- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2014

Run through the car wash of cameras, live TV, reporter mobs and sideshow video, the Wizards players were pleased to be done with media day Monday.

Most escaped after extended interviews. Andre Miller used his veteran savvy to find a quick route out before being surrounded.

News, notes and quotes from those around:

> As expected, there was large demand for Paul Pierce. The veteran arrives in Washington as the expected starting small forward. Pierce can also play the four, which he did for the Brooklyn Nets last season, when the team goes small. Pierce said he’s in pursuit of another title.

“I looked at the team, I saw not only a great backcourt, I saw great depth,” Pierce said. “I saw a team that in a lot of people’s eyes should have been in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is a team I could provide some experience, some intangibles down the end of games, help them close out games. Some of the areas they struggled in, and a veteran leader in the lockerroom. Those are the elements that this team is missing and I felt like I’d be a perfect fit here.”

Asked if he would not have come here four years ago, Pierce said, “Of course.”

“Four years ago, nobody was talking about Washington. Now, they changed the culture here. They’ve got some new, young exciting players here.”

Pierce is entering his 17th season. He’s showed up early. He interrupted John Wall’s media day scrum, quickly ending it after yelling, “Last question! Last question!” and playfully extracting Wall for a final photoshoot.

Pierce has also been organizing pickup games and Bradley Beal has learned one thing from him.

“How to trash talk,” Beal said.

> Beal also said he thinks he and Wall are the best backcourt in the league. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson may have an argument against that. Regardless, it’s a debate, which shows where Beal and Wall are as they enter their third and fifth seasons, respectively. For his part, Wall is still not pleased with his recognition within the league.

“I still get overlooked,” Wall said. “It’s something I still have to prove. Anybody can say anything about me. I’m not going to talk bad about the media or nothing. It’s just my professionalism I have. But, I use it as motivation. Take those as notes to put in my phone. And, every day I step on court for practice or to work out before a game, I look at those and see where guys have me ranked.”

> Martell Webster (offseason back surgery) will be with the team to start training camp Tuesday. He can run and shoot, but is not cleared for contact. He’s worked on the floor a few times with Wall. Increasing his cardiovascular work is next. 

Webster had surgery in late June to repair a herniated disk. It was the third back surgery of his career.

“I don’t have a particular date (to return),” Webster said. “I just know that I’m ahead of schedule. I feel great. The training staff has been nothing short of amazing.”

The only upshot of the past back surgeries is they allow Webster to know what to expect.

“I didn’t see it as a challenge I couldn’t meet or exceed,” Webster said. “I know what it takes to get through these things. I definitely didn’t feel like this was something that was going to hold me back or was the end of my career. I knew I could fight through it. And I plan on this being the last back surgery.”

> There was lots of talk about depth. The Wizards feel like they have filled-in spots well with the signings of DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, and that the bench will improve this season. The Wizards were 29th in bench points (24.8) last season. The NBA champion San Antonio Spurs led the league with 44.3 points off the bench. The Spurs’ bench also led the league in defensive efficiency. The Wizards were 26th.

> Varying takes on LeBron James heading to Cleveland. One of his former Cleveland teammates, Drew Gooden, was stunned.

“I would not have guessed that in a million years,” Gooden said.

Marcin Gortat was not impressed or particularly interested.

“No reaction,” Gortat said. “I said, ‘This guy again.’ I was just trying to find a funny photo to post on Instagram. Like the guy trying to find the Cleveland jersey in the dumpster. I don’t care. Wherever he’s going to be, you’ve got to beat this guy anyway, at some point. It’s not like I’m hating on him or loving this guy, I just don’t care.”

> Beal said he worked in the offseason on adding some post-up to his offensive game. Otherwise, he worked on everything.

> Asked about who would replace Trevor Ariza’s one-on-one defense, Beal said no one. However, he went on to say the team can defend as a whole.

> Beal, Wall and Gortat said the Wizards will continue to run and try to exploit picks-and-rolls, pick-and-pops and whatever else they can get out of high ball screens.

Follow Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) on Twitter.

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