The Washington Wizards participated in 24 minutes of leisurely basketball all but void of defense on Saturday as part of the team’s fan night at Verizon Center. The thousands in attendance certainly appreciated the playground atmosphere, applauding and cheering at a fever pitch when, for instance, John Wall collected a pass off the backboard and dunked for his blue team.
The entertaining evening that included a performance by District-born rapper Wale, though, was a far cry from what players had to endure in the previous three hours. They spent that time first examining the disturbing footage from a 103-78 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night before Coach Flip Saunders ran his charges through an extended practice intended to tighten up many of the flaws from the preseason opener.
The viewing session unearthed many breakdowns, players said, but most notable was a failure to value team concepts over individual production. The result was Washington shooting 33 percent and committing 20 turnovers, with only one starter making more than three field goals. Take Andray Blatche’s 5-for-11 showing out of the equation, and the Wizards’ other four starters shot 9 for 34.
“It was most definitely embarrassing,” said starting forward Rashard Lewis, who had four points and shot 1 for 5. “I was sitting right next to coach [during film session], and when he switched over to the fourth quarter, we only had 54 points. The first thing I said was, ‘Damn. Fifty-four points going into the fourth quarter?’ We’ve got to play together. We’ve got to fix that.”
Wall shouldered much of the personal responsibility immediately following the clunker, and his attitude less than 24 hours later had not wavered. The No. 1 overall pick from a year ago shot 3 for 12, but most egregious he said were his six turnovers against just three assists.
Wall had a turnover 10 seconds into the game and another with 5 minutes 53 seconds left in the first quarter. His third turnover of the first quarter came with 44 seconds to play, and by that time, Washington trailed, 22-15. Another poor pass from Wall yielded a turnover with 5:27 remaining until halftime, and less than 10 seconds later, the 76ers were comfortably ahead, 39-22.
“I didn’t lead the team,” said Wall, who reciprocated a hand slap from Wale in the hallway outside the locker room shortly before the scrimmage. “I mean, I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders that I’m going to be the leader and be the franchise guy. I didn’t lead the team. Too many turnovers and didn’t get everybody in their spots so I came here early in the morning and watched a lot of film.”
That’s about all rookie forward Jan Vesely could do on Saturday because of a sore hip. The Wizards’ sixth overall pick in this year’s draft watched the fan-fest scrimmage from the bench and was the only player who did not participate. Vesely did not show signs of discomfort during Friday night’s game or afterward in the locker room.
Fans, however, were able to see forward Trevor Booker play for the first time this season. The 23rd pick in last year’s draft missed Friday’s game because of a right thigh contusion suffered when he was playing in Israel with Bnei HaSharon during the NBA lockout.
Booker wound up not playing a regular season game with that club, instead coming back to the United States to have his leg examined, and he was able to practice during the last two days of training camp. Saunders said mid-week that Booker had made great strides rehabilitating his leg and perhaps he would be able to play against Philadelphia.
Both Booker and Vesely will have another day to rest with the Wizards not practicing on Sunday. Washington’s next and final preseason game is Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“I think everybody had a sour taste in their mouth coming into practice today from the way we played last night,” Lewis said. “A lot of guys who stepped up and were speaking in practice were the coaches. That’s what we’ve got to do, hold each other accountable when we make mistakes and not take it personal.”