RICHMOND -- Antawn Jamison emerged from the first practice session of training camp on Tuesday looking like a walking billboard for the Flip Saunders regime. Around his neck, Jamison hung one of the iPod Touch that Saunders purchased for every member of the team. The devices have an application with videos and diagrams of Saunders's playbook to ensure that every player fully understands where they need to be.
"No excuses," Jamison said.
He also wore one the new shirts Saunders handed out on Monday night with the two-word theme for the Wizards' season: "Our Time."
"It means a lot to me," Jamison said of the theme. "It's not about talking about it. It's about going out there and getting it done. If you believe it's our time to take it to that next level or get the job done, it's going to happen. I definitely believe everybody on this team believes it. If you don't believe it, we'll get you out of here."
Jamison has been vocal about his belief in the Wizards' chances at winning a championship, but he said that Saunders expressed in confidence and belief in the team when he gathered them on Monday night. Saunders handed out the "Our Time" shirts and caps to get the players on one accord and place that mental image in their heads (there really was a reason for the hypnosis). This talk might seem delusional for a franchise that won 19 games last season, hasn't won more than 45 games since 1979 and hasn't played much defense in the second half of this decade, but the talk must be rubbing off.
"We're excited," Mike Miller said. "For the first time in a long time, we're going out and thinking we're going to win a championship and we honestly believe that. That's what's fun for me. It's got me a little more excited and I just want to win."
You may have read about Saunders's trek from scrawny high school point guard to coach of the Wizards in Tuesday's story, but the players got a real sense of his attention to details and precision in his first practice. Saunders had each minute of the workouts mapped out, focusing on a few offensive and defensive sets.
After sitting out a full season, Saunders said he didn't feel like he really was away from the game.
"I liken it sometimes to when you have real close friends and you maybe haven't seen them for 12 months, and then you spend two hours with them and it feels like you saw them three days ago," Saunders said. "When you've been coaching and that's what you've been doing and you're so familiar with it and it's something you enjoy. When you get back into it, it feels like you haven't been gone."
And now that he is back, Saunders is working to convince this team to look beyond its past accomplishments. He also is demanding that they are focused and ready to learn. I heard that the entire 250-page playbook hasn't been downloaded on those iPods -- they do, however, have the scheduled plans through March, Jamison said. But Saunders will provide gradual updates throughout the season, basically forcing the players to pay attention. Chances are, he will have what equates to a pop quiz or two.
I heard that Gilbert Arenas either jammed or dislocated a finger on his left hand last week. A team spokesman told me that it wasn't serious and that Arenas is fine. Arenas was the first player on the court on Tuesday, arriving several hours before practice began at 10 a.m.
At media day, Arenas vowed to take fewer three-pointers than in the past. On Tuesday, Arenas was shooting long jumpers -- about an inch or so inside the three-point line.
Caron Butler said he can tell that Arenas is serious about this season. "When I came in, he was getting shots here. I was the second guy in here -- and I was here two hours before everybody else," Butler said. "It meant a lot seeing one of the leaders on this team showing up this early and showing the dedication and commitment. I thought that was great."
As Butler spoke, he was wearing his "Our Time" cap.
"That's what we believe -- it's our time, participating in winning a championship," Butler said. "It would be great to bring that to the city and we think we have the pieces in place and we're ready to take a shot at it."
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