taken up by other teams and those guys filter on down. Well, there are not a lot of those guys. Guys who are maybe lower are going to move up a little bit.
On finding a backup point guard for Wall: I think that we’ll bring in some people and if they’re good enough to make our team, they can make our team. I don’t think we’re going to be in a situation where we go out — I mean, we feel that we have John, Jordan — he had a triple-double when he took John’s spot in playing him as a point — and we think that Shelvin Mack is going to be a solid guy that can play both positions but has the ability to play the one. We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to go out and sign a backup because there’s not a lot of minutes there right now. . . . So if there’s somebody that’s good that comes along, that we feel is a veteran guy to give us stability then that’s something that we look at. . . . We’re in a situation where we’re working on individual development to get better individually to get better as a team. We’re not going to just short-term, take away that development, to bring in a Band-Aid. That’s not what we’re going to do, either.
On his memories of the 50-game season in 1998-99: Best recollection was the quickness and how the dynamics of how our team really changes in Minnesota. We were really good out of the blocks, and how quick the trading deadline came. Because of the new CBA we ended up having to trade [Stephon] Marbury, a similar situation of what’s going on with some of the players wanting to move from team to team and so what happens is that we ended up trading him, and we had a shortened season already, so when you trade him, you only have maybe 20 games left and that 20 games is 50 percent of your season.
It takes time to get your team back together. Trading deadline can really have an affect on your team. As a team and an organization, we want to carry through with how we played at the end of last year. We were extrememly competive and very good the last three weekends of the season. It would change some of the things we did at the end of the year when we brought in some of the [Development League] guys. We want to have a contimuation of that. We talked a lot this summer not knowing what was going to happen that we would pare down some things.