Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: MrMichaelLee and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS

Wizards wrap up midnight madness

The first practice of a new era for the Washington Wizards concluded early this morning at George Mason University's Patriot Center with Gilbert Arenas shooting foul shots on his own, JaVale McGee and Al Thornton sticking around to sign autographs and new majority owner Ted Leonsis ready to push forward with remaking the team on the court and from a marketing perspective.

"I think it's exactly what the team needed, just kind of a jolt of adrenaline," Leonsis said toward the end of practice, which began promptly at 12:01 am, marking the first midnight madness in NBA history. "This is where our fan base is, Northern Virginia, just like where the Caps were, so we want to market here. We want to make this home."

The doors to the arena opened at 10:45 p.m., and soon after approximately 3,500 patrons filled the seats to be part of the festivities that included a welcome from George Mason men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga.

Despite damp conditions that canceled an outdoor pep rally originally scheduled for 10 p.m., a combination of George Mason students and Wizards fans waited patiently for approximately an hour before they were allowed into the arena. Once inside, they were welcomed by the Patriots dance team as nationally renown DJ Big Tigger from WPGC 95.5 in the District played music through a sound system just off the court.

Arriving about a half hour later was Leonsis, who said he attended an NBA meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. earlier in the day. When a reporter mentioned that it must be a tiring day for him, Leonsis responded with: "I have energy now."

During the hour-long practice, GM Ernie Grunfeld sat on the bench with Wizards Coach Flip Saunders and Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, who is close friends with Saunders. When Izzo guided the Spartans to the Final Four in 2009, Saunders came up with several plays for Izzo before Michigan State played North Carolina in the national championship game, which the Tar Heels won, 89-72.

The idea for a midnight madness start to training camp was the brainchild of Saunders, who met with the team at 6:30 tonight to prepare for the first practice of the season. Washington in years past had conducted training camp in Richmond, but with a new ownership came a change in venue much more suited for the collegiate atmosphere associated with midnight madness.

"It's a great crowd," Saunders said. "I was surprised how many people we had, so I thought it went well. It was a good one hour."

While the practice was ragged for long stretches, among the highlights of the practice were several dunks by McGee, an opening finger-roll basket from Arenas and an array of drives and passes from John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA draft. Wall also is at the heart of a marketing campaign by the Wizards to generate new fan interest for the team, which suffered through a series of travails last season that included a 50-game suspension of Arenas for bringing guns in to the locker room at Verizon Center.

"It was fun, the first time getting our jitters out," Wall said. "We're all anxious to be out here for training camp, so we had a great time."

The Wizards get to work in earnest later today for a practice beginning at 2 p.m. and will work out at George Mason through Sunday. Washington's first preseason game is Oct. 5 at Dallas. The club will play seven preseason games in all, including a pair at Verizon Center on Oct. 12 against Atlanta and the 14th against Milwaukee.

By Gene Wang  | September 28, 2010; 1:50 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The subdued Gilbert Arenas: "I just want to play"
Next: Midnight Tip-Off more marketing savvy, than madness

Comments

I watched like the first 15-20min but then I had to dip. I thought Gil looked really really good though. The only thing I didnt really like was that when the scrimmage started, I could tell that Flip was running his normal Offense and I still dont know if that will really work with our team. I thought he was going to play more of that 2 guard offense that he ran at the end of last season but I think he may have changed his mind when we won the lottery. Hopefully it works out. Again though, Gil looked good and you could tell he feels really confident

Posted by: dlts2041 | September 28, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmmm. "This is where our fan base is, Northern Virginia, just like where the Caps were." Uh, that's interesting. and maybe a little dangerous. Sounds like he's saying the Caps and Wizards have the same demographics. Next they'll be playing country music at Wizards games.

Posted by: swinging4thefence | September 28, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse

oh, and it seemed like more than 1,000 people at Pat Center tonight. Not sure where Michael got his numbers, but it seemed more like 2,000.

Posted by: swinging4thefence | September 28, 2010 2:21 AM | Report abuse

"...which suffered through a series of travails last season that included a 50-game suspension of Arenas for bringing guns in to the locker room at Verizon Center."


Come on Gene Wang! How many times are we gonna read this again? Is it that difficult to make an article?

I'm tired of reading of how last season was a disaster because of the suspension of Arenas. New season has started, you should have plenty of new stuff to write about.... get over it!

Posted by: Goelez | September 28, 2010 3:03 AM | Report abuse

Not only did Gil look great, it was also nice to see him giving pointers to the younger players during timeouts... Good sign

Posted by: pk24 | September 28, 2010 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Did Ted forget he own the Verizon Center?

3,500 that's probley how many people will be attending regular season.

The Wiz have no chance in h*#@ of winning this season!

Posted by: shamken | September 28, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Hmmmmm. "This is where our fan base is, Northern Virginia, just like where the Caps were." Uh, that's interesting. and maybe a little dangerous. Sounds like he's saying the Caps and Wizards have the same demographics. Next they'll be playing country music at Wizards games.

