- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

As players continue to trickle into Verizon Center before the start of Friday’s training camp, Rashard Lewis and Jordan Crawford took to the Washington Wizards‘ new practice court for the first time.

When the NBA lockout ended, it was Lewis who faced an uncertain future, and Crawford an uncertain role.

The supremely confident Crawford, who has compared himself to Michael Jordan, didn’t know if he’d be the starting two guard behind Nick Young, or if he’d be slated to come off the bench. He still doesn’t. But he knows what he’d like to do.

“I’m going to compete for the starting spot. Believe that,” Crawford said after Wednesday’s workout.

Not that Crawford doesn’t want Young back; just the opposite.

“I hope Nick comes back because we need him,” Crawford said. “But I’m going to approach training camp the same way I do in a game - attack. That’s how I am, that’s how it’s going to be.”

Crawford and John Wall have an undeniable chemistry in the Wizards‘ backcourt; it was evident after just a few games at the end of last season. But the two of them took different paths during the lockout, with Wall playing in as many summer league games as he could and Crawford avoiding the spotlight.

“I just laid low, worked on my defense and on getting stronger so I won’t have little injuries like I did last year,” Crawford said. “I’ve been really preparing myself this summer, stretching, preventing injuries. It’s going to be tough [the shortened season]. Were just going to have to grind it out.”

That 66-game grind may be a little easier on Crawford, 23, than Lewis, 32 and coming off a knee injury that bothered him last season.

“You can tell that he’s healthy, that he really wants to play,” Crawford said of Lewis. “He wants to come back and not just be here, but contribute. I’ve seen Rashard play since I was little. I know what he’s capable of.”

Lewis, whose salary is in the $20 million-per-season range, has been the talk of the league as an amnesty candidate. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which is expected to be ratified within days, a team can use the amnesty clause to release a player and wipe his salary from the cap and the luxury tax.

Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld put those rumors to rest by stating at a news conference last week that the team has no plans to amnesty Lewis.

“My main focus was, if it did happen [being amnestied], hopefully I would get picked up,” Lewis said. “I have to be ready to play, regardless of where I was playing. But they told me I would be here as a Washington Wizard, and my main focus is to get this team in the playoffs, and I think we have the young talent to do it.”

Lewis was a rookie during the 1998-99 season, the last time a lockout led to a shortened season. Knowing what to expect is something he can share with his young teammates.

“One thing I remember about the last lockout is a lot of games in a short period of time, not very much practice time,” Lewis said. “So I think this year will be more mental, that the young guys as well as myself are going to have to listen more than anything because there’s not going to be a lot of practice time.

“We’ve got to save our legs for the game. The main goal is to get into the playoffs, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

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