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Media Day Highlights

I have a ton of tape to break down after the recently completed Wizards media day here at the Verizon Center but I can hit you with some nuggets about where this team stands heading into the start of training camp tomorrow morning:

-With the notable exception of Gilbert Arenas, everyone is healthy. Oleksiy Pecherov says he still has some soreness in the left ankle he sprained back in June but expects to be ready to go all out this week.

Darius Songaila said his back is fine after he had some issues with it while training for the Olympics with the Lithuanian National team (he sat out after fearing a repeat of what happened two years ago when he required surgery after playing internationally.)

Antonio Daniels said his left wrist, the one that gave him huge problems late last season and into the playoffs, feels "fine" and he's good to go. He did say that he'll wear a light brace.

Etan Thomas talked at length about his return from undergoing open-heart surgery last year at this time and said he is ready to go all out starting tomorrow. He's not sure about how long it's going take before he feels like his old self but he's eager to get started.

"When something gets taken away from you, that's when you really learn to appreciate it," Thomas said. "So, I'm very excited to be back with my teammates playing basketball again."

Etan also said that he doesn't anticipate anymore fisticuffs with Brendan Haywood.
"No, we're going to be fine," he said. "We didn't really have a problem with each other. It was just competitiveness. As long as we have respect for each other, we can be as competitive as possibly can be and you want that."

Caron Butler said he's in terrific shape after working hard on his game this summer. Tough Juice also took up Yoga at the behest of his wife and loves the results. He said he feels far more flexible and stronger through his core. You'll recall that he had issues with his hip and his hamstring last season.

"Yoga," Butler said. "Yoga got me through. Got me opening up my hips and I'm looser. Dropping pounds. My body feels great. Tough Juice and Yoga. How's that sound? My wife has been asking me to go with here occassionally over the years so I went out there and did it and actually enjoyed it.."

Caron's favorite position?

"Downward dog," he said. "That's a real tough pose."

One guy everyone was talking about (other than Gilbert Arenas of course) was Andray Blatche. Like many of you, Andray's teammates are counting on him to come through in a big way this season. When we chatted with Andray, he swore that he's "more mature" this year and hungry to break out and really tap into his potential.

When this was related to Antawn Jamison, he responded by shooting me with a look that effectively said "We'll see."

Jamison then talked about Andray: "He says he's a veteran. He says he's matured. He says he's ready for the task. He has to show us. I mean, like you guys, the excuses and hearing the same thing at the start of every season, it goes in one ear and out the other. It's time to show it."

Me: "Does Andray realize how talented he is, how good he could be?"

Jamison: "He realizes it. He always realizes it. I think with Andray, the thing he's realizing now is that we need him now more than ever. We need him to be consistent. We need him to take some of my minutes. And we need to be comfortable with him out there. We don't want to put him out there just because we have to. We want to put him out there because we depend on him and he can benefit us. We need Andray this year more than we need anybody. We need him to bring energy night in and night out. And I'm not talking about four out of five games. Every night. There's no reason Andray shouldn't be averaging 14, 15 points game."

As I said, I have a ton of tape to transcibe so after I do that and I write my story for tomorrow's paper, I'll add more. And keep in mind that I'll be in Richmond all week following camp.

By Ivan Carter  |  September 26, 2008; 1:45 PM ET
 
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Next: Wizards Open Camp, Arenas speaks

Comments

Sounds like a promising start to the season.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Glad to know that Jamison is openly calling for Andray to take his minutes at the 4. Not the 5 or 3.

I want to see Andray starting on the second nights of Back to Backs.

Posted by: Crabhands | September 26, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about his game, there's no denying Jamison has embraced the leadership role on this team, something that is every bit as important to the team's success as his points and rebounds.

Posted by: kalorama | September 26, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a promising start to the season.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 2:25 PM

no way this was dcmann!!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm possibly even more excited for training camp to start tomorrow. I'll be anxiously awaiting your story and remaining sound bytes, Ivan.

Posted by: Lou | September 26, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Love Jamisons attitude toward Blatche. That's right, put the onus on him and hopefully he has done all of the things he mentioned and will be the player he can be. Is it just me or am I wrong in wondering what kind of ankle injury could keep a player out as much as Pech. He has been out both of his seasons here due to an ankle injury that occurs in the summer or at the start of the season. What kind of ankle injury takes that long to heal? Ivan is he to thin or something is that the problem?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about his game, there's no denying Jamison has embraced the leadership role on this team, something that is every bit as important to the team's success as his points and rebounds.

