Even until very recently, some Wizards fans were attempting to convince themselves that Jan Vesely could be a valuable energy guy off the bench for a playoff team — maybe not a role befitting a No. 6 overall draft pick, but someone to be fond of.
But now that Vesely has been shipped out of town for what could be only a few months of Andre Miller, it’s hard to label his early selection in the 2011 draft as anything other than a miss.
Anyhow, it’s probably a jerky move, but let’s reflect on some of Jan Vesely’s most memorable moments in Washington. In ascending order.
7. Jordan Crawford stealing his free throw
There seemed to be one quote after another from Coach Randy Wittman that suggested things weren’t going all that great in Vesely’s head. Via Michael Lee last spring:
Vesely’s fear of free throws was known by his teammates and the lost faith in his own abilities was displayed throughout a lost season in which he often lacked the aggressive, frenzied play that led the Wizards to take him sixth overall in 2011.
When asked what Vesely needed to focus on this offseason, Coach Randy Wittman didn’t hesitate to mention that the 6-foot-11 big man had to worry about more than developing a consistent jump shot.
“He needs to work on his head first,” Wittman said.
Wittman later amplified.
“I think he’s gone through, a couple times, situations here early on where he doesn’t believe in himself. And let me tell you what, you can be the best basketball player; if you don’t have confidence, you aren’t going to be worth a crap. And that’s kind of what he’s been.”
The peak of this lack of confidence came when Jordan Crawford — who has enough confidence for 30 or 40 players — attempted to steal Vesely’s free throws in 2012.
“He doesn’t like to go to the free-throw line, because everybody’s watching,” A.J. Price told Sarah. “It’s a confidence thing, so you know exactly what the issue is with him.”
6. Jan Vesely as an actual Wizard
Jan Vesely as an actual Wizard.
5. His Hops
Say whatever you want about Vesely, but he can get up. This was a particularly nice example.
And moments like that led to a fun exchange from Marcin Gortat and Martell Webster earlier this season:
“I know he’s capable of doing some sick stuff. I stay with him after practice. We stay with each other a lot and I know he can do,” Marcin Gortat said. “He’s a black man in a white body. He can jump out the gym. You never see a white man jump like that.”
When told of Gortat’s comment, Martell Webster paused for a moment to process it.
“You know, Jan. Jan, I love the kid,” Webster said. “But he’s nowhere near black. At all! Have you heard his music? I think the tempo is, on average, 170 beats per minute. I don’t see it guys. I don’t see it.”
4. The Beastie Boys video
Wait, did we ever figure out what this was? It was definitely weird.
3. Airballed free throws
For his career, Vesely has made 53 of 131 free throws. That’s 41 percent. That’s miserable.
And his struggles were typified by repeated airballs from the free throw line.
2. The Support
“We think Jan can play,” Coach Flip Saunders said after the draft. “We think he can come in right away, and he can be a guy that can be a rotation guy and can play for us.”
“We like the players we got,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said after the draft. “We had targeted these players. We’re trying to improve on the defensive end, and we’ve added a lot of athleticism to our team. Versatility. We’re happy with the way things turned out for us.”
(In fairness, ESPN also really liked that draft class.)
“He’s not nobody that’s going to really score in the basket or make jump shots,” John Wall said during Vesely’s rookie campaign. “He’s going to do little things, boxing out, getting rebounds, being active on the ball, active on the boards. He’s just figuring out his role and showing y’all what he can do.”
“Jan Vesely is in his second year of development,” Ted Leonsis wrote last winter. “You always support a young, talented player, who is 7 feet tall, can run and is fundamentally sound. Jan has our support, and is working hard to develop his all-around game. But this is his second year in the NBA, and he is playing without a starting point guard who can push the pace of play. We shouldn’t be so fast to write him off as a player. This is easy to do in media but not something that is smart to do for our franchise. I support Jan Vesely.”
“His time is going to come,” Randy Wittman said last fall. “No question. That’s what I’ve told him.”
The most memorable moment of Vesely’s time here? It undoubtedly came before his time here began, when he made headlines for a draft-night kiss.
Looking back, it was still a pretty good kiss.
“Maybe the greatest skill that he has – outside of kissing – is probably how hard he plays,” Saunders said after the draft. “He plays unbelievably hard.”
And kisses the same way.