Trevor Ariza grabbed his luggage, slipped on his skullcap to prepare for the chilly Michigan air and turned to his Washington Wizards teammates before exiting the visitors’ locker room on Wednesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“Fellas,” Ariza said after the Wizards lost, 96-85, to the Detroit Pistons. “You all have a lovely all-star break.”
Ariza wasn’t going to join his teammates on their flight back to Dulles International Airport because he was preparing to head back to his home town of Los Angeles to spend some time with his family and experience some warm weather. “I need that in my life right now,” he said.
The Wizards may not have wanted the break to come, with the team playing its best basketball of the season, but they will use the time away to relax and recuperate until they get back to business for practice on Monday evening at Verizon Center.
“I had too long of a break, so I wish I didn’t have one,” said John Wall, laughing to himself.
Though a stress injury in his left knee robbed him of the first 33 games of the regular season and ended any realistic shot of the Wizards making the playoffs or his first all-star appearance, Wall will be a part of the all-star festivities in Houston — for reasons he certainly couldn’t have expected when the regular season ended last April.
He won’t play in Sunday’s All-Star Game as he had hoped last offseason, when he focused on improving his jump shot, prepared the U.S. Olympic team for London as a member of the select team and worked out with famed trainer Rob McClanaghan. But the former face of Reebok will be in town to help promote his new shoe brand, Adidas.
“I wanted to be there to an all-star. I felt like this was the year my team would do good, and I felt like I could do good by the way I prepared this summer,” Wall said. “But I had to sit back four months, get rusty again and feel like I had to start all over. It’s tough, but things happen. You just have to look forward to next year and try to finish this year good.”
Wall plans to bring his mother, Frances Pulley, around for the weekend and will watch Bradley Beal participate in Friday’s Rising Stars challenge, a game in which Wall was MVP in 2011 in Los Angeles and was on the victorious team last season in Orlando.
“I’m kind of excited that I get to sit back and relax, but I wish I can take a vacation,” Wall said.
Beal is the only Wizards representative in any of the NBA’s weekend activities and will play on Friday for Team Chuck as it takes on Team Shaq in the annual showcase for the top rookies and second-year players.
“For sure,” Beal said, when asked if he was excited, “because I’m representing myself, my family and most of all, my team. It’s great. Because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’m one of the few rookies that’s going to be represented in the Rising Stars challenge.”
Beal said his two older brothers, Brandon and Bruce, and parents, Besta and Bobby, will be with him in Houston as he tries to help Team Chuck win for the second year in a row.
The third overall pick of the draft last June, Beal will be joined by top pick Anthony Davis of New Orleans, Denver second-year power forward Kenneth Faried, San Antonio second-year small forward Kawhi Leonard, second-year point guard Ricky Rubio and rookie guard Alexey Shved from Minnesota, Cleveland second-year big man Tristan Thompson, rookie big man Nikola Vucevic of Orlando, second-year point guard Brandon Knight of Detroit, Sacramento second-year guard Isaiah Thomas.
Team Shaq will feature all-star guard Kyrie Irving of Cleveland, Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard, Charlotte rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and second-year guard Kemba Walker, second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson and rookie swingman Harrison Barnes of Golden State, Houston second-year forward Chandler Parsons, rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters and rookie big man Tyler Zeller from Cleveland, and Orlando rookie big man Andrew Nicholson, who replaces the injured rookie Andre Drummond of Detroit.
“It’s going to be competitive. I’m going to compete my heart out and have a lot of fun,” Beal said. “A lot of bigs. Hopefully they’ll be a lot of blocks and run-outs. It’s going to be fun. I like our team. I can’t wait.”
Martell Webster, the Wizards’ representative in the players’ union, will also go to Houston for one day as the National Basketball Players Association decides whether to keep embattled chief Billy Hunter after a report critical of his leadership was recently released. Hunter, who has directed the union since 1996, was forced to take a leave of absence and Webster wasn’t sure how the weekend would end for him.
“I mean, it’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of things that the players’ association just didn’t agree with,” Webster said. “We’re behind each other and we support each other 100 percent and we have to do what we need to do to make things right. I need to get the full in-depth details of it, get everybody’s opinions and at the same time, it just comes down to what changes to we need to make…and if nothing happens, who are we going to bring in to prevent anything like this happening again.”
Webster said he would use the rest of his time with family. Trevor Booker plans to watch his younger brothers play college basketball in South Carolina. A.J. Price will go home to New York. Emeka Okafor will also go to New York and relax with his pregnant wife. Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely both plan to go to Miami and spend some time on the bench, but they don’t expect to actually cross paths.
“I won’t see him, no,” Vesely said, shaking his head, with a laugh.
With the Wizards ending the first half of the season in his home town of Detroit, Jordan Crawford had the benefit of not getting on any planes after the game. He left the arena and spent time with family and friends. “I’m already on break,” he said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
Agent David Falk got some things off his chest as far as his feelings toward Wall and the Wizards are concerned. Check out Mike Wise’s column.