Sightseeing, Bonding On Agenda for Berlin

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 13, 2008

BERLIN, Oct. 12 -- After making the long flight from Washington to Berlin on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, the Wizards checked into their hotel, snagged quick naps and then hit the basketball court at Max Schmeling Hall for practice.

The idea was to shake off any jet lag, loosen the legs and try to become familiar with the surroundings. As of Sunday afternoon, Coach Eddie Jordan's players had little time to actually see much of Berlin, one of Europe's most beautiful and historic cities.

"Man, right now all I want to do is get back to the hotel and climb in that bed and get some sleep," shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson said following the 45-minute practice. "I tried sleeping on the flight, but it wasn't working."

The team will practice again today at the sparkling O2World Arena, then will hold a basketball clinic for German youths and take a tour that includes stops at some of the city's famous sites.

On Tuesday, the Wizards face the New Orleans Hornets in a preseason game at O2World Arena. The teams will meet again Friday in Barcelona.

Wives of coaches and players were invited to make the trip, and several players said they are looking forward to a week of basketball and bonding.

"I think a week like this can really bring a team together,'' said forward Antawn Jamison, who is not expected to play in either game because of a contusion on his right knee but elected to make the trip anyway. "It's an opportunity to come together as a team on the court, but we're also going to have a chance to see some cool, unique places that we might not otherwise have a chance to see."

Three Stay Home

Every player made the trip except for the injured trio of Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young and Brendan Haywood. Arenas, who is expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season with a left knee injury, and Young, who has been bothered by soreness in his left knee since training camp, remained back in Washington where they can concentrate on rehabilitation.

Haywood is expected to miss four to six months with a torn ligament in his right wrist and is scheduled to undergo surgery. Guard Juan Dixon, who missed the first three preseason games with a sore right calf, made the trip and could play Tuesday.

In Dixon's absence, Jordan has been able to take a longer look at District native DerMarr Johnson, who was invited to camp but does not have a guaranteed contract.

Johnson, who has shifted between shooting guard and small forward throughout an NBA career that has included stops with the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, mainly is playing shooting guard with the Wizards, and his 6-foot-9 frame gives the team a unique look.

Through three games, Johnson has averaged 7.7 points and 1.3 steals while shooting 33.3 percent (8 of 24). To make the team, Johnson will have to beat out either Dixon or point guard Dee Brown, both of whom have partially guaranteed contracts.

Not Household Names

The NBA is popular throughout the world, and Arenas has a large following because of his spectacular play, his blog and his knack for self-promotion. But the Wizards are not particularly well known overseas as a franchise -- or at least that appeared to be the case Sunday.

After players filed on to buses to take them back to the hotel following Sunday's practice, an English-speaking Berliner who happened to be walking by tried to figure out what she was seeing.

"Who are the Wizards?" she asked.

When told that the team is from the United States and plays basketball in the NBA, the woman smiled.

"Oh, like the Lakers," she said.

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