The Washington Post

Wizards’ media day highlights: Part I

From left: Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin and Nene pose for pictures and flash grins at media day Friday at Verizon Center. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Aside from incessant playoff chatter, Wizards’ media day lacked any bold declarations or peculiar behavior.

Martell Webster sported a new look, with his beard shaved and hair cut closely. Bradley Beal admitted that he possibly grew an inch over the summer and thinks he is now “a legit” 6-feet-5.

Garrett Temple also explained that he has spent a lot of his time back in Washington explaining to people that he is not Otto Porter Jr., since several fans have confused him for the former Georgetown product. Nene smiled as he explained how “refreshed” he feels following an offseason spent resting, so that his left foot and sore knees could heal. But he also sported a splint on his left pinkie finger, which was injured during a recent pickup game.

Chris Singleton arrived on crutches as he recovers from a broken left foot and Emeka Okafor tried to explain the “awkward” feeling of being sidelined with a herniated disk in his neck.

After a summer spent getting new tattoos that are mostly concealed under his jersey, John Wall revealed some visible ink with the Bible verse Psalm 23:4 etched onto the side of his left leg. The verse states: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The Wizards are excited about the upcoming season. How excited? Here’s the first of two takes on what they had to say Friday at Verizon Center:


On his biggest adjustment last season: “Biggest adjustment that I had to prepare for was coming off the bench. It was a long time since I had to come off the bench. It was a big adjustment for me. But it is what it it is, it’s a new year for me. And I’m ready to play.”

On team being without Emeka Okakor: “Mek being down definitely hurts our team. But with that being said, we can’t use that as an excuse to not build on what we were doing last year. We all have to do our best to fill the big hole that he helped us with, since he’s out. We have to do is as a team. We have to do it collectively. And we have to be smart about it.”


On lessons from last season: “Stop being hardheaded and sit down when you’re injured and realize it’s 82 games. It’s a long season, and not getting discouraged when you have one bad game because you have another one in probably less than 24 hours. I mean just being on this team and being in the situation we’ve been in, you have to stay calm and poised and let the game come to you.”

On confidence compared to last year: “It’s higher. I mean I never get discouraged. I’m always confident and humble. It’s a new year. I look at this year as a year for me to be able to show out and showcase myself and help this team win. I mean that’s what’s most important. As long as we get wins, I could care less about the stats.”


On start of camp:  “I’m excited. The team is excited. I’m sure the coaches are excited. I think this could be a big year for us. We’ve been talking about it for the past couple of years, you know, making the playoffs. Now we’ve got to be about it.”

On if more should be expected of him with Emeka Okafor out: “I think so. I think we might have to move some people around. I’ve been playing more, and I’m really looking forward to that.”


On what Ernie Grunfeld and Tommy Sheppard said to convince to come: “Mainly just the fact that there is an opportunity. I don’t know where that is, or what that will be. But they are two guys that I trust, and they mentioned to me that there is definitely opportunity here, so I made the move.”

On journey since returning from Greece: “It’s a little rocky no doubt. But that experience is behind me and I’m looking forward to better things. My time in Phoenix was frustrating. Brooklyn last year, it just, it was…I don’t know how to describe it. But I’m all about the now, about the present and trying to come in here and make an impression.”


On possibly starting with Emeka Okafor down: “I’d rather come off the bench, but if they need me to start, I’ll start. But losing Emeka is huge. Obviously, when I made my statement us making the playoffs, it was about the team being fully healthy and I know how good he is, especially defensively, holding down the basket and stuff like that. That’s going to be a huge void we all have to come together to fill. Guys seem like that they are up to the challenge. Guys still upbeat. Everybody still feel the same way. So we’re ready to roll.”

On preferring to come off the bench: “I feel like a starter, so I feel like when I come off the bench, I’m playing against second level guys and I’m better than all of them all the time. So it’s an advantage. To be all the way honest.”


On the faster player between John Wall and Russell Westbrook: “I was telling somebody the other day, I’m trying to figure out who’s faster, with the ball too. Russ is coming back off the injury, but at the same time, I was talking with my homeboys the other day, I need to know who’s faster between them two because they’re both so fast, it’s crazy.”

On his advice to Robert Griffin III after returning from his own torn ACL: “I’m not in his body. So, I just try to tell guys that I’ve been through the injury. I’m trying to tell Russ, even though it wasn’t the ACL with him. I’m just telling him take his time. [Derrick] Rose did the right thing. Guys like that, that’s explosive like that. I’m not an explosive guy that play fast the way they play, you take your time and come back when you’re ready to come back, because it’s not nothing to play with. It’s an injury. I’ve never been hurt in my life and it’s something you don’t want to have.”


On coming back to Washington: “I played at [George Washington] almost 10 years ago, and I’ve pretty much been based in D.C. ever since. I used to come into the Wizards facility to work out and play with the guys, and when I got the call that they wanted me to come to back, I kind of jumped at the opportunity because I kind of saw it as a blessing in disguise. It’s probably going to be an uphill battle trying to make the team, but I feel positive, and I definitely feel like I was ever to make this team it would be a blessing. I can sleep in my own bed. I live here in the summertime. I went to GW. I’m right down the street, so it’s kind of like my second home. Like I said, any opportunity is a good opportunity.”

On his career: “Every experience I’ve had has help mold me into the person I am today. I’ve had a few stints in the NBA. I’ve played for about four or five teams, and even though I’ve been cut or released a few times, I feel like whenever you lose, you should never lose a lesson, so any experience I’ve had is a life experience. I’ve grown as a man, and it’s made me like I said the man I am today. I take every experience as something that’s helped me become the person I am. I can appreciate everything I’ve been through up until this point. I’m glad I’ve been through it, and hopefully I get more of an opportunity here, and we’ll see where it goes.”


On if he has any playoff predictions: “I’m not a singer. I don’t like to work with my mouth. I work with my action. I hope the team will work the same thing because when you say something, you don’t know. There is still 82 games to play. If you say something before that happens, you need to prove, you need to own your words. We have a great team, we have a good team, we have a competitive team, but still must work hard to deserve that position.”

On the need for a fast start: “Compared to last season, if we had at least 80 percent of our players healthy, we could have had like a different season, but the priority right now is to have a good training camp. Everybody getting in shape and getting well and feel good. That’s the priority right now, getting chemistry built and be right for the season.”


On being out with a herniated disk in his neck: “It’s awkward. I was looking forward to starting this year and getting things kicked off right. Sometimes, you have plans and it doesn’t work out, man, so you have to make other ones and just roll with it. That’s what I’m doing right now.”

On Wizards playoff expectations: “That’s more than reasonable. I think we should’ve been a playoff team last season. I think that if we just started with, had our roster, we would’ve been there. I think the offseason acquisitions we made this year makes us more solid. If we just pick up where we left off midseason, we’ll be just fine. Despite my absence.”

Staff Writer Gene Wang contributed to his report.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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Gene Wang · September 27, 2013