Day 3 in Richmond

Haven't had much of a chance to get out and see Richmond but last night I poked my head into the rec center here on the campus of VCU and got in a game of pick-up basketball (the college kids had me panting like my dog after a long run) and later, I hit the mall where I picked up Rick Atkinson's new book before catching the movie "The Kingdom." I'd strongly recommend both.

If you are a history buff like myself, you may know that Atkinson's new book "The Day of Battle" is the second in a three-part series of books on America's European involvement in WW II. The first book, "An Army at Dawn" focused on the North African campaign and this one hits the battles in Sicily and Italy. It's a page turner and kept me up late last night. So far, the most interesting detail that I never heard before is that Winston Churchill's favorite scotch was JW red. What, the Brits didn't have black or blue back then?......

As for the hoops, the fellas scrimmaged (with refs) this morning in the first of the day's two workouts. The team got a slight scare when Antawn Jamison bumped knees with Donell Taylor and went to the floor in pain but it turned out to be a bruised right shin. Jamison was done for the practice but with some ice and a little rest, he'll be fine.

The star of the day was unquestionably Andray Blatche. At the start of the scrimmage, Blatche played at the four spot in a lineup that opened with Darius Songaila at center, Dominic McGuire at small forward, Roger Mason at shooting guard and Taylor at the point. They went against a black team that had Gilbert, DeShawn, Caron, Antawn and Brendan.

Andray scored the white team's first two buckets on layups. The first was a pretty reverse lay in that came in traffic and the second capped a fast break. Later, he rolled from the low block to the high post, set a screen for Taylor, who then rolled and flipped the ball back to Blatche. Blatche could have taken a contested shot but he read the defense and quickly swung the ball into the corner to a wide open Mason, who drained a long jumper. Blatche also had a play where he stepped out, received a pass and faced up on Mike Hall. Rather than put the ball on the floor, he simply squared his body and drained a 15-footer off glass over the shorter defender.

On the defensive end, Blatche also made a couple of nice plays. On one, Gilbert drove down the right side of the lane and attempted to flip in a layup off glass but Andray came off his man, shuffled over and then stretched out and pinned the ball on the glass. (Gilbert was hollering for a goal tend but it wasn't from my seat). Blatche then grabbed the ball and pushed it the other way in transition. Later, he again came over on help defense and pinned a Caron Butler layup attempt to the backboard.

"I liked his awareness, the way he's playing the game very hard and he's making quick moves," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "He blocked some shots and played really good help defense."

A lot of folks (including yours truly) are calling Blatche the wild card on this team.

Andray on that issue: "It's my third year in the league so I either have to grow up or be the same player I've been so I'm trying to give it my all and get better and better each year."

And: "We have a pretty good team so I'm just a player who wants to bring a lot of energy to the floor, rebound and defend. I want to be the guy who does all the dirty work. I mean, I'm not going to try and come out and be Gilbert Arenas or anything like that. I just want to do the little things and help us win."

On what went down this summer: "It was a learning experience. It was really just being in the wrong spot at the wrong time with the wrong people and I learned from it. I'm just happy that God blessed me to have the Wizards sign me for five years."

More from today's practice:

-Antonio Daniels had a series of nice plays. He sliced down the lane, took a perfect bounce pass from Butler and made a layup (you guessed right, he hit the deck). He drove, drew Olelksiy Pecherov to him and dropped a nifty little pass to a cutting Songaila, who layed it in.

-Dominic McGuire is getting daily instruction on what it's like defending an all star because he's regularly matched up with Butler. On one play, I thought the kid did a great job but he wasn't rewarded. Butler received the ball in one of his sweet spots on the right wing (about 15-17 feet from the hoop where he either likes to take a jumper or pump fake and drive either way before making a runner).
McGuire closed out well and when Butler put his shoulder down and drove baseline, the rookie shuffled his feet, kept his hands up and cut Butler off only to be called for a block. Welcome to the league rook. McGuire did have two nice dunks at the other end, one of them in transition when he filled the lane and rose up for a one-hander and another in the halfcourt when Pesh missed a layup but he was there for the putback two-handed jam. The kid brings energy and hustle and that's what this team needs off that bench. Haven't seen much of the J yet.