Posted by: kalorama | September 26, 2008 2:47 PM

LOL hes the captain dum8ass

Posted by: prescrunk | September 26, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

AND an all-star. lmao go back to bed now fag

Posted by: prescrunk | September 26, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I have my fingers crossed that Blatche really has grown up. He looked like a man among boys at times during summer league.

Posted by: www.ultimatefootballnetwork.com | September 26, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

He was a man among boys at the summer league, a multiyear year vet playing against rookies, wannabes, has-beens, and never-weres. He's got to show he can bring it consistently against real NBA competition. He's at the point where his talent isn't even a question. It's all about attitude and preparation and focus for him now, and sometimes that's the toughest adjustment for a player to make.

Posted by: kalorama | September 26, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Still waiting, BTW.

Posted by: kalorama | September 26, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Jamison doesn't want to play 40 minutes a night. I think he wants Blatche to become a star more than we do.

Posted by: C.Bell | September 26, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Go Ivan!

I can't wait for the season to start, even though the Wizards age me about 5 years per season.

Posted by: DoogieX | September 26, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Blatche is not going to be anymore consistent this year. I predict he'll have more "breakout" games, but consistency is still 2/3 years away for him, if ever. He has no "consistent" shot or go to moves so games he gets in the flow he can be highly effective all over the court. Other times, he is just going to disappear.

As far as Pecherov is concerned, he has rubber ankles. Most pick up players know about basketball and the toll it takes on your ankles. I know I rolled mine so many times I lost track and now it's nearly impossible for me to sprain my ankles even if I were to roll one. So, I guess my point is it's not a single ankle injury that is keeping him down, but rubber ankles that will either end his career or more likely stop happening altogether.

Season prediction: 44 - 38 5/6th seed and most likely a first round loser! A resurrected GA may be enough to push team to second round, but I doubt it. GA will not be completely healthy until next season, if ever. How's that for the $160 million dollars invested in AJ and GA?

Posted by: Rob P | September 26, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

While I'm sure Grunfeld will be looking to make deals, I wouldn't get my hopes up too high about a blockbuster trade. ... The Wizards aren't likely to get franchise player for nothing.
Posted by: kalorama | September 25, 2008 1:05 PM

And of course, I never said they would make a "blockbuster" trade or get a "franchise" player - so you and I agree on that....

However, teams WILL be looking for expiring contracts at the trade deadline in 2009. The Wizards have two enticing expiring contracts. EG doesn't have to make a play for a big name - but I could see him getting a solid veteran (or two) to help the team.

Not all scenarios need to include "bloated contracts" or "under-achievers".

Although anything can happen between now and next year - I can see a number of teams that may want to re-tool; and go after some of the 2010 Free Agents.

Perhaps David Lee from the Knicks - he would certainly help the Wiz on the boards...and you KNOW the Knicks want to go after LeBron.

Or Shane Battier from the Rockets (seems kinda redundant in Houston since they picked up Artest)... Houston may dump McGrady and go after Dwayne Wade to team with Yao Ming. (Wade has proven he can win a Championship with a legit low post big man). Houston would need cap room to pull that deal.

Or even Andrei Kirilenko from Utah. (I don't like Kirilenko - but some on this blog do..) The Jazz may want to re-tool if they think they'll lose Boozer in 2010.

The point is, by 2009 there will be teams willing to deal - and EG will have the upper hand. He doesn't HAVE to make a trade; and he has the bargaining chips.

Posted by: Rook | September 26, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm a bit surprised about AJ.

He's not a slacker, but I wonder why he's lacking on the defensive end especially since he seems athletic enough.

Is he just too small, or is he unable to play D skill wise? Does he not like physical contact?

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks a lot for the updates, IC

Posted by: Nick | September 26, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see Jamison being more vocal as a leader and calling Blatche out to deliver on the court. Obviously, AJ can't keep playing 40 minutes a night at age 32 and Blatche should be playing 10-15 minutes a night at the 4 with consistency. Same goes for D-Mac backing up CB3 at the 3. It doesn't matter if we win 40 or 45 games minus Agent Zero if our young players don't step up and we burn out are starters during the regular season.

