Wizards prepare for lengthy NBA lockout
By Michael Lee,
Nick Young hoped he would be spending the first few days of July getting regular updates from his agent, Aaron Mintz, about the progress of his contract negotiations for a lucrative deal with the Washington Wizards or any other potential suitors.
But since the NBA locked out its players when the collective bargaining agreement expired at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Young is focused on staying in shape in his hometown of Los Angeles and continuing the frugal ways he was reluctantly forced to assume last season.
“I like to spend a little bit. I like to buy shoes and clothes, so that kind of hurt. But everything is good. I’m still doing the same things, just not as bad as I used to,” said Young, the restricted free agent who finished as the team's leading scorer last season. “With this lockout now, it’s going to be crazy, but hopefully things work out and we get back to playing basketball.”
The lockout didn’t come as a surprise to anyone affiliated with the NBA, as players were told by their agents and representatives from the players’ union to save and spend wisely in case of a protracted labor dispute. But its ramifications could be especially hard for a Wizards team that might have at least eight players with less than two years’ experience on its roster when next season commences.
Second-round pick Shelvin Mack was drafted last week and barely had enough time to get in a few workouts with Coach Flip Saunders and his staff at Verizon Center before he was barred from the practice facility. John Wall wanted to spend more time in Washington during the offseason — and purposely bought an apartment near the arena so that he could train whenever he liked — but now will have to find other locales to get better for next season, whenever that may be.
The first visible signs of the lockout were spotted Friday on the Wizards’ Web site, where photo galleries of the dance team and team mascot have replaced all images and content regarding players. Trevor Booker made light of the situation on his Twitter account by writing, “Any jobs available for me?”
Summer league has already been canceled, eliminating a possible time for the young players to get familiar with one another and the system. And, with coaches, trainers and other team personnel prohibited from contact with players, it basically leaves the players all on their own.
Veteran free agent swingman Josh Howard had been in contact with the Wizards training staff as he rehabilitates from his left knee injury but will have to continue his strength and conditioning workouts on his own in Dallas. “I’m hoping this lockout won’t last long, but if it do, take full advantage of the time,” he said recently. “I think with basketball, I want to cruise around 80, 90 percent until I hear it’s time and we’re going to start playing, then wrap it up [rehabilitation], basketball wise.”
Mack said he thought about the lockout when he decided to enter the draft after his junior season at Butler, but now that it has arrived, he plans to use the opportunity to continue pursuing his degree while working out with his college coaches in Indianapolis. “I planned all along to take summer classes, because I didn’t graduate. I’ll take it day by day, to get in the best shape possible. The season can start at any moment. I want to make sure I come in and be ready to play.”
Top pick Jan Vesely hasn’t determined how he will spend his offseason but is considering working out with his former team in Serbia or training in Los Angeles. Chris Singleton plans to go back to Tallahassee and train at Florida State and also work out with fellow first-round draft pick Klay Thompson in Los Angeles. Wall expects to alternate his time between Los Angeles and his hometown of Raleigh, N.C.
In preparation for the lockout, Saunders brought in several players, such as Wall, Booker and Kevin Seraphin, to Verizon Center for individual workouts in the past month. He also sent assistants Sam Cassell and Ryan Saunders to Los Angeles to work out with Young, Jordan Crawford and JaVale McGee. Saunders said he has provided each player with a workout program with detailed instructions and a playbook.
“Having gone through it, you understand what’s all involved,” said Saunders, who was coaching the Minnesota Timberwolves during the last NBA work stoppage in 1998. “It’s not difficult because we still do business as is. We’re still going to prepare. They know going in what to expect. The only thing that does happen is that we aren’t able to work with our players one-on-one.”
Maurice Evans, a veteran free agent who serves as a vice president for the National Basketball Players Association, would like to come back to the Wizards and help the young team develop but now has to contemplate continuing his career overseas.
“I’m going to continue to prepare as if we’re going to have a season. The most unfortunate thing will be, there will be a lot of players like myself who are free agents who will have the actual option of leaving to go play elsewhere,” said Evans, who has played in Italy and Greece. “It’s a surefire possibility for a lot of players. A lot of players are thinking of finishing up their careers there, if we can’t come to an agreement.”
The Wizards made a qualifying offer to Young for about $3.7 million to have first right of refusal for any offer sheet that he signs under the next agreement. While he was grateful that the Wizards have expressed an interest in bringing him back, Young would prefer to have the situation resolved.
Young, 26, attended a union meeting with Evans and several dozen players in New York last week and said he came away with “a little more understanding about everything. Once everything is really settled, we’ll see where I’m at with everything. Hopefully, I’ll be in a Wizards jersey . . . or somewhere else. I’m sticking with the players and the union, to get something done.”