Day 6, Flip, The Pollins & Young's Comedy Act
RICHMOND -- Coach Flip Saunders didn't bring any footballs or hypnotists to practice on Sunday, but his players have been marveling over the unique ways in which Saunders has attempted to convey his message this week.
"He keeps it fresh, keeps it fun," Caron Butler said. "We're just in training camp. We haven't even played a preseason game yet. We're just talking about how comfortable the guys are with him, after being with a great guy already in Eddie Jordan for so many years."
Butler said that expected to have a decent relationship after running into Kevin Garnett at a fight in Las Vegas and talking to Sam Cassell. "He said, 'You're going to love Flip,' " Butler said. "He's a great person, always approachable. He's an owl. He's up all night. You can call him anytime, text him, about basketball, life."
Garnett and Cassell also told Butler that Saunders likes to try different approaches to practices and game preparation. "I try to do things to bring fun to it," Saunders said of his practice techniques. "If you enjoy doing something, you'll enjoy doing it a little better and I always tried to keep them on edge. If they understand those type of things and adapt to different things, when you get to a game and get to a situation where they have to adapt, you kind of train their brain a little bit that they can adapt to the situation. Whether it's warming up with footballs ..."
Saunders said he has tried to mix up things in practice ever since he started coaching at Golden Valley Lutheran College in the late 1970s. He said the inspiration was playing for a disciplinarian in Bill Musselman, who put his players through long, punishing practices at Minnesota. "I thought, I wish we could do something different," Saunders said. "I think I've always been an out-of-the-box type individual as far as doing things. I can remember when I was a little kid. I remember going to the basement in pajamas with my name on the back, playing "Sweet Georgia Brown," and thinking I was going to play with the Globetrotters."
Wizards owners Abe and Irene Pollin and their son, Jim, visited practice on Sunday and watched the players engage in some intense scrimmages, with Saunders using the end of practice to focus on last-second situations. After practice, Butler and Gilbert Arenas were the first players to speak with the Pollins, with others following to spend time with them individually.
"It's always great seeing Mr. Pollin come out and get a chance to watch us and being able to interact with him," Butler said. "I love seeing the Pollin family. They're expecting a big year out of us. Obviously we are too. It's going to be fun. He said just to keep up the good work. He hadn't seen us in a while. I talked to him a few times over the summer. And Mrs. Pollin, she's always the mother figure, always showing us love and extending herself whatever way we need. So, it was great seeing her as well."
"It was good Mr. Pollin had a chance to come down," Saunders said. "He talked to most of the guys individually. The biggest thing was appreciating their hard work. He was impressed with their camaraderie, their enthusiasm and how hard they played and the spirit of how they were playing."
And Sunday's scrimmages were especially spirited, as Saunders divided his players with Antawn Jamison, Randy Foye, Brendan Haywood, Dominic McGuire, Mike Miller, DeShawn Stevenson and Paul Davis forming the white team, with Arenas, Butler, Nick Young, Mike James, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Vincent Grier forming the black team.
Javaris Crittenton was in sweats and wearing a boot over his injured left foot, while Fabricio Oberto was limited again with a left hamstring injury that Saunders said will likely keep him out of the preseason opener on Tuesday against Memphis.
By the time reporters were allowed to watch, Saunders was working on last-second plays, but I heard from a few people that white team dominated the black team, with Jamison and Foye leading the charge. James and Arenas shared the backcourt at times. But when asked if he planned on using Arenas off the ball much this season, Saunders explained that he went with that pairing after Butler left momentarily after someone stepped on his foot. He didn't switch back when Butler returned.
After practice, Blatche was asked about playing with the pigskin on Saturday. He was teamed up with Stevenson on the passing routes. "I was Ocho Cinco and he was Randy Moss," Blatche said of their pass-catching ability. "At quarterback, I Vick in his prime. [Stevenson] can be, I can think of him..."
I suggested Randall Cunningham. "He can't be him," Blatche said, continuing to ponder. "He can be Vick's little brother. He was Marcus Vick."
Asked if he was willing to strap up the pads for the Redskins, Butler said, "I'm going to leave that to those guys, Santana Moss and those guys."
Butler said he could already see players building stronger relationships this week in Richmond, through practices, hypnosis, walking around the city and just hanging out. He also said that some members of the team participated in Karaoke night during the team dinner on Friday. Grier did a nice job singing and Young did a standup routine.
Here is one of Young's jokes, which he had a difficult time remembering on Sunday: "D.C. is crazy. The other day, I saw a crackhead trying to steal my steering wheel. I said, 'What you doing, man?' He said, 'I'm trying to turn my life around."
After that, I'd have to say that Young really has a future in ... basketball.
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