My prediction if 46-36 with Agent Zero returning after the All-Star break healthy. If he's not healthy, I think we win more in the range of 40-42 games and end up as the 7th or 8th seed and knocked out in the 1st round. The Wiz need to get homecourt advantage for the playoffs OR avoid Cleveland if they want to get out of the 1st round. I'd consider progress making it out of the first round of the playoffs.

Posted by: wizfan89 | September 26, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me that Blatche could make or break the season. We pretty much know what we'll get from everyone else (Gil excepted); Andray is the big unknown. Undeniably an all-star talent; he has enough experience now to put it all together. I think if it doesn't happen this year, it never will.

I like how Jamison gave the "we'll see" look to Ivan. That exact same thought will occur to all of us when we read the reports about an "increased focus on defense this year."

Posted by: Keithinator | September 26, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Kalorama..... Pradmaster put it in much better perspective than I ever could on BulletsForever..

http://www.bulletsforever.com/2008/7/31/583970/eyeing-the-prize-nine-pote

Posted by: Rook | September 26, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Jamison doesn't have the lateral movement or leaping ability to ever be a strong defender. He's usually giving up inches and pounds playing at the 4 and would likely be more effective playing the 3 on a team with an athetic 4 man who played tough D and could rebound. He was supposed to be a small forward when we traded for him in 2004, but was forced to play PF because Kwame Brown was never a starter in the 2004-2005 season (and was later thankfully traded for Caron). We'll just have to accept that defense isn't his strong suit, but he's a strong scorer and rebound who provides a lot of leadership both on and off the court.

Posted by: wizfan89 | September 26, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"Not all scenarios need to include "bloated contracts" or "under-achievers"."

I never said they did. I also never said anything specifically about "under-achievers" so your use of quotes there is off the mark. I also specifically noted players with injury issues (which you conveniently left out). Now that we've got our facts straight:

I never said they were the ONLY kinds of players other teams would be looking to move for salary space. I said they are the most likely ones to be offered, and they are. There are always exceptions (one of which, Gasol, I noted). But the reason they're exceptions is because they're less likely to occur.

Posted by: kalorama | September 26, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

@Kalorama,

No, Blatche is not literally a "man among boys" at summer league. He's still 22 years old and rarely do men mature so quickly at that age. He's still younger than N1.

He may not fully mature until 24-25 but let's keep things in perspective.

Posted by: www.ultimatefootballnetwork.com | September 26, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

An ESPN article with comments has the Wizards as a national laughing stock, because of the Arenas contract. Unfortunately, Grunfield will always be remembered for this and not for his other accomplishments. This is a circumstance where an owner should be forced to give up the team because he is mentally unable to attend to his own affairs and forced this crazy signing.

Posted by: Beeb | September 26, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm a bit surprised about AJ.

He's not a slacker, but I wonder why he's lacking on the defensive end especially since he seems athletic enough.

Is he just too small, or is he unable to play D skill wise? Does he not like physical contact?


Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 4:02 PM

Good defense requires lateral quickness - something that AJ lacks -

and yes, at 6'9" 234 lbs, he's also overmatched against the bigger, stronger PF's in the League (Nowitzki 7ft, Boozer 6'9" 266, Garnett 6'11", etc)...

Against some other PF's the same size (Josh Smith), he's not nearly as athletic.

So, although he has the desire and the technique to play defense, he doesn't have the tools.
---

Nick Young, on the other hand, has all the tools. He has great size for his position (6'7"). He's got very good lateral quickness. He's got big, quick hands; and freakishly long arms (7ft wingspan). He's extremely athletic. He has an astounding no step vertical jump (39.5 inches). He has exceptional agility...and he's fast.
But he has no desire, no technique and no knowledge on how to play defense - so he gets beat.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"guys with talent who have some combo of bloated, overvalued contracts of their own, injury-issues, or attitude problems"

You're right, you never said "under achievers" - On the other hand..... there are plenty of players out there without "overvalued contracts", injury issues or attitude problems that can be had...

Notice I'm caveating everything now too... "can be had".... Don't want to put myself out there now, do I...? So I'll say stuff like "most likely" and "less likely"... and perhaps, and maybe, and ...... well, you get my point, I hope.

I am certain that a lot of teams will want to move players with issues... but Ernie doesn't need to pull the trigger on THOSE trades....

Here you go.. I'll put myself out there, and on record:

Before the trade deadline in 2009, Ernie Grunfeld WILL move either Thomas or Daniels (or both) - and get a good piece (or two) in return. No damaged goods. No bloated contracts. No under-achievers (my line).

