Day 7, Final Rundown & Miller's Shoes
The Wizards concluded their final practice of training camp and have placed their focus squarely on facing the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. The NBATV crew was here filming the entire practice, which was similar to previous ones, with the exception that Flip Saunders used Mike Miller and DeShawn Stevenson much more with starters Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood.
Saunders said he still hasn't made a decision his starting shooting guard and likely won't make an announcement until Tuesday. Asked how he will pick a starter, Saunders said, "Maybe rock, paper, scissors."
But he added that his choice as the starter against Memphis "is not going to have a bearing on who is going to be a starter on opening night." He hinted that his decision could be based largely on what Memphis decides to do with Allen Iverson. Saunders would like to have Stevenson matched up with Iverson, whether the former league's most valuable player starts or comes off the bench.
Fabricio Oberto was able to participate in the entire practice after sitting most of the past two with a tightened left hamstring. Saunders said he would decide on playing or resting Oberto based on how Oberto feels on Tuesday. He also said that he doesn't plan on using every player against Memphis and would give one or two players some rest each preseason game.
Randy Foye will probably start out as Arenas's primary backup at point guard, since he has spent all of his time during training camp in that role. "He's played really well," Saunders said. "He's picking things up, becoming more of a vocal leader on the floor. He's big. He's strong. He has the ability to get to the basket when he wants. I think he's been very consistent through camp and we expected that. We expected him to be a guy where there isn't a lot of dropoff. We've played him pretty much exclusively at the one and as we get him in the preseason, we'll use him some at the two, so that he has the ability to play with Gil at times."
Saunders said the performance of the players in camp has provided a challenge in selecting his regular rotation. "They have made it very difficult for me," Saunders said. "I'd feel comfortable playing any of those guys out there. You see what's happened, these guys have worked out all summer and it's paid off, they have a good camp."
The Wizards and Grizzlies will both get their first encounter with replacement referees. When Saunders was informed that two preseason games have already featured 56 fouls called, he joked, "If that's the case, if somebody has an early flight, they might miss it. When you get into it, players will adjust and referees with adjust, too. The guys that [the NBA is] using, the replacement refs, they are trying to figure it out, too. I say that now and I might be screaming at them tomorrow."
Saunders' goal tomorrow: "Keep guys healthy and make sure you're not in a situation where anyone gets hurt."
Miller said he's looking forward to finally facing someone who doesn't have "Wizards" across his chest. "Anytime you go through a week like we went through, going against each other and banging against each other and competing with each other, it's good to get some new blood in here. It's going to be fun. It's going to be one step closer to the regular season, which we're all excited for."
But before he steps on the court, Miller may have to get a new pair of shoes. Unaware of the Wizards' rivalry with Cleveland, Miller has been wearing LeBron James's signature sneakers during training camp. You already know that's trouble.
Miller has been wearing Adidas since he was a sophomore in high school but switched to Nike after signing a contract with them this summer. He's been urged by Deshawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to wear any pair but the ones donned by the could-be King.
"We already talked about that," said Stevenson, a noted James agitator. "He got to get 'em out of here. We already had a discussion. He said he going to try some new shoes. Me, Caron, Antawn told him about how we feel about them. LeBron shoes -- we off that. We already got war against them. He can't wear that. It's all beef right there."
Miller joked that he has not been able to avoid getting ribbed in the locker room for his footwear. "They've been on me for it," Miller said. "When you're unathletic and white like me, you got to have the lightest shoe out there. They feel good on my feet. It's no disrespect. I didn't know you guys hated each other like that. I've been on Front Street in the locker room. I told them 'No disrespect.' "
Butler is also signed with Nike. Would he wear a pair of Carons? "That's what I might go to," Miller said with a laugh. "If they're light enough and they fit my feet right, I'll do it. I'll go out there in Chuck Taylors if they don't hurt my feet."
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