Wiz Damage Control, in Seven Parts
I see that maybe I've been writing too much Wizards. Duly noted. But today was a media feeding frenzy kind of day, so I had to check it out. This'll be my last word on the Wiz for the day.
(Also, I have to beg off early, because I have to speak to a college journalism class tonight.)
1) Players had a 30-35 minute players only meeting before practice, their first of the season.
2) Gilbert declined to speak with the media. Instead, we were treated to a diet of the steady grownups: Antawn Jamison, Antonio Daniels, Caron Butler and Eddie Jordan. In between, a lot of media persons spoke mournfully with each other, and various public relations persons whispered to each other. I felt like there had been a death in the family or something. I felt like I should have worn all black. Although Official Beat Writer Ivan Carter was wearing florescent yellow.
Also, Ernie Grunfeld spoke with some beat reporters and I listened in.
"It's the NBA," he said. "It's a long season....If nobody cared about what happened, that would be much worse, but people care, people have pride."
3) Antawn Jamison took responsibility for everything he could. He nearly took responsibility for scoreboard malfunctions and bad chicken tenders in the snack stands. He said that Eddie Jordan's remarks about the team's lack of leaders wasn't a slap at the other guys, but rather a call for Jamison to do more. He said it was his fault for letting things get to where they've gotten. He said "it's my responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen again, and I promise you, it won't." He said he wished the all-star break wasn't here, because he doesn't like to run from problems, he likes to confront them head-on. He said several times that "the panic button is not pushed." He said the ship is "not sinking yet, but it's gonna rock some and it's getting heavy."
Best of all, he was asked if he had any words for Gilbert after yesterday's squabbles.
"Oh, I talked to him," Antawn said. "Like I said, that little brother, you've got to sting 'em with your hands every once in a while. I put him in the closet and whupped his a$$ last night."
4) Speaking of lil' brothers, there were dangerous levels of familial cliches being flung about.
"Sometimes emotions take over and you say something you regret....that's human nature," Jamison said. "We [should] keep it all within the family and in-house."
"We're a family, and that's what families do, they talk about things, and that's what we did today," Butler said.
"Sometimes families disagree, they don't get along all the time, it's just one of those instances," A.D. said. "Like I said, we're a team, we're a family, and that's all that matters. We're behind each other 100 percent."
"We're back on the same page, we're moving the train in the right direction, we're all going in the same direction, and we just need another win," Eddie Jordan said.
5) Sense of humor: intact.
When Caron left the cameras and Eddie approached, Caron smacked Eddie on the chest, just to say hello.
"That was a love tap," Jordan immediately told the media throng, trying to make sure no one got the wrong impression.
Also, Jamison was asked about Etan-Haywood III.
"There was a fight?" he responded.
Joseph White of the AP also asked Eddie whether Gil needed to tone down the antics.
"I don't know," Jordan replied. "That's him. That's who he is. You guys like it a little bit."
"We're not complaining," J. White agreed.
6) Fun was highly praised.
"We're gonna start smiling and having fun like we're accustomed to," Jamieson said. "I have to find a way to get that atmosphere--it's in the locker room--but out there on the court."
Butler agreed, saying the Wiz have to get "back to how we got here, and us enjoying what we do out there: laughing, just like young kids on the playground, playing, just having fun."
7) And so yeah, needless to say, there was no DeShawn-Gilbert shooting competition with the entire team as joyous spectators.
"Not a lot here for you today," a PR person warned me at the beginning. "Might as well just go home."
But we did get a battle of 70 15-foot jump shots between James Lang and Brendan Todd Haywood that began, naturally, with James Lang complaining that Haywood was too close to the basket.
"Man, he's shooting layups," Lang complained.
"That's 15 feet," Haywood disagreed. "What, you want me to shoot three-pointers?"
I kept ducking in and out, to see what sort of serious damage control was going on with the grown-ups in the hallway. When I came back inside the gym, Lang was shooting from the free-throw line and blowing on his non-shooting hand.
"If you're gonna do that, you've got to blow on the right hand," Director of Player Personnel Milt Newton advised.
Next time I came in, Lang was leading, but there was a scoring dispute.
"Don't cheat," Lang was saying
"No, you don't cheat, James Lang," Haywood said.
"I quit," Lang said.
"You quit?" Haywood responded. "You ever see the tortoise and the hare? You're built like a tortoise, but I'm still gonna win. I'm gonna win James Lang."
"I can't shoot if you're gonna act like that, for real," Haywood said.
"You know how many shots it took me to beat James?" asked D-Song. "Ten. That's it. Over. I'm just saying, you're really losing to James?"
Lang hit a few shots in a row.
"Yeah, James!" piped up Andray Blatche, who came in to watch.
"Oh, you're going to go against your boy?" Haywood asked Blatche. "After all I've done for you?"
Then Jamison walked by and called Lang "James Milt Jamieson," because Lang is "both our sons," as Newton explained, if that makes sense.
I missed the end of the shootout, because people were doing serious damage control outside, but Haywood later told me that the competition ended in a tie. I asked BTH if he was embarrassed to tie James Lang.
"No," he said. "James Lang has a nice touch. He just needs to have confidence in himself."
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