Wizards call Summer League a success
The Wizards lost their Summer League finale Saturday afternoon to the Knicks in overtime, 109-107. John Wall and JaVale McGee both sat out, Wall with knee soreness and McGee just for rest. The team finished the week 4-1, and Coach Flip Saunders said the organization had a "great week."
"John was probably the best guard here, maybe the best player here," he said. "JaVale was the best big man here. We want guys we have here to come in and dominate, and they did that."
Five more observations from the team's last competitive basketball until training camp.
Lester Hudson and Cartier Martin weren't happy
The two players with the most to play for this week were likely Hudson and Marti, a pair of guards with a taste of NBA experience hoping to earn a longer look from the Wizards. With Wall and McGee out, they had their biggest chance on Saturday, and while the Wizards led most of the game (and were up by 20 at one point), they fell apart down the stretch.
Martin had 24 points but 6 turnovers, including a killer on late in regulation. Hudson had 19 points and 7 assists, but also had 5 turnovers and 7 fouls, and shouldered the blame for the team not being able to hold on to its late lead.
"I'm not satisfied at all with how I played throughout this entire summer league," Martin said. "I had one good day of shooting. That's not gonna get it done in this league. I expect more out of myself. I just have to learn from it and push harder going into training camp to try to get myself better."
Martin said he has a good relationship with the front office and expects to be at training camp, though he's been told nothing definite. Hudson -- who hit the dramatic game-winner on Friday night -- said he did "an ok job" in Vegas and would "love to play for the Wizards," but he said he also hasn't been told anything.
As for the other prospects, first-round pick Trevor Booker had 15 points and 7 rebounds, and second-round pick Hamady Ndiaye had 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Booker's role hasn't changed
The team still hopes and expects him to do the dirty work, though that will probably demand more rebounding in the future. Booker said he will work primarily on his shot and ball-handling over the next few weeks, hoping he can fit in at both the 3 and the 4 spots in Washington.
"Right now he's gonna come in as a role player, play defense, give you hustle, offensive rebounds, shadow the ball and do those things," Saunders said. "And if you give him responsibility and he improves, then he'll get more involved and get more responsibility."
"I think every team needs one," Booker said, when asked about that job description. "They're a big part of each team, and I'm very comfortable doing that role."
Wall is a star
I'll write more about this later, but the kid hit an underhanded scoop shot from out-of-bounds during warmups, was absolutely mobbed when he went out for a halftime autograph-signing session, and earned the biggest post-game media crowd. Staffers cut off the line for the autograph thing after five minutes, saying only DeMarcus Cousins had caused a similar frenzy.
Someone asked Wall about his star turn this week.
"I expected just to come out here and play basketball," he said. "I know a lot of people wanted to see me play, see if I was gonna live up to the hype, but I just wanted to come out here and play basketball. It wasn't about coming out here and trying to score 30 or 40 points, it was basically just doing whatever I needed to do to help my team win."
During the autograph session, one fan was repeatedly screaming that Wall was going to be better than Magic Johnson. Someone asked him about this, too.
"I don't listen to things like that," wall said. "Magic is one of the greatest players ever, that's my personal idol growing up, so I don't really go into comparisons. It's good to be compared, to say you're gonna be better than somebody, but it don't mean nothing until you prove it on a basketball court. So I still have a whole lot to learn, and a whole lot to prove to people."
And he likes to win
I don't know how much faith you can put in this, but everyone insists that John Wall is obsessed with winning, and that this matters. Certainly he was fairly animated from the sidelines, waving his arms, screaming instructions, being the first man onto the court to greet teammates during timeouts, and standing at the bench when everyone else was already sitting down. At least once, even Sam Cassell was on the bench, and Wall the only one standing and gesturing. He looked very coach-like.
"A guy like Wall can be infectious," NBA TV analyst Mike Fratello told me. "The rest of the guys who had some doubts, were borderline guys - particularly coming off the season that Washington had - getting them to believe is a very important thing. And a guy like Wall comes in, and [guys like that] are like 'Lose?' I mean, it's foreign to them. Now all of the sudden, the guy next to him goes, 'Yeah, I guess we're supposed to win.'
"[Friday] night they're down 16, 18, and all of the sudden they're back winning. They kicked up the pressure, they extended the defense, they got after people.....When the ball gets in his hands and he turns and looks, he sees the floor and he sees that slot, and he says I'll get to that slot before they can get their defense back, and then he's in there making something happen."
The Boss is pleased
"It is only the Summer League," Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog. "I wouldn't get too excited but these games do offer our fans a glimpse of the hope and promise of young talented players and what they can bring to our franchise.
"I would rather play well in these games than not well. I would rather our best prospects shine than not shine."
For this one week, at least, they shined.
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