By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The Washington Wizards ran four NBA prospects through a pre-draft workout yesterday on the team's practice court at Verizon Center. Rather than performing in front of thousands of screaming fans as they have become so accustomed, the players executed drills in front of an audience of 10. The difference, the participants said, is significant.
"To an extent, these guys hold your future in their hands," former Marquette guard Wesley Matthews said, referring to the members of Washington's front office who were in attendance. "You can play in front of 20,000 people who are cheering you on and wanting you to win or 20,000 that want you to lose, but when it comes down to making a career for yourself, this is who you're playing for."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard, the vice president of basketball administration, and Milt Newton, the vice president of player personnel, watched as Matthews, along with forward Kyle Spain (San Diego State) and guards Dionte Christmas (Temple) and Jermaine Taylor (Central Florida), took part in the hour-long practice. Taylor was bothered by tightness in his lower back and struggled to finish the session.
Christmas said he expects the workouts with each team he visits to include similar drills. The key for him, he said, is to constantly be aware of his deficiencies, namely ballhandling and defense.
"I really don't know what they're looking for," Christmas said. "I just hear things that they say I need to work on and I go into the workouts and try to prove that I can do those things to hopefully improve my [draft] stock."
Matthews -- whose father, Wesley Sr., was a first-round draft pick of the Washington Bullets in 1980 -- said the nerves he experienced during his first pre-draft session in Portland, Ore., on Monday had worn off and that he felt more comfortable at yesterday's session.
"You can't prepare for something like this," Matthews said. "You've got scouts, GMs and media in the building, and you're trying to pursue your dreams."