Posted by: Rook | September 26, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Interesting that last summer Jamison took up yoga, and this summer, Butler and Haywood did too. (I recall Arenas saying something about doing yoga this summer also.)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Yoga is great, I swear by it, it is the single best thing you can do for yourself physically. It improves your flexability, strength, quickness, and recovery. It also helps prevent injury and is great mentally. The next best thing is some form of karate, tae kwon do, or kung fu. Especially for athletes like basketball that require alot of agility as well as strength and explosiveness. I wish yoga was a regular part of the Wizards' entire team strength and conditioning program. I think it could really help some guys like Antawn, Etan, Deshawn, and Pesh who are all kind of stiff in movements and not especially graceful or fluid.

The Wizards' site has pics up of the media day and they all look like they are in great shape! Especially Caron and Haywood.

I am concerned about Pesh's recurring ankle issues.

I still wish the Wizards would change/improve their uniforms and return to red white and blue colors. Also their new slogan "Character, Commitment, Connection" is really lame.

Posted by: Darnell | September 26, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Come on down, we're ready for ya!

Posted by: Doug Wilder, Tim Kaine, and Eugene Triani | September 26, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

An ESPN article with comments has the Wizards as a national laughing stock, because of the Arenas contract. Unfortunately, Grunfield will always be remembered for this and not for his other accomplishments. This is a circumstance where an owner should be forced to give up the team because he is mentally unable to attend to his own affairs and forced this crazy signing.

That and .50 will get you a cup of coffee. Who cares what the national media says? Ernie has a track record. I'll stick by him.

Posted by: Keithinator | September 26, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

"Seems to me that Blatche could make or break the season. We pretty much know what we'll get from everyone else (Gil excepted); Andray is the big unknown. Undeniably an all-star talent; he has enough experience now to put it all together. I think if it doesn't happen this year, it never will.

Posted by: Keithinator | September 26, 2008 4:08 PM "

I'll have to disagree with the statement that we "know what we're going to get from everyone else."

AB: Will he get the chance to produce?

OPech: What is he going to bring to the table? Can he do anything inside?

NY: Can he play smart?

ET: What is he going to show us right off the bat?

Juan: Show us what you've learned.

DSong: Do you have your legs back?

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

WHEW!!! A lot of passion already on this blog and we're still waiting for the first practice Crazy as this sounds I think EJ will make a huge difference,his demeanor, his approach,his attitude i think he brings confidence and continuity to this squad he got Brenden Haywood to have a very good year and become a defensive force on this team(no small feat)he had them playing over their heads after an 0-5 start including winning three out of four versus the Celtics mostly without Gilbert.This team believes in Eddie and that will go a long way during this season,no question the eastern conference is stronger and more formidable,that being said experience and veteran coaching will go a long way this season.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | September 26, 2008 10:18 PM | Report abuse

"Arenas has yet to answer any questions in front of a group of reporters since his $111 million, six-year contract was announced in July. His first public discussion of his latest surgery was supposed to come Friday, but he was the only Wizards player the media wasn't able to talk to at the team's arena.

He did show up long enough to pose for photographs, but the team said Arenas cited his knee rehab work in declining to speak. Instead, a Wizards spokesman said, Arenas will address the media Saturday, when the team opens training camp in Richmond, Va."

Ivan, why didn't you report this?

It sounds really shady to me.

Since when does a knee rehab prevent someone from talking?

My gut tells me that there will be at least 1 PR person at training camp designated to shadow Gilby.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

i'm confused. gil talked to ivan after his surgery, and i think he talked to the washtimes too. so what's this story talking about not talking to reporters since his surgery?

Posted by: wizfan | September 26, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

"i'm confused. gil talked to ivan after his surgery, and i think he talked to the washtimes too. so what's this story talking about not talking to reporters since his surgery?

Posted by: wizfan | September 26, 2008 10:46 PM "

The difference is open forum vs. cell phone call.

Today was open forum, but Gilby either didn't, or wasn't allowed to, participate.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

""Arenas has yet to answer any questions in front of a group of reporters since......

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse

DCMan is being an idiot - as usual.

Gil not talking to the media was discussed on WaPo Live Tonight. Gil was being unselfish....simply did not want to take the limelight away from his teammates today since he will not be playing immediately.

