Wizards eye summer growth

The Washington Wizards begin preparations Friday for the 2008 NBA Summer League, which runs from Monday to July 20 in Las Vegas, by holding a three-day minicamp that features the team’s youngest veterans, rookies and a collection of young prospects hoping to earn a spot.

Wizards officials have described this summer as a critical time in the development of forward/center Andray Blatche, guard Nick Young and forwards Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov, and the summer league action will afford them an opportunity for more growth.

“Summer league is always an important time for young players,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “We’ll have four of our younger guys there, and we want to see good effort and maturing on their part and leadership.”

Blatche is competing in Las Vegas although he will enter his fourth NBA season. He averaged a career-high 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds while serving primarily as the Wizards’ backup center during the regular season.

Young, entering his second season as a pro, averaged 7.5 points as a rookie after averaging 14.8 in five summer league games.

McGuire, used sparingly as a rookie during the NBA season (1.3 points, 2.0 rebounds) averaged 12.0 points and 6.2 rebounds last summer in Las Vegas.

Pecherov, meanwhile, averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in the summer league, but an injury slowed him early in his rookie season and he finished it averaging 3.6 points and 1.9 rebounds.

Rookie center JaVale McGee (drafted 18th overall last month) and forward Vladimir Veremeenko, whom the Wizards drafted in the second round in 2006 but until now has continued to play professionally in Russia, will join Blatche, Young, McGuire and Pecherov on the team.

Another eight prospects, including Jonathan Wallace from Georgetown and Will Thomas from George Mason, also will attend the minicamp in hopes of impressing Wizards brass enough to earn an invitation to join the team in Las Vegas.

The players will fly to Las Vegas on Sunday night and play their first summer league game Monday against Portland.

Also expected to take part in the minicamp action is veteran center Etan Thomas, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve last fall. Thomas received clearance to resume noncontact training in January, but his sternum didn’t fully heal in time for him to resume contact drills and return to live action. Now fully cleared, he will scrimmage with the summer league squad.

Meanwhile, the Wizards announced Thursday they have signed Utah free agent point guard Dee Brown to an offer sheet. The Wizards signed Brown on Wednesday night after losing free agent backup guard Roger Mason Jr. to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Wizards had hoped to re-sign Mason, but didn’t have the luxury tax wiggle room to match or top the Spurs’ two-year, $7.3 million offer. The team instead extended an offer to Brown, who management considers a low-risk addition with upside.

Only a small portion of the deal is guaranteed. Because Brown is a restricted free agent, Utah has seven days to match the deal. It’s unlikely the Jazz will do so considering Brown played for Galatasaray Cafe Crown in Turkey last season, where he averaged 12.3 points.

A second-round pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, Brown averaged just 1.9 points and 1.7 assists in 49 games as a rookie for the Jazz. He would give the Wizards a third point guard behind Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels.

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