Wizards' McGuire Builds on His Breakout Season With Work in the Summer League

Washington's Dominic McGuire, left, averaged 4.5 points last year.
Washington's Dominic McGuire, left, averaged 4.5 points last year. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 13, 2009

Dominic McGuire entered summer league competition last year as an unlikely candidate to finish the season as a starter, let alone someone who would finish with the third-most starts behind Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. Yet after embracing that opportunity during an unbearable season, McGuire probably will go back to a reserve role, with the Washington Wizards hiring a new coach, making offseason roster upgrades and other players returning to good health.

"I'm not even thinking about that hardly," McGuire said yesterday of returning to the bench after starting 57 games last season. "If I'm not starting, that doesn't bother me. My main thing is getting minutes."

McGuire plans on securing playing time under new Coach Flip Saunders by displaying the same versatility that made him a favorite of former coach Ed Tapscott.

"Everybody knows we have guys who have been all-stars in Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, so there are not going to be too many major minutes," McGuire said. "But if you can play multiple positions, you'll be able to get a lot more minutes as a backup because you can move around."

Saunders has been observing the 6-foot-9, 220-pound McGuire in workouts the past few weeks and has used him at three positions this weekend during summer league minicamp. It's a challenge for McGuire, considering Saunders is installing a complicated playbook for the exhibitions in Las Vegas.

"He's a multidimensional player who can do a lot of things," Saunders said of McGuire. "He almost can play at four positions. We haven't tried to play him at the one, but he has very good ballhandling skills for a player of his size. He's more of a guy who is geared toward making other players better. Not from a standpoint of taking a guy one-on-one and trying to create for himself. He'll have a lot of pressure over this camp to understand everything we're doing."

Tapscott inserted McGuire into the starting lineup in late December after DeShawn Stevenson asked to come off the bench. Although McGuire is better suited to play both forward positions, he spent most of his time as a shooting guard in name only, as he was focused more on being a defensive specialist, grabbing rebounds and distributing the ball, rather than taking shots. He had 12 games with at least 10 rebounds and 13 games with five or more assists.

"I see myself as a point forward," said McGuire, who averaged 4.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season. "I love getting players the ball. If I make a pass and somebody gets the ball and they score, I feel like I scored."

McGuire said that attitude comes from his background as a football player. McGuire played quarterback as a freshman at San Diego's Lincoln High School -- the same school that produced Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen and Super Bowl XXXII most valuable player Terrell Davis -- and dreamt about a career in the NFL before growing five inches as a sophomore.

"I didn't like basketball, but my knees were hurting," McGuire said, explaining why he changed sports from his "first love."

McGuire, a second-round pick in 2007, became especially serious about his basketball career after little playing time as a rookie, when he shared a house with teammate Nick Young. Young and McGuire recorded a hilarious video blog as rookies and clowned around so much that the Wizards' veterans later moved McGuire's locker next to Jamison's. McGuire then decided he had a better future in basketball than in stand-up comedy.

"I think first of all, I'm not a real goofy guy. I'm pretty serious," McGuire said. "But I was so excited to be in the NBA. Nick is more the jokester. Living with him, you can't be serious all the time. But I got to point where I was like: 'It's my job. If I don't pick it up, I'm going be out [of the league].' I quit the playing."

McGuire said he would maintain that same approach this season, as he approaches becoming a restricted free agent next year.

"I'm excited about this season. Like everybody else, I think we have a chance to do great things," McGuire said. "Last year was great for me, getting a lot of playing time. I think I know what to expect now when I go out on the floor, whether I start or come off the bench. You have a different mind-set when you know when you're going to come in."

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