By Zach Berman and Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 9, 2010; D03
By the time John Wall finally emerged from the Verizon Center locker room, it was almost two hours after he finished his first practice with the Washington Wizards and a few dozen minutes following LeBron James's televised announcement that he will join the Miami Heat. Wall watched the entire show -- he thought James was going to play in New York -- and then soaked in the ice tub with the knowledge that he must face the NBA superstar four times in the Southeast Division.
The first step of Wall's career came in Thursday's practice, leading up to next week's five-game summer league in Las Vegas. Coach Flip Saunders said Wall is scheduled to play every game.
"It feels different," Wall said. "I've got to get in more shape, it's a different level of speed. Everybody's pushing up the ball . . . and then get the offense set and slow it down. So I'm fighting through the screens and just getting used to the game speed."
General Manager Ernie Grunfeld was reserved in his evaluation of Wall because it was the first practice. Teammates who played with him said Wall was just as impressive -- and as athletic -- as advertised.
"I've never really seen him play in person, but I expected him to be real fast and quick with the ball and get to the basket," said former Maryland guard Eric Hayes, who is playing with the Wizards in the summer league minicamp. "I think that was the one thing that really impressed me a lot, and the way he was encouraging people and doing those types of things."
At one point during an end-of-practice scrimmage, Wall tossed an alley-oop to JaVale McGee. He also stripped roster hopeful Aaron Pettway from behind and dribbled three-quarters up the court for a breakaway lay-up.
"As we start playing, the thing you become aware of is he's got a chance to be a very outstanding defensive player and that he can really make plays as far as the open floor," Saunders said. "He has great instincts. There's things that you can't teach that he does."
The Wizards have two more days of practice before leaving for Las Vegas. Comcast SportsNet will televise Wall's five games in Las Vegas, including Sunday's 8 p.m. opener against the Golden State Warriors.
Earlier in the day, the Wizards officially acquired point guard Kirk Hinrich and the draft rights to 17th overall pick Kevin Seraphin. The Wizards sacrificed the rights to Vladimir Veremeenko, a second-round draft pick in 2006, in order to complete a trade agreement that was reached prior to the NBA draft three weeks ago.
The deal provides the Wizards with a defensive-minded veteran guard who has the ability to play both back-court positions and a rugged power forward from France considered the best prospect from Europe in the draft.
"We are excited to add Kirk and Kevin to our team, as their acquisition significantly bolsters our roster," Grunfeld said in a statement.
Grunfeld has long coveted Hinrich, a former all-defensive team guard who has started for Team USA in the 2006 world championships. Hinrich, a seven-year veteran, has averaged 13.4 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals while spending his entire career in Chicago. He averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last season, while helping the Bulls reach the playoffs. He has already proven to be capable of playing alongside a guard who dominates the basketball, having served as a mentor to all-star point guard Derrick Rose the past two seasons.
Seraphin is a 6-foot-9 big man who holds career averages of 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds and shot 51.6 percent over 48 games for Cholet Basket in France's Pro-A League. He helped France to a silver medal at the 2009 Under-20 European Championship.
To make the trade, the Wizards renounced the rights to free agents Josh Howard, Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Foye signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers late Thursday. The Wizards could still re-sign Howard and Miller, but would lose their "Bird rights" to those players, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap to retain players.
The Wizards are expected to have around $7 million in cap room after acquiring Hinrich, Seraphin and Yi Jianlian in trades the past few weeks. The Wizards would likely be able to sign only one player among Howard and Miller for the money available under the salary cap, but none of those players is expected to sign for a huge annual salary.