“I just had faith,” Mack said after a recent workout at Verizon Center. “Everyone wants to see basketball, the players, the owners, the fans. I kind of figured a deal would get done.”
Fellow rookie Chris Singleton, the 18th pick in the draft, stayed in Tallahassee to work out and take classes toward his degree in social sciences with a minor in business at Florida State and shared Mack’s optimism that the players and owners would eventually reach an agreement because, “I mean, there is so much money on the table. A lot of people were out of jobs.”
Mack and Singleton will have the chance to submit electronic ballots on the new proposal on Wednesday — when the players’ union will meet with players in New York and hold a conference call for players not in attendance to go over the deal. And if all goes well, they are set to start their NBA careers two days later, when the Wizards start training camp at Verizon Center.
Both decided to get a head start on the proceedings by arriving in Washington a few days early to work out with teammates John Wall and Andray Blatche, restricted free agents Hamady Ndiaye and Larry Owens, and local trainer Joe Connelly.
Mack, Singleton, and the Wizards’ top choice, Jan Vesely, will be at a decided disadvantage from previous rookies since they were unable to participate in rookie summer league and were limited to a few workouts with Coach Flip Saunders and his staff immediately after the draft. But Mack and Singleton left with an understanding of what would be expected of them as rookies.
“They basically told us what we can do to earn playing time. We went back and tried to work on that, in this off period. They say training camp is going to be basically conditioning, I feel ready for that,” Singleton said. “I think I can pick up things fast. As long as things keep coming at me, I’m going to spend time here with the coaches and whatever they want me to do. I’m doing whatever it takes to get on the court.”
Singleton, an energetic, 6-foot-9 forward with the versatility to guard four positions, was projected to go in the lottery but said he remains motivated by his draft-day snub. Fifteen teams, including the Wizards, passed on him and he is anxious for the opportunity to take it out on the others.
“I feel like it’s right after the draft now. I still carry that. That and my family been pushing me. I’m going to put everything on the line,” he said. “This is a dream come true. The dream really didn’t start until probably, the 11th grade, when people started talking that I had a chance of being in the NBA. I have a shot now. It’s time to show up.”
Singleton had the chance to work out with Wall, JaVale McGee, Jordan Crawford and Nick Young in Los Angeles, Wall in Atlanta, and trained with Blatche and Ndiaye. Mack also played with Wall, Crawford, McGee, Owens and Rashard Lewis in the so-called “lockout league” in Las Vegas.
Mack was up at 3:30 a.m. on Monday, training and going over Saunders’s playbook with Wall. He has a previous relationship with Wall, having grown up in Lexington, Ky., where Wall played one year at Kentucky. They have been sharing the back court in workouts this week, with the two players taking turns scoring and making plays.
“I think me and John complement each other real well. He’s bigger than me. I know how to play without the ball. I played a lot [without the ball] at Butler. I’m able to knock down shots once I get in the paint. I think it can happen a lot this year,” said Mack, who is familiar with Singleton after being part of the select team that scrimmaged with Team USA before it won the 2010 world championship in Turkey.
Unlike most second-round picks, Mack doesn’t have to worry about making the team, since he was selected with the purpose of backing up Wall and arrives with an establish role. “I know what they expect of me,” Mack said. “It makes everything easier for me. I don’t have to wonder what I need to do to get on the court, just make sure I handle my business.”
Either way, Mack will probably start each day with the same two words.