After having his arrival delayed by complications in acquiring a work visa, Vladimir Veremeenko attended the Washington Wizards‘ summer league minicamp at Verizon Center on Saturday.
Veremeenko, whom the Wizards drafted 48th overall in 2006 but had remained in Russia playing professionally the last two years to continue to develop his game, will join Washington in Las Vegas for the 2008 NBA Summer League. He hopes he can show enough in the Wizards’ five summer league games to persuade management to give him a spot on the team for the upcoming season.
Veremeenko, who speaks little English, missed Friday’s two practices and spent most of Saturday morning’s session playing catch-up. He didn’t feel like he showed his skills particularly well, but he is optimistic he will quickly improve.
“After long flight last night, not so easy practice,” the 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward said. “But tomorrow, good shape. I excited to be here.”
When he arrived at Verizon Center, Veremeenko saw a familiar face in Oleksiy Pecherov, the Wizards’ 2006 first-rounder from Ukraine.
“It helps having him,” Veremeenko said. “Someone who speaks Russian.”
While Veremeenko primarily played power forward in Russia, Pecherov said he also can play small forward.
“He’s a good player,” Pecherov said. “He’s a three/four. Good rebounder, can run and he can score, too.”
Veremeenko said he had hoped to take part in summer league action with the Wizards last year, but something came up. While he hopes to earn a spot on the team, he won’t make any bold predictions.
“I will see,” Veremeenko said. “I feel good. I see in games. I excited to play. Just work hard in practice and we see.”
Veremeenko traveled to the District with Kestutis Kemzura, his coach from Khimki. Kemzura also is an assistant on Lithuania’s national team, for which Wizards forward Darius Songaila plays. Kemzura is spending the summer league as an assistant coach with the Wizards in an exchange type of program.
He has familiarity with the Princeton-based offense the Wizards run because he formerly coached under Princeton product David Blatt, who is now the Russian national team coach and introduced Kemzura to the system.
“It’s really a joy to be here,” Kemzura said. “Just to learn and help in any way.”
Kemzura said Veremeenko’s strengths are his rebounding and ability to run the floor. He said he expects Veremeenko to do well in the NBA game of the increased spacing and increased one-on-one play. Veremeenko can use his quickness and athleticism to take advantage of slower big men, Kemzura said.
Notes - The Wizards finalized their summer league squad Saturday evening. Lithuania’s Vytas Danelius, George Mason’s Will Thomas and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Mike Peeples were cut from the squad. Washington will take to Las Vegas a team comprising Andray Blatche, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Pecherov, JaVale McGee, Dee Brown, Dontaye Draper, Frank Elegar, Gary Forbes, Taj McCullough, Veremeenko and Jonathan Wallace. The Wizards’ first game is Monday at 8 p.m. against Portland. …
The Wizards completed deals with coach Eddie Jordan’s assistants Mike O’Koren, Phil Hubbard and Wes Unseld Jr. on Friday. All three coaches’ contracts had expired June 30, but president Ernie Grunfeld said at the completion of the Wizards’ season in April that all three would return to the team. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed. Jordan has run the minicamp with the help of all of his assistants, but Unseld is expected to coach the summer league team in Las Vegas. …
Pecherov watched practice for a third straight day, still suffering from a sprained left ankle. He said he will miss the first two summer league games, but hopes to get some action in later in the week.