The caption for the photo accompanying this article has been changed. The original caption identified the Wizards player as Darius Songaila; he is Oleksiy Pecherov.
Wizards' Camp to Close With Many Roles Open
Friday, October 3, 2008
RICHMOND, Oct. 2 -- The Washington Wizards will close training camp on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University on Friday evening with an intrasquad scrimmage, and players expect it to be every bit as intense as practices have been all week.
"It's going to be very competitive," veteran forward Darius Songaila said. "It's been that way all week with guys really playing hard and going at it. It's a chance to see where everyone is at. We've got some guys trying to make the team but not only that, we've got a lot of guys really competing for playing time and roles, so it's going to be fun."
Songaila's place on the team is secure, but he is one of several players who will be battling for minutes in Coach Eddie Jordan's yet-to-be-determined rotation.
The starting five is set with Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson at guard, all-stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison at forward and Brendan Haywood, who suffered a setback Thursday morning when he sprained his right wrist, penciled in as the starter at center.
Haywood suffered the injury early in practice and will be reevaluated Friday. His status for the scrimmage is unknown.
Beyond the starting five, things are wide open.
Songaila, Andray Blatche, Etan Thomas, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Juan Dixon, Dee Brown, Oleksiy Pecherov and rookie JaVale McGee are jostling for roles, while DerMarr Johnson, Linton Johnson and Taj McCullough are simply trying elbow their way onto the roster.
To foster competition, Jordan held five-on-five full-court scrimmages all week with referees and a scoreboard. Jordan mixed and matched his lineups but also employed the starters against the reserves and was pleased to see the starters consistently pushed hard.
"It seemed like the starting group, the core guys, played very hard and very well and yet they couldn't shake the next guys, you know, the role guys," Jordan said. "That's a good sign. The last maybe eight quarters, have been very, very close. Both teams played hard, and both teams played well."
On Thursday, for example, a team consisting of Daniels, Stevenson, Jamison, Blatche, McGee, Linton Johnson and Brown (Johnson and Brown were reserves) was beaten, 47-37, by a squad made up of Songaila, Young, Thomas, Dixon, McGuire, McCullough and Pecherov.
When Friday's scrimmaging session was over, Young playfully talked trash to the starters, who didn't seem to appreciate the second-year guard's ebullience. Such banter went on throughout the week and didn't just involve scrimmaging. At the end of Thursday's practice, Jordan split the team and had them compete in a court-length dribbling relay contest.
The squad in black jerseys won and celebrated with loud applause, making sure that the team in white (including Young) heard all about its defeat.
"We've got a lot of guys on this team who don't like to lose no matter whether it's just practice or a game or whatever," said Young, who will be counted on to provide scoring in the absence of three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas. "When they're keeping score, guys want to win. It's bragging rights so we've been going at it pretty good."
Jordan said he and his coaching staff planned to meet Thursday night to set a specific plan for Friday's scrimmage.
"We'll see, but somewhere along the line it will be the starters against the next guys and then we'll balance the teams as well," Jordan said. "You'll see a lot of combinations."
Wizards Note: Jordan said that he would consult with team president Ernie Grunfeld before deciding whether the team will release any players prior to Tuesday's preseason opener at Dallas. The team plays again at Memphis on Wednesday night and faces Detroit next Friday night at Verizon Center.
"We'll get together as coaches and as an organization and see how we're going to go forward, but I have no problem carrying everyone with us," Jordan said. "They all have good character, guys are working hard and guys are very coachable so I have no problem taking the entire camp [roster] into the next three games."