At Fan Fest, Wizards' supporters keep the faith
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:15 AM
Longtime Washington Wizards season ticket holder Brett Schwemer left his Manassas home Sunday morning, his 3-year-old son Bryce in tow, with clear instructions from his wife to relay the following message to Gilbert Arenas: "If you see Gilbert, you gotta tell him to be himself."
So in choosing his outfit for the team's Fan Fest, marking the end of training camp at George Mason's Patriot Center, Schwemer went with a gold Arenas jersey for his son and a black "Agent Zero" T-shirt for himself, reminiscent of the old eccentric Gilbert Arenas days, before the gun charges and the 50-game suspension last season.
And with it, Schwemer hoped to say that the new serious Arenas wasn't the same one that once electrified fans with his scoring and flair.
"That's not him," said Schwemer, a 43-year-old lawyer. "And if he's not gonna be the person that he really is, he's not gonna be the type of player he can be."
With a new season, comes renewed optimism and criticism. To build excitement for the new year and reconnect with fans, new owner Ted Leonsis pushed the team to hold their most extravagant training camp to date, capped by a meet-and-greet with former players and an open scrimmage in the coveted Northern Virginia market.
Former Bullets Bob Dandridge, Kevin Grevey, Jeff Ruland and Gheorghe Muresan signed autographs for fans excited to see one of the NBA's youngest teams and its budding star, No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall.
"That was good that we had  wins last year because we got John Wall," Muresan joked. "You know what, last year we don't win so many games. This year, I think we're gonna build a team," added Muresan, who predicted the team would be a top team in two or three years, with Wall among the league's best players by then.
Many fans spoke excitedly about Wall's ability. Terence Bailey, a 32-year-old from Annapolis who brought his three kids to Fairfax on Sunday, said he has watched a YouTube video of Wall dunking over former Wizard Jerry Stackhouse "probably 30 to 40 times."
"I watched it over and over and couldn't believe it," he said. "This kid is a point guard?"
Despite the Wall buzz, Bailey, like others, said he hasn't lost faith in the Wizards' other standout, saying Arenas deserves this second chance.
Some, however, were unsure how the two guards would work together in the team's offense.