-To these eyes, Songaila looks about 30 percent more athletic than he did at anytime late last season. Don't get me wrong, he'll never been a high-flyer but he is moving so much better and his elevation after those crafty post moves of his is pretty good. Along with Antonio, he's rock solid coming off that bench. Now, if Andray is for real and the kids can give them anything.........

I'll check back later.

By Ivan Carter |  October 4, 2007; 2:20 PM ET
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AB has so much natural ability. He should run the point, or be a point forward.

Posted by: DC Man88 | October 4, 2007 3:24 PM

"It's my third year in the league so I either have to grow up or be the same player I've been so I'm trying to give it my all and get better and better each year."

Somebody with the team should print that out and bolt it to his locker at VC right now.

Keep pinnin' 'em to the glass, Andray!

Posted by: iceberg | October 4, 2007 3:24 PM

first ... now that feels stupid but it seems to be a trend

Posted by: 2cents4wiz | October 4, 2007 3:25 PM

Could McGuire have more of an impact this year than Young?

Everything you've written seems to indicate that Young is a bit nervous and more out of his depth. McGuire sounds poised and more confident.

Where do you see McGuire fitting in on this team? I thought he was a 4, but maybe he's going to play as a big 3.

Posted by: the cheat | October 4, 2007 3:26 PM

At first I wanted to be happy that Blatche was doing so well in the scrimmage. Then it occurred to me who was likely guarding him -- the black team's PF.

Posted by: Sean | October 4, 2007 3:45 PM

Cant be negative, the guy is playing well and getting better, and he has the right attitude, bring energy, rebound and block shots (which it sounds like he is doing a great job off) for now, LET GO WIZ

Posted by: Ben | October 4, 2007 3:58 PM

I wonder what's going on with Nick Young? Seems like we're not hearing a lot about him at camp.

Posted by: Prazak | October 4, 2007 4:31 PM

first 20 games we'll see how many of Antwan's minutes Blathe eats away... hopefully as many as Songalia is getting

Sean: "At first I wanted to be happy that Blatche was doing so well in the scrimmage. Then it occurred to me who was likely guarding him -- the black team's PF."

that is cold. True, but cold.

Posted by: Crabhands | October 4, 2007 4:52 PM

Ivan, when you finish up the book pass it along to your boy. We catch one another from time to time in the Wiz media room so I'm not too hard to find. History interests me too, but I'm more of an ancient civilizations and civil war era kind of guy. Not that I don't find the more recent eras interesting (particularly America's industrial boom and the prohibition era America), but the older stuff is absolutely fascinating to me.

Anyway...on the the stuff we're all really here for - Eddie mentioned using Andray a lot like the Suns use Boris Diaw. Can the kid handle the minutes at the five? Dray is athletic as all get out, and he has the height, but even in the East I'm a little concerned about him having the body to take the type of pounding he would have to endure in the middle of the front line. Is Songalia seeing any minutes at the five? By most accounts he was pretty successful playing the spot in the Euros. I'm curious about Nick Young too..what's with the quiet front on his progress? Is this a case of "my momma said if I don't have anything nice to say about someone I shouldn't say anything at all"? Say it ain't so Ivan. Say it ain't so.

Posted by: Jay | October 4, 2007 5:34 PM

I just hope Blatche really means all of that stuff he said. We all know he can play, he just has to want to.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 4, 2007 6:41 PM

no Blue back then (besides it's not an everyday scotch). Red or Black is a matter of personal preference, black is not head and shoulders better (despite being more expensive). im more disappointed that Churchill drank that crappy blended stuff. lagavulin all the way.

Posted by: pindar | October 4, 2007 6:52 PM

Dray can be a very effective backup center. he can't bang with Eddie Curry, Shaq, and select few others, but how many guys can?

