- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis opened media day as expected Thursday, with an unfailingly positive attitude about the team and a forward-thinking attitude and approach to the upcoming season.

“I was watching a documentary the other day about the founder of the Ferrari race car company,” Leonsis said. “He was the first race car owner and driver to get rid of the rearview mirror on the car, and when they asked him why he said, ‘I don’t want anyone looking back. I want my drivers only looking forward.’ And I think that’s an appropriate way to kick off the season.”

After three consecutive losing seasons and a lockout that threatened to cancel this season, the last thing Leonsis wants is to dwell on the past, and he was candid about what he expects to see from the Wizards this year.

“I want to see upside. I want to see improvement. I want to see chemistry being developed. And I want to see how the young kids play,” Leonsis said.

This season will be the first full year under Leonsis’ ownership, and the team is beginning to take on his signature style. The Wizards began with a rebranding campaign, complete with a return to its red, white and blue color scheme, along with new uniforms and an updated court.

The team drafted three players - Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack - as it builds for the future. As for the shortened season, Leonsis believes it just might help a team that’s one of the youngest in the league.

“The only way we’re going to know whether we drafted and we developed well is if they [the rookies] get the minutes, and so I’m more concerned with process right now than output, although we’re here to win,” Leonsis said.

With a compressed 66-game schedule, the Wizards may carry 15 players on the roster this season, since depth, along with extra bodies, will come in handy on stretches of two or three consecutive games.

“Teams with depth are going to be well-positioned,” Leonsis said. “I’m hopeful that teams with young legs can fight through these back-to-backs.”

Leonsis addressed the Wizards’ players and later said he thanked them for coming into camp in shape and ready to play.

“They’re not using camp to get in shape, they’re using camp to learn each other and learn the new system,” Leonsis said.

The Wizards are adding a few new defensive sets this season to take advantage of their size and athleticism. But the player Leonsis remains the most excited about is his first and most important building block, second-year point guard John Wall.

“I love John Wall,” Leonsis said. “I’m very grateful for his athletic gifts, but he’s really a very, very high-quality individual. He understands that it’s his team. Culturally, you want your best player and the player you’re relying on to be your most coachable player and your hardest-working player. I think we have that in John.”

Wall appears to return the sentiment. Told of Leonsis’ statements, Wall responded, “I love Ted, too.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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