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.
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