He can certainly hold his own against backup C's like Gadzuric, Foyle, David Harrison, Lafrentz, Scot Pollard, Zaza Pachulia and Primo Brezec. Before you scream that those guys all suck, keep in mind that they all play, and Blatche's minutes at center are going to come a lot more against those guys than they are against The Diesel.

I really hope McGuire is groomed to play guard and forward. I mean if Jared Jeffries can play a season of guard for this team, why on earth can't McGuire.

Time will obviously tell, but I think Ernie whiffed on Nick Young. EG swung for the fences a bit because the kid oozes talent, but he doesn't know the first thing about actually playing basketball. That's OK, though. Ernie has earned the right to a couple of mistakes after finding Blatche, Pesh, and McGuire. He just needs to hire my boy CCJ.

Posted by: Ben | October 4, 2007 11:03 PM

Time will obviously tell, but I think Ernie whiffed on Nick Young. EG swung for the fences a bit because the kid oozes talent, but he doesn't know the first thing about actually playing basketball. That's OK, though. Ernie has earned the right to a couple of mistakes after finding Blatche, Pesh, and McGuire. He just needs to hire my boy CCJ.

Posted by: Ben | October 4, 2007 11:03 PM

Young may blossom in a year or two. He is very green but has amazing talent. He can shoot the j as well as blow by people for impressive dunks. This from a 6'6" 200 pounder. I like the pick. DMac may contribute sooner, but Young will equal or even surpass him eventually.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 5, 2007 12:32 AM

That's what I thought, too, and the bits and pieces of player comments I've read and heard are all very positive on Young. Can't wait to see him in game situations.

Posted by: Prazak | October 5, 2007 1:12 AM

I wonder though if Nick might end up in D-league for long stretches this year?

Posted by: Prazak | October 5, 2007 1:15 AM

I, too, think Young will take longer to make a significant contribution to the Wiz than the rest of the rookie class.

From the reports from training camp so far, it sounds like Pech and Blatche are making an impression already. They could both be in the regular rotation this year.

If Blatche in particular makes a significant improvement over last year, look for the Wizards to win 50 games and make some noise in the playoffs.

Posted by: Tim | October 5, 2007 7:41 AM

I am not sure if Young will be sent down to the D-league or not. Blatche did not play much for the Wiz last year until the end and was never sent down.

Blatche played in the D-league for only a little while the previous year (his first), probably because he missed training camp due to a gun shot wound.

I am thinking the Wiz look at the D-league mostly for their real projects like John Peter Ramos. Young hopefully is a little further along than that.

Posted by: Tim | October 5, 2007 7:50 AM

I'm not sure that Ernie whiffed on Nick Young, the kid's never had to play second fiddle on a team before.

Now he's in Camp and Eddie's making sure that he know's that he doesn't even have a fiddle, at best he's the guy in the back with the Tamborine.

What the Wizards want from him right now is ball movement, playing without the ball, court awareness and above all on offense court spacing. These are all foreign concepts to guy that's always been a go to scorer.

And like everybody else he's got to learn to play defense too. From what I've seen of Young he's never really been asked to play D before so that will take some time.

I'm not sure the D league would really help him since he'd probably go down, be the most talented guy there, and just start to pump up numbers. What he needs is to adapt to not automaticly being the most talented guy on the floor, learn the offense and how to pick his spots in it.

He is an extermely talented player, freaky quick with good hops, and he can adjust in the air to get his shot. As a cutter in the Princeton he'll get lots of opportunities to score.

He's not going to be just a spot up shooter, if the kid sees a seam he's gone to the hoop and he can finish around the rim with a variety of moves. And he can shoot too.

He'll give us a guy off the bench that can get his own shot if needed. Last year, other than Daniels, we had nobody that could make a move and break someone down to get a hoop when needed.

Pecherov and McGuire will both play bigger roles on this team right out of camp especially if Thomas doesn't make it back. But Young could be a guy that gets his minutes spotted at first, but gains a bigger role as the year goes on.

