After making some outpost in Virginia their training camp home the past seven seasons, a hurried NBA schedule has forced the Wizards to hold their first practices at Verizon Center beginning Dec. 9.
The Wizards began the John Wall era last season with a brilliant marketing strategy to open training camp with a Midnight Tip-Off event at George Mason’s Patriot Center that was free to the public and generated considerable buzz with a telecast on NBATV. The previous six seasons they held training camp at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond.
But with the NBA lockout delaying the season and putting teams under tight timelines to get off and running, the Wizards will have a much more subdued introduction to the 2011-12 season. Owners and players reached a tentative agreement last Saturday and the Wizards didn’t have much time to find another facility or organize anything special for training camp.
“The Patriot Center is fully booked now with its own men’s and woman’s basketball activities and other events during this time frame (December 9th on) — and hence — to consolidate our activities — and keep the action close to home - we will use our own facilities at Verizon Center for this shortened training camp,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wrote in his blog, Ted’s Take. “Camp will be held at Verizon Center and I am hopeful that in future seasons we will move back to Patriot Center for training camp. Thank you for understanding the issues around scheduling on such short notice.”
A Midnight Tip-Off would require more than two weeks of preparation time and possibly a more set roster. The Wizards have seven players under contract, three rookies — if Jan Vesely can get his work visa - and some camp invitees expected for the first practice, but the roster is far from set with the free agent signing period expected to begin the same day as training camp.
Trying to organize an elaborate event under the circumstances would create more of a headache. But the Wizards are still in the process of planning a fan fest, some open practices and a scrimmage for the fans.
The NBA has yet to announce schedules for the preseason or regular season but informed teams this week that they would play two preseason against a close regional foe. A league source said on Wednesday that the Wizards would likely be paired with the Philadelphia 76ers for a home-and-home preseason series. The dates are still to be determined, but Verizon Center is available Dec. 18, 19 and 21. Wells Fargo Center, where the 76ers play, is available Dec. 18. It will host WWE Raw Supershow on Dec. 19 and then Disney on Ice three days later.
The Wizards played two preseason games against Philadelphia during the 50-game, lockout-shortened season in 1999.