RICHMOND — Intersecting themes of consistency and change defined the Washington Wizards‘ first week together. While players felt a comforting familiarity entering their second training camp under Coach Scott Brooks, the hours spent inside VCU’s Siegel Center also centered on the search for Markieff Morris’s replacement in the starting unit.
On Saturday, the Wizards closed camp in preparation for their first exhibition game of the preseason, Monday against the Guangzhou Long-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. While the rotation is still “to be determined,” veteran Bradley Beal described the week as one of the more settled and unified camps he has experienced in six years with the Wizards.
“I think we really pushed each other,” Beal said. “I felt like this year was probably the most comfortable we’ve been coming into a camp in terms of having like a full team and pretty much knowing what to expect coming in. It was a great atmosphere. There was nothing but positive vibes, there was no negativity, no problems, no drama. We came in and got our work done and did it at a high rate. It was just a matter of knowing what’s at stake and what’s ahead of us, accepting the challenge and challenging ourselves.”
Morris, the team’s starting power forward, was not in Richmond while he stood trial for aggravated assault in Phoenix. Morris also has begun the six-to-eight week recovery timeline from sports hernia surgery, so the Wizards used the five days in Richmond to audition potential starters for the four position.
“That’s one of the things we wanted to get accomplished in training camp was to see what we have with Keef’s situation,” Brooks said, “and try to figure out ways we can play without him.”
Seven-foot big man Jason Smith said he spent the majority of camp playing the four position. He also spent the entire five-on-five scrimmage Friday playing power forward paired at separate times with centers Ian Mahinmi and Daniel Ochefu.
“There was a lot of four spot,” Smith said, describing his position during camp. “Just because we have a deficit right there with Keef being out right now. So I really got to make sure I take care of my body. If we decide to go with a small lineup though, we can put me at the five. I know both spots. I just got to be ready for whatever coach wants to put me at.”
Wall’s Instagram caption has changed but his feelings have not
Wall, the owner of a new back tattoo that he had inked inside his Richmond hotel room, stands by his recent Instagram post. On Thursday, Wall shared an image of himself and Beal taking a breather during training camp, and he paired it with a strong caption:
“Aye @bradbeal3 I wonder who else gonna team up next to try to win a ship this year. but who care cause we all we got bro ..DC or Nothin !! #WizGang”
However the caption has since been edited to simply read: “@bradbeal !! #WizGang”
Wall revealed the redaction wasn’t his idea, and he still believes in his previous sentiments.
“I didn’t delete it. Somebody deleted it for me,” Wall said. “I don’t bite my tongue and I stand by what I said. I just got tired of seeing all the freakin’ comments of people sending me the picture over and over again. I still stand on what I said. That’s never going to change.”
Wall also explained his motive in posting the picture and original comment.
“People said, ‘Well, you went after certain players.’ I didn’t go after guys, I’m talking to guys, and if they wanted to be traded and go to different teams, yeah I talked to guys,” Wall said, alluding to his summer comments about possibly attracting Paul George to Washington. George, as well as Carmelo Anthony, ended up in Oklahoma City with MVP Russell Westbrook.
“It’s nothing against super teams, if that’s what guys want to do now. … I just like the old school NBA where you had to be competitive and guys just fought,” Wall said. “Yeah, we talked to guys. Guys didn’t want to come to our team. I guess we weren’t good enough for them to come to our team. But it’s also giving my team motivation and tell all my other guys on my team that we’re just as good enough as these super teams, we can compete against these guys. We can beat them, ya know what I mean. Me and Brad are the leaders and we believe we can lead our team as far as we want. Simple as that.”
Beal on the ball
The absence of backup point guard Tim Frazier (mild groin strain) allowed Beal to play on the ball during the team’s open practice. However, Beal was doing more than just filling a hole. At times this season, Brooks wants to play Beal at the one spot, an expanded role in bringing the ball up the court and orchestrating the pick-and-roll.
“There’s going to times when I play point and John will play the two and play off ball a little bit. If I’m in the second group, sometimes it may happen as well,” Beal said. “So [Brooks] wants me to be comfortable with it, being able to bring the ball up and I also want to work on it because I don’t want to be one dimensional.”
Last season, Beal averaged 0.97 points per play as the pick-and-roll ballhandler. In this upcoming year, Beal should have more opportunities to create, and Wall sees his teammate’s growth as mutually beneficial.
“I can take a time to rest on the other end and be able to knock down shots for him to try to get his assists up,” Wall said. “He’s taking a lot of pressure off of me. I think Brad has improved in that aspect. I’ve improved in my shooting . . . and we’re trying new things and trying different things.
“It puts us in a position to try to succeed and try to be great,” Wall concluded.
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