If he learns this pro game, I could see him almost splitting minutes with Stevenson by next year. I thought we got one of the bargains in the draft when he fell to us at 16.

And from what I understand he's another relentless worker, so I don't think the kid will have any trouble making the adjustments needed because he'll get in the gym and do the work reguired to get better.

That seems to be the one thing that almost all of Grunfeld's picks share, the willingness to get in the gym and work at their game. A crop of young talented guys that love basketball, two Allstars, and a savvy vet to lead them, not a bad formula for success.

Posted by: GM | October 5, 2007 8:04 AM

GM, you hit on some good points on Young. He may well not have ever "been asked" to play D, or understand spacing and ball movement. Perhaps some of this is learnable, but my contention is that this stuff that falls under the umbrella of "basketball IQ" is mostly innate -- you have it or you don't. Blacthe and McGuire have "feel." Young does not appear to. Hopefully I'm wrong.

Posted by: Ben | October 5, 2007 8:52 AM


For pete's sake, give the guy a chance! He's in his fourth DAY as a pro! You simply cannot make judgments at this stage. It's insane. You have no idea whether he has a "feel" or not, any more than I do. He seemed to have the "feel" in college, didn't he?

What is it with fans and instant judgments on guys? How many players come in, immediately light it up and play like seasoned veterans? Get some perspective, man...

Posted by: Keithinator | October 5, 2007 9:30 AM

mason in your face-son

Posted by: Anonymous | October 5, 2007 9:32 AM

Atkinson's first book was magnificent. Have the second one coming from amazon now myself. if you like wwii try "brotherhood of heroes" by sloan - doesn't have the scope of atkinson's book, but great tactical and strategic book on a very hairy battle against the japanese - Peleliu. excellent first hand detail.

I'm very psyched about how camp seems to be going. Sounds like the various bench big guys are playing well (Blatche, Pech, Songalia). while i wish all the best to etan, if he can't play, im not sure the team will be hurt that much as i think the above three can do nice work at the 4 & 5 in limited minutes coming off the bench, and frankly, etan has had his chance - it's not like he was going to get any better - jordan will be forced to provide PT to the young guys which will let them develop. frankly, i think all three of them are more of a scoring threat than etan has ever been, excepting Pech potentially. they may not provide the shot blocking of etan, but Blatche and Pech should give the team much more flexibility defensively.

my biggest concern is we STILL don't have that SG who can come off the bench and score 3-4 buckets for the second team. we need someone who can pick it up off the bench when the team goes cold. stylistically, that means a SF or SG, as big men can be effective but aren't streak scorers typically by the nature of their position.

Hollinger is a numbers man. The NBA is as much about chemistry as it is about individual talent. Chemistry develops as a team plays as a team over time. This will be the biggest advantage for the Wizards and why they will win 45-50 games. They have three all stars who each know each others game and each understand their roles.

As soon as the vegas O/U for NBA wins for this season come up, ill post them. Usually very interesting.


Posted by: charles jones | October 5, 2007 9:32 AM

Camp has begun!!! Hey, Charles Jones, I think you are the first to say something that I have been feeling: God bless Etan and we hope he will be o.k. ...but this situation is going to force Eddie into using bench players that he may not have used.

Sounds so far like AB and Pech and DMac are going to get a good look in preseason. There are bench minutes up for grabs after Daniels and Songalia and so that could bring out the best from them all. I still think DMac will be biggest surprise of them all. Since draft night I have been telling everybody that I see in him an NBA body, athleticism and toughness. I can see them occasionally using Caron at the 2 and DMac at the 3 in some matchups. I agree with others that Young will take a little longer to blossom but eventually should be great addition at the 2. I think he will be the 11th man for a while but will work his way into the 2nd five which will need his slashing and range.

