By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 29, 2008
RICHMOND, Sept. 28 -- As much as Dominic McGuire wants to earn a spot in the Washington Wizards' rotation this season for his own reasons, the second-year forward received an added dose of motivation in August when he became a father for the first time.
"I have that hunger, but I also have mouths to feed now that I have my son," McGuire joked following Sunday's practice at Virginia Commonwealth University. "That's a big reason, too. But it's also just being a professional. I don't want to just be in this league for a little bit. I want to be in this league 15 years."
McGuire, who averaged 9.9 minutes in 70 games as a rookie second-round pick from Fresno State, is off to a good start in his efforts to expand his role this season as the primary backup behind two-time all-star forward Caron Butler.
Coach Eddie Jordan was pleased with what he saw from McGuire during the Las Vegas Summer League in July and so far, he's even more pleased to see that McGuire has carried momentum from that experience into training camp.
McGuire showed up in excellent shape, has a strong grasp of Jordan's offensive and defensive concepts and is playing with confidence.
"He's almost a different player," Jordan said. "He is a guy that understands what he's doing. He understands his role and he's playing at a very, very high level."
Because the Wizards made huge financial commitments to Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison during the offseason, they did not have the space under the luxury tax threshold to go after veteran free agent small forwards such as James Posey, who left Boston for New Orleans, or Matt Barnes, who left Golden State for Phoenix.
Instead, the team placed trust in McGuire and added a pair of inexpensive veteran free agents, DerMarr Johnson and Linton Johnson, to push McGuire in training camp. McGuire may only be in his second NBA season but he understood that the organization sent a message his way with the moves they did and did not make over the summer.
"I welcome the challenge any day," McGuire said. "At the same time, the guys they brought in here are my teammates, and we support one another, but at the end of the day, I definitely want to be that backup small forward. I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen."
As a rookie, McGuire flashed skills as a rebounder and a solid one-on-one defender but rarely looked for his own shot at the offensive end. This summer, McGuire worked extensively on his ball handling and shooting -- particularly in the mid-range area -- and he showed vast improvement in Las Vegas when he consistently made 15- to 18-foot jumpers and averaged 11.4 points on 62.5 percent shooting in five games.
Defense and rebounding will still be McGuire's calling card but if he can become a consistent offensive threat as well, Jordan will be able to take some of the load off of Butler, who ranked fourth in the league in minutes played (39.9 per game) last season but missed 24 games because of an assortment of injuries.Jamison Remains Seated
Jamison sat out of practice again Sunday with a strained right hip flexor, and the two-time all-star forward, who along with fellow all-star Butler will be counted on to carry the scoring load this season, is unsure of when he will return.
Jamison said he "tweaked" the hip flexor while doing a defensive drill during the first of two workouts on Saturday. It felt better later Saturday, but he was held out of the team's evening practice and was taking a cautious approach Sunday.
"It's nothing serious now, but if I don't take the proper precautions it could become something serious," Jamison said Saturday. "It felt better later [Saturday] and we'll see how it feels."
Jamison has been among the league's more durable players in recent seasons -- he played in 79 of 82 games last season -- and he's always among the best-conditioned Wizards but as Butler learned last season, hip flexors can be tricky.
Butler strained his left hip during a Jan. 27 game in Milwaukee. It was slow to improve, and eventually tests revealed that Butler had a small tear in the hip labrum. He didn't require surgery but nonetheless wound up missing 19 of the next 21 games.