Posted by: swinging4thefence | September 28, 2010 2:14 AM | Report abuse


Your statement has no foundation my friend. The fan base for all 3 major professional teams are in nVA. However, DC is the city that gets the teams for obvious reasons. This is just how it is. No different then in many other sport markets. You have fans in DC/MD. However, if you took nVA out of the equation, there is no way those to areas could float one professional team let alone 3. Many think because the name carries a Washington title that those outside of that district are mere borrowers to the fan base. However, in reality, it is DC (jurisdiction) that should be thankful for the surrounding areas to even have any teams to ruit for. Just a fact my friend. And country music, come on man. Country music is not defined to any region across the globe from NY to LA. Amazing how many that live in the city think that anything outside of it is lost ages. Most that think that way are those that don't get out much to see how it really is outside of their corner markets.

Posted by: hoganincharge | September 28, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

The fan base is Northern Virginia? Oh well, I guess I'll get ready for work. It's a long drive through the corn fields of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

Posted by: randysbailin | September 28, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Don't think the fan base from NOVA can appreciate go-go.

-Wizard fan from PG, living in DC.

Posted by: funkydancinmonk | September 28, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

'Next they'll be playing country music at Wizards games.

Posted by: swinging4thefence | September 28, 2010 2:14 AM'

Not sure if you're joking, but in fact they ARE going to play some country music at the games this season. Ted mentioned it previously

Posted by: divi3 | September 28, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

If you include Baltimore and Baltimore County, add that to Montgomery and PG counties and D.C., there are well over 5 million people within easy driving distance of the Verizon Center who DON'T LIVE IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA. Take these jurisdictions out of the equation and the NoVa fan base starts to resemble Oklahoma City.

Posted by: randysbailin | September 28, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Shortsighted comment by Ted. For the Wizards to be a viable franchise, he needs a foundation in DC and Maryland, if he doesn't already have one.

Posted by: ttassa | September 28, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I am so excited for Gil to be back. I think he has reconciled the incident and just wants to go about his love of basketball. Perhaps it is the inner happiness that will sustain him now. And now we as fans must welcome him back and move on to the love of Washington basketball. Everyone makes mistakes, but the real point to it all is that society allows a second chance and redemption! Go Gil and enjoy this year! We love you!

Posted by: alr47 | September 28, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"...which suffered through a series of travails last season that included a 50-game suspension of Arenas for bringing guns in to the locker room at Verizon Center."


Come on Gene Wang! How many times are we gonna read this again? Is it that difficult to make an article?

I'm tired of reading of how last season was a disaster because of the suspension of Arenas. New season has started, you should have plenty of new stuff to write about.... get over it!

Posted by: Goelez | September 28, 2010 3:03 AM | Report abuse

Perfect, Goelez. How or why anyone should wonder why Gilbert would want to distance himself from the media defies logic.

Posted by: Fief1 | September 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"This is where our fan base is, Northern Virginia, just like where the Caps were, so we want to market here."

Ted needs to watch out, why would he say something that turns off 2/3s of his fan base. And I don't believe the major of fans and ticket buying fans live in Northern VA.

Posted by: 33dgriffin | September 28, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Why is Ted being so transparent with this NoVa thing? He is basically saying, "We need more white fans with money. Therefore, we need NoVa."

Ted keeps saying he wants to market to families and create a more familial atmosphere. Does he think families don't exist in DC and PG Co.?

IMO, Ted needs to start checking himself here. Market to NoVA all you want, but be very careful what words come out of your mouth.

Posted by: WhoSays | September 28, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Mr. Leonsis meant NoVA was the only fan base but that it was apart of the fan base.

Furhter, I'm not even sure he was talking about NoVA anyway. I took it as he meant student's. Meaning getting the younger generation of students at George Mason and other colleges involved.

I'm sure he didn't mean his fan base was not in DC, PG, or MC...c'mon guys...

Posted by: kevenjones | September 28, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I said it all along,

Gilbert is the man!

Not only will he school the youngsters; he will make those around him better and help keep undue pressure off of Wall.

If they try to clamp down on John Wall, Gilbert will explode on them for big points.

Everyone whom said to trade Gil;

I only have one question for you all.

"How do you like your CROW? Well done or medium rare"?

I Love Ya'll, Chef John

Posted by: upscalechef | September 28, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure he didn't mean his fan base was not in DC, PG, or MC...c'mon guys...

-------------

agreed. Ted knows marketing and is probably already aware of how people are interpreting the comment, so I wouldn't be surprised if he clarifies himself.

Posted by: doogiex | September 28, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Why is Michael Lee's photo on something written by Gene Wang?

Posted by: nativedc | September 28, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

i'd also like to see a retraction or clarification from leonsis regarding the comment about northern virginia. as he is quoted in this post, it is quite offensive to longtime wizards fans from dc and maryland. and it does seem to have some pretty clear racial undertones.

until now i've really liked everything he has done for the franchise. this one quote though has me questioning some of his motivations and that's unfortunate.

Posted by: acslater | September 28, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company