I am still feeling 49-54 wins for this bunch barring major injury. I am so glad that Carril and Ayres and Hopla are on the bench this week. They need new voices. I remember a year ago we heard about their new commitment to defense. That lasted for about the first week of the season. They need to develop brand new habits and a brand new mindset. I really hear Caron and AJ saying the right things but somehow when Gil says seems like there is less determination in his voice. I hope I am wrong. Talk is cheap. Can't wait for the tip on Tuesday to see what this thing might look like.


Posted by: bmorerev | October 5, 2007 10:18 AM

Keithinator, I'm making my judgments based on Young's performance in college and summer league, which I am indeed entitled to do. You're entitled to disagree. And like I said, I hope I'm wrong.

I think Young will shine in a few spurts off the bench this year,but that he'll mostly struggle. Maybe he develops in a few years, but I don't see it.

Posted by: Ben | October 5, 2007 10:27 AM

Pro spacing is different then High School or college. That's why the game is so hard for the HS to Pro guys, they're making two leaps at once.

Pro shooting ranges and the ability to close is much different then these guys are used to. Overall speed and quickness and the arm length of defenders is a drastic difference. And the hops that some of these guys have now is astounding.

A guy like Young that has been used to destroying guys with his own physical ability will find out real quick he's just another guy in the gym.

But I think he'll adapt to the pro game, also remember Jordan is really hard on gaurds. So I'm sure he's making a point to point out his every mistake right now.

But with a little tough love I think Young will bloom and be a good pro. I hope by the second half he can start to be that scoring gaurd we need off the bench.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see Butler get a little run at the two especially if McGuire blooms at the three. There may be times that we need another tough physical defender at the two since Hayes is gone.

Tough Juice has leaned down even more so there maybe times he's needed against some of the two's in the east that are really more like three's anyway. I don't think that defensively Young will be ready for some of these big physical two's for awhile yet.

Posted by: GM | October 5, 2007 10:39 AM

What's up Ivan. I used to read your stories in the Kansas City Star when I was stationed at Whiteman AFB, MO. I forgot Rick Atkinson's was working on a trilogy. An Army at Dawn was a fantastic read, so I will definetely go out and get this one.

Posted by: J-Lew | October 5, 2007 10:55 AM

Ben, of course you're entitled to your opinion. But just because you have an opinion doesn't somehow legitimize that opinion. What I'm saying is that there is simply not enough data from which to make an *informed* opinion. Yes, Young is struggling some. So does every player in his very first week of NBA training camp, I'd wager. If he still stinks after a couple of seasons, then we can start drawing some conclusions. But it's quite simply ludicrous to assume you can project anything about a player within the first few days of his career.

In terms of college play, let's see: he apparently did well enough to be a first-round pick (and was projected by most to go a little earlier than he did). He's got good height and a very large wingspan for a 2-guard, good quickness and an ability to get his own shot off.

Here's what DraftExpress said about him:

"It's here that his true colors as a scorer really come out, showing outstanding footwork to create space for himself, an excellent assortment of jabs, fakes and pivots (it's obvious here that he emulates Kobe Bryant), and multiple release points to get his shot off in many different ways. He's an instinctive scorer, a self-made player who takes what the defense gives him. He has a great little wiggle he uses to keep his man off balance and constantly guessing as to what his next move will be, as well as the shooting stroke and quick release needed to give his jab-steps from the triple-threat position all the credibility in the world. He loves going to the turnaround jumper, getting his man to commit to his shot-fake and then pivoting fluidly right into a gorgeous fade-away.

If his defender guards him too close, he has the athleticism (particularly the first step) and ball-handling skills to shake his man and blow right by him. His size (a hair under 6-6, w/out shoes, from what we were told separately by both his agent Aaron Mintz and strength and conditioning trainer Shawn Dassie), fantastic wingspan (6'11 ½") and absolutely massive hands help him greatly in this area, as does his explosive vertical leap, measured at an impressive 44 inches with a running start."

Now, does that guarantee he'll be a good pro? Absolutely not. But you're assuming things about him that the data doesn't justify. In fact, the data can't justify it, because there *is no data* yet. It's a few days of training camp.

