RICHMOND | Heading into Friday night’s intrasquad scrimmage, coach Eddie Jordan said the main thing he wanted the Washington Wizards to come away with on the last day of training camp was a healthy roster.
He knew he would be without Gilbert Arenas for at least the first month of the season, and center Brendan Haywood already had returned to the District after spraining his right wrist in Thursday’s practice. Haywood will be out for a week and then re-evaluated.
So the team couldn’t afford additional casualties. Otherwise, Jordan hoped to see crisp offensive execution, disciplined defense and the same competitive intensity that highlighted the week of camp.
Friday night also presented the younger members of the team an opportunity to prove themselves against the veterans one final time, and they did just that, beating their counterparts 77-66 at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center.
For the first two 10-minute quarters and one eight-minute quarter, the squads featured usual starters Antonio Daniels, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and backups Nick Young and Etan Thomas as the starting five of the black squad vs. starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson and backups Dee Brown, Darius Songaila, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire as the starters for the white squad.
The black team held a lead of 58-54 after three quarters, with Butler leading the way with 13 points and Jamison tallying 12. Blatche led the white team with 11, while Songaila and DerMarr Johnson posted 10 apiece.
And then, for the last five minutes and 30 seconds, Jordan had Stevenson and Songaila join their fellow veterans and switched the score so the veterans faced a 60-54 deficit.
The challenge was for the veterans to erase the deficit and for the “next guys,” as Jordan dubbed them this week, to hold the lead. Youth prevailed, as the “next guys” extended the margin behind eight points in the period from JaVale McGee and six from Young.
“We saw it all camp that the white team has played very well,” Jordan said. “They’ve done some very good things and we like that, we want our core to expand, and we’ve got three guys [in Young, McGuire and Blatche] that can fit right in there.”
McGuire posted eight points, six rebounds, five assists - and a block on Young that sent the ball roughly 15 rows into the crowd of 1,500. The second-year guard entered last summer aiming to improve his jump shot and ball-handling skills, and the work was evident.
“He had a great camp, he sort of put an exclamation point on it tonight, and I think it’s something he’s going to be consistent with,” Jordan said.
Said McGuire: “I just have to keep this momentum I’ve got going and carry it into the season. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the gym working. It’s all about preparation.”
McGee has much to learn about the NBA game, and needs to add some bulk to handle the battles in the paint, but he showed why Wizards management was so high on him coming out of the University of Nevada. McGee displayed athleticism and aggressiveness, knocking down a hook shot over Thomas on one trip down the court, hitting an outside jumper later on and then throwing down a tomahawk jam on a putback.
For the night (all four periods combined), Butler and Young finished as the high scorers with 16 points apiece. Blatche tallied 15 and Jamison, Oleksiy Pecherov and Johnson finished with 11 apiece. Songaila scored 10, and Thomas finished with nine points and five rebounds.