- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

RICHMOND | When the Washington Wizards entered the offseason, coach Eddie Jordan, president Ernie Grunfeld, and captains Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler all stressed how important the approaching summer would be for the development of Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire.

Apparently, the young players were listening. On the eve of training camp, Jamison noted improvement by all three but pointed out that Blatche and Young still have more maturing to do. He left McGuire off that list.

“Dom, you can tell he gets it, just in his preparation and his approach,” Jamison said Friday.

Two days into camp, McGuire, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound small forward from Fresno State, continues to impress coaches and teammates. Hoping to find a reliable backup to Butler, the Wizards signed three other free agent small forwards, but so far McGuire is making a strong case the Wizards can count on him.

“He’s almost a different player,” Jordan said after Sunday morning’s practice. “He is a guy that understands what we’re doing. He understands his role, and he’s playing at a very, very high level. You can see the seriousness.”

Jordan later added: “He has to understand the league a little bit better. He has to understand some players in this league to be a much better defender. But just his activity — his offensive rebounding, his defensive rebounding, his running the floor, his effort, getting into people, getting over screens. It just means a lot right now.”

McGuire displayed great hustle last season while averaging 10 minutes in 70 games. His athleticism helped him as a rebounder, but his offensive skills were lacking — he averaged just 1.3 points.

McGuire was aware of his limitations and tried to address them this summer.

“I’ve just put in a lot of hard work,” he said. “Going in the gym two times a day this summer, being focused and just trying to work on everything they told me at the end of the season meeting. Mainly my midrange [jump shot] and being professional, so that’s coming in twice a day and working really hard. … As a rookie you really don’t know what to expect. You think it’s all about basketball, but it’s more about preparation.”

McGuire said observing how Jamison carries and prepares himself, guarding Butler every day and learning life lessons from the All-Star and mentoring from director of player development Ed Tapscott showed him how to take the next career step.

And now he has extra motivation for wanting to improve. He became a father with the arrival of Dominic Jr. on Aug. 11.

“Now I’ve got mouths to feed,” he said with a laugh. “Now I’ve got my son. That’s a big reason, too. But just being a professional too [is another reason]. I don’t want to be in this league just a few years, so you’ve gotta keep it going.”

Notes — Jordan has given Gilbert Arenas — already known as Agent Zero and the Hibachi — another nickname: “Coach Arenas.” For a second straight day, the rehabbing All-Star rounded up his teammates and got them into the gym two hours early to make 300 shots before practice started. He also ran his younger teammates through offensive drills. …

The Wizards were scheduled to practice 10:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Sunday, but after taking note of his players’ self-imposed early start and their hard work in the actual drills, Jordan called it a day at 12:45 p.m.

“Once we see that we’ve got the quality of work in at a high level and I see it diminishing a little bit, I’d rather stop it,” Jordan said. “They’re going to want to enjoy the quality of it instead of the quantity, and the goal is to see if we can go longer the next time.” …

Jamison was again hampered by a strained hip flexor suffered in Saturday morning’s practice and didn’t take part in any drills Sunday morning. The 11th-year veteran did get some shooting in but will continue to take it slowly to avoid further injury.

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