Please don't come back with "well, that's my opinion." Opinions are of little value if there's no evidence to back them up.

Posted by: Keithinator | October 5, 2007 11:20 AM

So let me get this right... If Etan has to retire because of a medical condition, do we get an exemption and his salary comes off the cap for us? Can we get a mulligan and use that space to sign JCN? We got one once with the Juwan signing. C'mon, Stern. Hook us up again.

Posted by: mark | October 5, 2007 11:53 AM

Dominic McGuire at the very least will be a defensive stopper in the final minute(s) of quarters and games. On that alone, he probably makes a bigger impact than Young or Pecherov.
A little better defense in the final two minutes of games last year and things might have turned out differently.
I think McGuire will play more than that, but he will make a big difference if that is all he does.
Even if Young is still green, the fact that he can fill it up like he can, he might be good for 10 minutes of instant offense a game.

Posted by: George Templeton | October 5, 2007 12:02 PM

It would be pretty sad at the end of a close game if AJ is told to sit on the pine and they have to bring in DMac to help on D. Go rook go!

Posted by: DC Man88 | October 5, 2007 12:07 PM

All the great scorers seem to have extremely large hands. But I didn't realize Young had quite that kind of wingspan.

What I've noticed about him defensively in the past is that he seems to be very quick and can cause problems by jumping into passing lanes. Kind of like Hughes was when he was here. Not as skilled as an on the ball defender at this point.

Boston had apparently worked him out and Ainge liked him alot, as did Philly. I was surprised he dropped to us at 16. So I do think he could be a bargain in the long run.

Read a couple of places where it was speculated that Grunfeld drafted him for insurance if the Wizards are unable to resign Arenas. He was regarded that highly as a scorer that some scouts project him as a number one scoring option.

We could have a deadly scoring trio he he could force his way into the lineup at the two in a couple of years and run with Butler and Arenas.

Posted by: GM | October 5, 2007 12:30 PM

What's sad about having a defensive stopper available?

If the kid rises to become that I think AJ would stand and cheer him on with everybody else!

Posted by: GM | October 5, 2007 12:48 PM

Good analysis on Young, GM. I would not expect EG to whiff too many times on a first round pick, anyway, as one poster mentioned.

If Young could develop enough to contribute some real scoring off the bench in the second half, there would be one more reason the Wiz could go far this year.

I posted a while ago that I thought another reason EG drafted Young was to hedge his bets in case Arenas leaves. Smart man.

Posted by: Tim | October 5, 2007 1:04 PM

I am probably getting too far ahead of myself, but if Blatche really is making a significant improvement this year, I wonder if we would be a better team if we started Blatche and let AJ come off the bench.

We would be good deal better defensively on our front line and could still score. With AJ coming off the bench we would really have some fire power along with everyone else on the second team and perhaps AJ would not be such a liability on defense.

Posted by: Tim | October 5, 2007 1:12 PM


I've wondered the same thing, and mentioned it once or twice on these boards. It would make us much bigger on the frontline, and better defensively. I love AJ coming off the bench and providing an offensive spark and leadership.

Assuming, of course, Andray's ready for a starter's role.

Posted by: Keithinator | October 5, 2007 1:27 PM

Yes, that is a big assumption, Keithinator: is Andray ready to be a starter?

I sort of suspect, though, to start with EJ will just give Andray regular minutes off the bench, since he was not even part of the rotation last year until the injuries hit.

Posted by: Tim | October 5, 2007 1:43 PM

Jamison has said many times that he doesn't want to come off the bench. I can't see Eddie Jordan doing that to them and I think Wizards brass would chafe because they want to bring him back.
I think it would great for the Wizards and Jamison if he came off the bench and played 25 minutes a game (I still think he would be as effective or even more effective), but I can't see that happening unless Jamison gets hurt, Blatche take his spot and play so well that Jamison ends up as the sixth man when he returns.

Posted by: George Templeton | October 5, 2007 5:56 PM

Hello, nice site :)

Posted by: Brin | December 3, 2007 6:29 AM

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