RICHMOND — The Wizards had some guests of honor today at practice as team owners Abe and Irene Pollin, along with their son, Jim, were in attendance. The 85-year-old Mr. Pollin spoke to each player individually and told them he was proud of them and encouraged them to keep up the good work.
“It’s always great seeing Mr. Pollin come out and get a chance to watch us and being able to interact with him,” Caron Butler said after speaking with the owners after practice. “Seeing Mrs. Pollin, I love seeing the Pollin family. They’re expecting a big year out of us. Obviously we are too. It’s going to be fun. He said just to keep up the good work. He hadn’t seen us in a while. I talked to him a few times over the summer. And Mrs. Pollin, she’s always the mother figure, always showing us love and extending herself whatever way we need. So, it was great seeing her as well.”
With Pollin on hand, Flip Saunders said he didn’t need to use any special tool to motivate his players to work hard.
“No special thing today, just Mr. P. That was the teaching tool today. It was good Mr. Pollin was able to come down. Guys like seeing him and he liked coming down to see the guys. Then we did a few drills and we did a lot of scrimmaging at the end.”
Pollin also told his players that he was impressed with the camraderie they displayed and the intensity with which they competed in the scrimmage.
* Fabricio Oberto sat out much of today’s practice as he continues to let his tweaked hamstring heal.Saunders said he did some things today, but felt it a little tight, so they pulled him out. He said in reference to using Oberto for Tuesday’s preseason game against Memphis, he said, “More than likely, at this point, I’d say probably not.”
* All the way leading up to camp we’ve heard of Saunders’ eight-man rotation, and in my story today, I wrote about the Wizards’ depth, heavy minute tolls on Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler last season and how the Wizards are making it tough for him to settle upon that eight- to nine-man rotation. After practice today, Saunders gave himself some wiggle room saying that just because he has that eight-man rotation doesn’t mean other Wizards won’t see playing time.
“You have a core of eight or nine guys, but over a game, nine and 10 are going to play,” Saunders said. “They’re just going to be more spot-type of guys that play 10 minuets. Not playing major, major minutes. So I told our guys I don’t want our guys to think only eight guys are playing. The more guys that are capable of playing, when they go on the floor, if they play well, then they’ll stay on the floor. So, we’re pretty open along those lines.”
Who will those 10 be? Nothing official yet, but my obviously Arenas, Jamison, Butler, Haywood, and also Mike Miller, Randy Foye. You have to think with continued strong camps that both Andray Blatche and Nick Young are close behind, as well as Dominic McGuire. That’s nine, and that leaves Mike James, who continues to see a lot of time at backup point guard, DeShawn Stevenson, Oberto and JaVale McGee, who was watching a good chunk of the scrimmage today, and is expected to see limited playing time. We should have a better idea after Tuesday…
* The latest team-building activity for the Wizards was a talent show/kareoke night, which took place last night. Caron Butler said that the standouts were Nick Young with a comedy routine, Vincent Grier, who sang some songs, and some of the other first-timers, including assistant coach Sam Cassell.
Butler himself didn’t get onstage, however. “Naw, man. I’m a vet!” he said with mock indignation and then a laugh. “I was the judge.”
And as judge, Butler awarded equipment manager Jerry Walter, who did an acapella rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing that was so good that he had the crowd clapping and singing along.
And what did Nick Young’s comedy routine consist of? Young on his way out of the locker room started telling his joke, but messed up, so Butler retold it for him.
“There a lot of crackheads in D.C.,” Young said, “So, I saw a crackhead trying to steal my steering wheel and he said— Aw, I messed up, I forgot my own joke.”
So Butler took over: “He said, ‘I saw a crackhead stealing my steering wheel, and I said what are you doing, and he said, I’m just trying to turn my life around.”
Haha, yeah stick to basketball, Nick, although it does sound like he was a better commedian than receiver from yesterday’s practice warmup football drills.
* Butler at one point during interviews this afternoon was asked if he felt like he and Antawn Jamison, and especially Jamison who played 81 games last season, get overlooked or under appreciated by the fans. He had this to say:
“That’s just what happens some times. I think because you have a flashy [player], I mean Gilbert has scored 60. I mean that just takes it to a whole nother level. You score 60, he’s controversial at times, really flashy, does things outside the norm, so he gets a lot of the attention. But some of the guys that go under the radar, just get it done night in and night out, not always in the limelight, but just get it done and are true professionals on and off the court, sometimes those guys go overlooked. Antawn and myself being those type of guys, sometimes what we do gets overlooked. People don’t miss guys like us until we’re gone.”
* Lastly, NBA TV will be at camp tomorrow and will record the Wizards’ practice, which will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The footage will air live on NBA.com, and will also be broadcast on NBA TV, but it’s not yet known if the TV broadcast will be live, or aired later in the day.
- Mike Jones