Wizards excited to be in Brazil

October 9, 2013
Nene shows off a T-shirt of Brazil's Flamengo soccer club before a practice Wednesday (Sergio Moraes/Reuters)
Nene shows off a T-shirt of Brazil’s Flamengo soccer club before a practice Wednesday (Sergio Moraes/Reuters)

John Wall helped set the stage for the Wizards’ Brazilian excursion on Friday when he got all of his teammates special Beats by Dre headphones in the green and yellow colors of Brazil’s flag with a message that read, “Bom jogo. Let’s get it.”

Wall has a partnership with the headphone company and has given out similar gifts in the past. But with the Wizards making their first international trip in five years, Wall wanted to give his teammates a suitable keepsake. Kevin Seraphin had the earpieces hanging around his neck when the team landed.

“I just always like to do different stuff,” Wall said. “This time I had a chance to talk to Beats about doing something like since we was going to Brazil and they had an opportunity to make some nice ones for me and my teammates.”

The headphones were a gesture to foster some uniformity. The Wizards believe the true team-building will come from several days in Rio de Janeiro, spending time with each other at team meals and interacting with family members.

Those activities began when the Wizards and their special guests all boarded a chartered flight immediately after their 111-106 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, and arrived in Brazil around 10 a.m. on Wednesday. By the time they all return to Washington, the Wizards would like to be closer as a unit while moving forward in their quest to become a playoff team.

“This is a great opportunity just to get to know each other a little bit more,” Bradley Beal said. “A lot of guys have their spouses with them, but we’re all just one big family. It’s going to be a great experience to get to know them outside of basketball.”

The Wizards take on the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at HBC Arena in the first  NBA game in South America but this much more than a business trip with the NBA also sponsoring several community relations events through its NBA Cares program. “It’s both,” Caoch Randy Wittman said when asked about the primary focus of the week. “I’m looking forward to seeing the sights a little bit. We’ll do that, and it’s also business, so we’ll mix the two in together and get our work done and then when our work’s done, go out and enjoy some sights.

“It will be a good time for our guys. A bonding time, four days and one game. We’re going to spend a lot of time together as a team, functions in the evening that the NBA has set up.”

Nene, the first Brazilian player in the NBA, will be promoted prominently in his return to his native country. Wall said Nene has already discussed some of his favorite cuisine with his teammates.  “He just want us to go eat. All he want to eat [in the United States] is [at Brazilian steakhouse] Fogo de Chao. Every time we go on the road. He tell us about the different places we can go eat. That’s all he’s very excited about. But I think he’s excited to welcome us into his place, where he was born and raised at. They say a lot of people have been anxious for this game for months and that’s all they’ve been talking about, so I think it should be a great atmosphere and [they'll] embrace us good.”

While Wall was excited about going to Brazil, he joked that he might have to lay low until the game.

“It’s great, but the way security told us, I don’t want to do nothing,” Wall said with a laugh. “I just want to sit in my room, to be honest. No earrings, no watch, no nothing. I’ll go out empty handed. No money or anything. They said they are good at pick pocketing. Other than that, it should be a great opportunity to spend time with your team. Your family gets to go, enjoy yourself, walk around, sit in a beautiful place and sit on the beach a little bit.”

The Wizards and Bulls are both under heavy security, so they should be fine. The ultimate goal is fun.

“I’ve never played overseas before. My first trip [out of North America] was this summer when I went to China, that was the only thing I’ve ever did. So this is my second time,” Wall said. “It’s great. A humbling experience to be one of the first two teams to ever get the opportunity to play an NBA game here. We got a great opportunity.”

When asked what sights he planned to take in on the trip, Wittman said, “My wife [Kathy] is with me and when my wife’s with me, she dictates all that.”

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Gene Wang | October 8, 2013