RICHMOND -- Practice was pretty much over, and players were on their own. Some were getting extra shots in, while others were lounging on the sidelines. One guy, however, was with Assistant Coach for Player Development Gene Banks, practicing different post moves going in either direction.
You probably wouldn't have guessed that one guy was Andray Blatche. Criticized in the past for his lack of dedication, Blatche has made a habit of making bold proclamations about his dedication to the game that he hasn't been able to back up. But Blatche indeed was the one getting in extra work, something he says he's been doing all summer.
"I'm not going to lie to you guys, I wasn't taking it as seriously as I should have been," Blatche says. "Unlike what I did this summer. This summer, I took a very serious approach."
Blatche and Nick Young are two Wizards who were criticized last year for their approach to the game. Both had chances to nail down a ton of minutes with all the injuries, but neither really took advantage of their opportunity in the eyes of the coaching staff. Both have vowed to be more serious this year, and thus far, their play is speaking volumes.
"They all played extremely well," coach Flip Saunders says, referring to Blatche, Young and Dominic McGuire. Later, Saunders adds, "Those guys are coming in with the right attitude."
In yesterday's scrimmage, Young was the star, scoring off catch-and-shoot opportunities and in transition. Saunders singled him out as someone who stood out during the scrimmage, and Blatche went so far as to say his pal may be the frontrunner for the starting shooting guard spot.
"Right now, I would think he's got it based on yesterday, as long as he keeps pushing," Blatche says.
Young says Saunders' offense is simpler for him than Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense, which put the ball in Young's hands more to create off pick and rolls. Saunders has been uploading clips of Reggie Miller and Richard Hamilton onto Young's iTouch, and Young has been a quick study.
"It's mainly more coming off screens for me, less having the ball in my hands for pick and rolls," Young says. "I know Gilbert [Arenas] is going to have the ball in his hands, so I got to be a spot-up shooter and do anything to stay on the court."
Young says he wasn't negatively affected by the draft-day trade for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, two guys who play his position (at least it didn't seem like it, his first two words were "no, definitely."). He says he's happy to play with talented players, but confident he will still fill a niche on this team.
"I know I got confidence in myself, playing with great players like that," Young says. "I watched Mike [Miller] with T-Mac in Orlando, that was my favorite team, so I was happy about playing with him. Foye is a great young player; [he can play] the 1 or the 2. But my minutes will still be there."
Blatche also made headlines in the scrimmage when he delivered a hard foul on Antawn Jamison early in the first game to prevent Jamison from scoring an easy layup ("I'm not trying to hurt him, but no layups," Blatche says).
The hard foul might be one more example of Blatche's supposed changed approach to the game, to go along with his jersey switch from 32 to 7 ("Work seven days a week").
"I'm in the gym seven days a week. If I'm not in the gym, I'm lifting weights, I'm doing something to help my game out," Blatche says. "If it's running for conditioning, if it's coming coming in late at night and shooting 500 shots, I'm always doing something to get my game going."
Like Young, Blatche often had trouble remembering Eddie Jordan's offense, but Blatche echoed Young's thoughts about Flip Saunders' system, even though Saunders notoriously has a large playbook.
"It's more natural, it's just simple," Blatche says. "I'm going to be in one of two positions: on the block or on the top of the key. If I'm at the top, I'm setting screens, so it's pretty simple for me."
"I'm not going to go out this year and try to have a breakout year and try to score 20," Blatche says. 'I'm just going to go out there and play and make sure we get that W."
So, so far so good for the "new" Andray Blatche and Nick Young. But the day couldn't pass without one reference to the Blatche and Young of the past. When asked about the benefits of the new iTouches, which include the Wizards' schedule all the way up until next June, Dominic McGuire says one benefit for him will be that he won't have to rely on Young and Blatche to know when he's supposed to be on the team bus.
"Usually, I'd always call Nick or Andray, even though they're not that reliable when it comes to [schedules]," McGuire says. "Every time [I have to figure out] when we gotta get on the bus, now I just reach over, touch [my iTouch], and I'm like 'Oh, we got to get on the bus at 9:15? Ok.' I don't have to depend on false information anymore."