Training camp opens tomorrow at Verizon Center. Here is the third of three keys to this year’s camp:
Entering his third year with the Wizards, Saunders has watched the franchise undergo a major transformation from a veteran-laden team built to compete for the playoffs to a re-building team that will continue to be among the youngest in the NBA.
Saunders has dealt with young teams before, having coached a team in Minnesota centered around the talents of Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. But he has never had a more challenging time trying to coax wins. In his first two seasons with the Wizards, Saunders has won gone 49-115. He had never suffered back-to-back losing seasons before arriving in Washington.
Saunders was accustomed to winning with the Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, reaching four conference finals, but the goals have been modified immensely. Still, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis will likely be looking for Saunders to deliver a better winning percentage and help the young talent on the roster develop – especially with Saunders in the third year of a four-year, $18-million deal.
Saunders has said that he believes the Wizards aren’t far from being a being a playoff contender, so long as they limit their turnovers, get more focused on defense, and find out how to close games. He will have to find a way to get through to a team loaded with players that don’t know how to win in the NBA.