Posted by: Anon | September 26, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

"Gil not talking to the media was discussed on WaPo Live Tonight. Gil was being unselfish....simply did not want to take the limelight away from his teammates today since he will not be playing immediately.

Posted by: Anon | September 26, 2008 11:22 PM "

Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with limelight nor does it have anything to do with the fact that he hasn't personally answered questions about his knee to a media forum.

A media day is held to answer questions, and I'm sure Gilby's teammates would rather NOT answer questions concerning Gilby when Gilby should be there to answer them himself.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Washtimes says Gil said he's cool with the fine

http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/outlet/2008/Sep/26/arenas-wizards-fined/

Posted by: wizfan | September 26, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse

"Washtimes says Gil said he's cool with the fine

http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/outlet/2008/Sep/26/arenas-wizards-fined/

Posted by: wizfan | September 26, 2008 11:43 PM "

I'm sure he has no choice but to pay it. BouleZ tried to appeal, but failed.

I guess the league found the excuse of "he's too busy rehabbing to answer questions," to be BS.

BouleZ made excuses for him, and Gilby showing up but not answering questions was pointless.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 26, 2008 11:53 PM | Report abuse

You guys can't be serious trying to excuse a "franchise" player from just showing up at a media event??? Really? For $111 million, you can't just answer a couple of dopey questions? Wow. It's part of the reason I am and will continue to not like the Arenas signing. EG's hands were tied in the whole deal bc of Abe, but I knew from the start this was not going to be good.

Posted by: Rob P | September 27, 2008 1:30 AM | Report abuse

I"MMMM back!Antwan is complaning already about Andray. Isn't he the one who just signed for $50M to jack up premiter shots. If I am the opposing player I call for ISO every time to show him he has no lateral defense and put him on the bench. The problem with the wiz dogs is that nothing has change with the philosphy of eddie jordan princeton style offence and lack of team concept of playoff style defense. Until you replace eddie this team will always be marginal. I'm predicting another 42 win season and another first round loss to the Cavs and BronBron.

Posted by: TheGodfather | September 27, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"I'M cool with the fine" No s+#t sherlock,i'm sure you are i'd be cool too at 111 mil ,PLEASE!! you think you could stick around and not act like a prima donna and answer some media questions truly this act is getting tired, Gilbert at this point should know better with all that money comes responsibility yeah that's right some form of accountability with your teamates and the orginization.Do you mind "bro"!!

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | September 27, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I figure that Gil missing Media Day was a calculated move... The consequences were known and so was the upside of basically forcing everyone to focus (at least a little bit) on other players and story lines, not the least of which are the challenges to AB and NY to step up!

That said, Gil is like Banquo's Ghost in Macbeth... he is always at the table making some folks uneasy. Except in Gil's case he will actually be back among the living soon enough, ideally with his usual chip on the shoulder, bring on the world attitude. Gonna be an interesting year.

Finally, YES to yoga!

Posted by: khrabb | September 27, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"

I"MMMM back!Antwan is complaning already about Andray. Isn't he the one who just signed for $50M to jack up premiter shots. If I am the opposing player I call for ISO every time to show him he has no lateral defense and put him on the bench. The problem with the wiz dogs is that nothing has change with the philosphy of eddie jordan princeton style offence and lack of team concept of playoff style defense. Until you replace eddie this team will always be marginal. I'm predicting another 42 win season and another first round loss to the Cavs and BronBron.

Posted by: TheGodfather | September 27, 2008 9:45 AM "

Last season, I let it slide (re: first bus to the gym vs. second bus), but it seems like AJ is acting like he's jealous of AB.

If AJ is beyond criticism, then show us on the defensive end. AJ's a numbers guy, and hasn't led this team for an entire season, and for being the vet, he should be calling the shots, not deferring to Caron or Gilby.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 27, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"

You guys can't be serious trying to excuse a "franchise" player from just showing up at a media event??? Really? For $111 million, you can't just answer a couple of dopey questions? Wow. It's part of the reason I am and will continue to not like the Arenas signing. EG's hands were tied in the whole deal bc of Abe, but I knew from the start this was not going to be good.

Posted by: Rob P | September 27, 2008 1:30 AM "

It's funny how in today's article, Ivan talks about Gilby's absence, but doesn't mention that Gilby made a brief appearance for a photo op only.

Kind of reminds you of the wannabe grand appearance he made when he decided to play in the game, but didn't tell EJ beforehand.

Posted by: DC Man88 | September 27, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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