Pecherov Has Friends and Fans on Wizards

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oleksiy Pecherov had something of a cult following in this town for a guy who hardly played. There were plenty of reasons: He was friendly as heck. His accent was easy on the ears. His basketball skills were legitimately enticing. His name was hard to spell. He was extremely fond of saying, "I get buckets, son!" He looked like Stewie from "Family Guy."

So more than one person asked me to get some sort of comment from Pech after he was traded to Minnesota. I finally saw him Tuesday night at the Washington Kastles' home opener, sitting with JaVale McGee, Caron Butler and Javaris Crittenton.

"Hey!" Butler shouted out to Pecherov during our chat. "What am I to you?"

"My brozer," Pecherov said. "From anozer mozer."

It's enough to make you cry tears of whatever vodka the Kastles were handing out to their corporate sponsors. Anyhow, here's what Pecherov had to say about the trade away from the team that drafted him.

"You know, it's business," he said. "You can't really say much about zis. It's just how ze business goes in zis league. [No more goofy accent from this point on.] I hope for the best. Hopefully gonna have opportunity to play in Minnesota right now. It was great opportunity for me to be around all these guys here. All these players, all this organization, all these fans been treating me good all these years. I'm gonna miss D.C."

I asked him if the trade took him by surprise. "I'm not surprised," he said.

"That's how it is. Can't say much about it. I like D.C., it's a good city, good people, but right now looking forward to playing on new team, looking forward to new step in my career. Hopefully gonna be more playing time, more success."

I've mentioned this before, as have others, but Pecherov and Butler regularly engaged in shooting contests together at the end of practice, complete with humorous asides about each other. I asked Butler who his new shooting buddy would be.

"Javaris," he said, pointing at Crittenton. "Brother Malcolm" he called him in reference to his glasses.

"Brother Shabazz," Crittenton said, accepting the offer.

I wanted Butler to confirm for me that Pecherov was sort of a laugh riot. "He's funny looking," Butler said, before agreeing with me about Pech's sense of humor. But Caron, as he does so often, also had the exact right things to say about the departing Ukrainian.

"Obviously he's one of my young boys," Butler said. "Having him come over here at a young age, having to teach him to be a pro, teaching him about this league on and off the court, coaching him and learning him and then losing him, it's tough. That's the nature of the business. But that doesn't stop our friendship. You see us out here together. If he ever needs anything, I'm just a phone call or a text away."

Will Pecherov succeed? Who knows whether he'll even get a chance, but there are a lot of people who would smile if he does.

"I can tell you, Minnesota's getting a hell of a person and a hell of a hard worker," Butler said. "The NBA is just about opportunity. He's gonna get an opportunity to prove himself."

"I just have a lot of injuries always these three years, I think it's key why I didn't play much," Pecherov told me. "Hopefully I'm gonna stay healthy and I'm gonna get opportunity and chance to prove everyone I can really play in this league."

And can he?

"Of course," Pech said. "If you think you can't play, you can't play basketball. You've got to be 100 percent sure of what you're doing and why you're doing it. . . . I'm looking forward to what's gonna happen next. Everything's in the past right now. I've got to start a new page."

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