The absence of the Wizards’ two best players creates some apprehension but also some opportunities for others to expand their games, gain confidence and get better. While accepting the challenge, the remaining Wizards players also refused to use those injuries as an excuse. There was still plenty of playoff talk on Monday – and Nene even mentioned the word ‘championship’ during his interview session.
“It doesn’t change the expectations, it changes us cosmetically,” Martell Webster, one of six new additions since the end of last season, said of starting without Wall and Nene. “Those are two leaders. We have our maestro in John and our veteran enforcer in the post in Nene. But you know we can’t put a stamp on anything right now, neither could we if they were healthy.”
“Let’s be honest. We have a great team on paper,” he continued. “But how we mesh — we’ll find that out in this week in training camp. So far, the chemistry in the locker room is great. We all know that good teams are built on that camaraderie that you build and how you fight through adversity. For us, we have to face that before the season even starts, before training camp even starts. So we know what we have to do. We have to go out there and make it work.”
Aside from Nene not providing a timetable for his return, there was little news on the day the new-look Wizards spoke about the upcoming season with reporters. But here are some of the highlights:
John Wall on the success of the Nationals and Redskins: “That’s great motivation. RGIII is doing great for the Redskins. Nationals making the playoffs. That’s great motivation to get all the D.C. teams back where they belong and that’s in the playoffs.”
Wall on his reaction to hearing about the stress injury in his left knee: “You’re totally down. All the hard work I put in throughout this summer. I think this is the serious summer that I worked as hard as I could. I prepared hard as I could. But knowing that you can’t start it off, it’s kind of frustrating and tough.”
Bradley Beal on Jordan Crawford: “He’s a funny guy, honestly. He’s a character. On the court, it’s tough to guard him. He’s a challenge everyday and you have to come ready to guard him and be ready, because he’s great defender at that, too … He’s a terrific person, he doesn’t bring anybody down. He’s taking me under his wing a little bit. He’s a leader as well. I’m looking forward to competing with him and playing with him as well.
Beal on getting the rookie treatment from Nene: “I can feel the hazing already coming from him. From Day 1, he’s called me rookie. He hasn’t called me by my name yet. But I’m having fun. It’s all fun.”
Beal on possibly starting: “Whatever my role may be, I’m willing to play. I’m happy to be here right now. I’m going to compete for any position. the highest position possible. If I have to take the second seat, I’ll take the second seat. It is what it is, as long as we’re winning games. That’s all that matters to me.”
Nene on expectations for Wizards: “I know we have a lot of things to do, to fix up, but the goal is one thing, a championship. You need to believe, you need to focus, you need to trust each other. Keep working hard, keep listening to the coach because he knows best.”
Nene on role changing without Wall: “The priority is to win the game. We’re going to do what we can to win the games. Strategy. At the same time, if someone has the hot hand, we’re going to keep passing the ball to him.”
Jordan Crawford on his reputation as a gunner: “When it’s time to score, I score. That’s how it should be. The past two years we probably had a total of 18 players hurt since I’ve been here. If you go in an arena with eight players, who else is gonna shoot?”
Crawford on taking a leadership role: “I’ve kind of got the natural ability to lead in the locker room. People kind of look up to me and gravitate to me, so I’m excited to be a veteran for the team.”
Emeka Okafor on his expectations: “Playoffs. I had my taste of the playoffs two seasons ago, and I want more. It’s a great time, an exciting time, and I think that with – I like the group of guys, the way they ended the season last year with the six games in a row win streak, eight out of ten, I think it really sets the stage for us to surprise folks this year.”
Okafor on Jim Calhoun retiring from Connecticut: “It’s bittersweet. It’s sad to see him retire, but it’s well deserved. He built a program from nothing, won the NIT and then went on to win three championships later. I was saying, we have those players in basketball, I want to play until the wheels fall off. In coaching, he did. He coached until he couldn’t coach any more. When I was there, he had a bout of cancer and could’ve used that as an excuse to stop. He didn’t. He came back, and we won the championship the next year. That was a reason for him to stop as well, and he didn’t. he just kept trucking. He surprised me. All good things must come to an end, and he has grandkids, other interests, and when it comes time, it comes time. He’s definitely done a lot for the school, a lot for college basketball. He can hold his head up and know he did things the right way.”
Trevor Ariza on Wizards making the playoffs: “We still have to get in there and see what we can do. I think we have the potential. I think we have players in here with potential of we can get it together and match and all be on the same page. I think we do have the potential to be a playoff team but we all have to see how that works in camp.”
Ariza on possibly taking an enhanced role: “I envision myself doing what I’m capable of doing and whatever the coach asks of me. I’ve always been the type of player that whatever’s been asked of me I tried to do to the best of my ability, and if that’s what I need to do, I’m going to do my best to try.”
Martell Webster on why he signed with the Wizards: “The most important thing to a player is the fact that a team wants you. Nobody wants to be on a team that’s ‘oh I’m on the team, but nobody really wants you here.’ They were really excited about bringing me here. That’s what helped me make the decision. It made the decision easy.”
Webster on his personal goals: “I have one personal goal every year and that’s just to be better than I was the year before. I’m going to go out and compete.”
A.J. Price on Wizards’ playoff potential: “I definitely feel like we have the talent and the pieces to make the playoffs. It’s going to be up to us to utilize those skills and put them all together and form a team. It’s very similar – I look at this team as kind of the same situation when I went into Indiana. We had a good mix of younger guys and older guys, and we weren’t sure really how good we were. In turn as the season grew on, the more games we played, the more we started to believe. The same thing can possibly happen here.”
Jannero Pargo on the potential of the Wizards: “I believe we’re going to be a team that plays inside-out. We have guys like Nene who can score inside, Kevin [Seraphin]. When those guys draw double teams, we have to knock down jump shots. I think myself, Jordan [Crawford] and Bradley [Beal] we should be able to do a good job of that.