If Flip Saunders was hoping to hide his preference on who the Wizards should draft with the number one pick, he probably could have done better. Sure, he answered every question asked by mentioning Wall in the same breath as Evan Turner, unless the question was specifically about Wall. But as Gene Wang of the Post noted, he absolutely gushed over Wall and even dropped a "we" in there when referring to Wall's character.
Saunders declined to officially say which player he preferred, but he did say he had a preference. I think it's pretty clear his preference is Wall, considering Saunders is the same guy that once said pure point guards are "sent from heaven." Saunders also dismissed suggestions that Gilbert Arenas would have trouble playing with either Wall or Evan Turner, but really, from being there, it felt like he was talking about Wall, with Turner as an afterthought. That's okay. That's what I'd say too.
Speaking personally, yesterday was the happiest I've seen Saunders all season. Sure, he was happy in his preseason press conference, but that seemed more manufactured, like he was trying to sell hope. He didn't have to do that today. Normally, when Saunders is in a good mood, he's talkative, but he usually isn't smiling wide unless he's making a joke. Today, though, he had a big smile on his face as he sat down to take questions, and the way he said "go ahead," as he always does at the beginning of every press conference, was with more enthusiasm than I've heard all season. Honestly, good for him. He had a really trying year, and you could tell that based on his facial expressions after losses. The basketball gods have rewarded you, Flip.
Make the jump for key Saunders quotes.
Saunders on his good luck:
"Two days prior to the draft, Ernie [Grunfeld], myself, Milt [Newton] and Tommy [Sheppard] were in Tommy's office. They had the ESPN [lottery machine]. [We said], 'Guys, we're going to go five picks five times. Whichever one is the best one out of five, that's what we're going with.' It came up with John Wall the first time, as far as getting the number one pick, and I said 'We're not doing any more.' We're not going to take a chance as far as four more."
Saunders on John Wall:
"He's one of the few point guards that has come out of college that is a point guard. A lot of times, when players come out of college, they're in a motion-type offense, where they get rid of the ball and kind of just play. They don't run a lot of pick and rolls, they don't make a lot of decisions. He's been a guy that's had as much enjoyment giving assists to teammates as scoring. He's a pass-first type of point guard that can make other people better. A lot of times, you get players at our level that have to be turned from scoring two guards into point guards, and that mentality sometimes is tough. The great ones, you don't have those problems. He's one of those guys that, you have to teach him, but he's not going to have to learn a totally different position."
Saunders on Wall's character:
"There was an article in the paper that talked about how he wears his jeans up at his waist and not down low like a lot of guys because he feels he has an image kids are looking up to. He doesn't have any tattoos, cut his braids off when he was 14 years old and never thought about growing them back. He talks a lot about image and the responsibility he feels he has to young players that look up to him." So I think we have a player that understands those type of things and looks that way.There's no question he's going to have a great impact with whatever team or whatever city he's in because of that."
Saunders on how this affects his plans to go to a two-PG offense
"I don't think it would change [my plans]. I think it would probably facilitate the idea for those guys to have success. Teams are going to have difficulty defending them. Both of the players you're talking about, whether it's Turner or Wall, both have great size - one's 6'7'' and one's 6'4'' - so they both have the size and athleticism to either defend 1s or defend 2s."
Saunders on whether they would ever trade the pick (or any draft pick)
"No. Going into the draft, that's not something that we never even entertained, no matter [which pick] we were at. This is a very deep draft because of the uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement. There's been so many underclassmen that have come out. I think there's going to be players that would go in the middle of the second round in a normal year that might not be drafted because of the number of players coming out."
Saunders on the possibility of acquiring another draft pick
"We're going to be very active. Ted and I, we've all talked about how we want to build this team not just for now, but for the future, for the long term. We have a good foundation with good young players, and to bring other young players with that would be beneficial at this point, while mixing in a couple veterans."
Saunders on Gilbert Arenas' playing condition
"Gil's put on a few pounds, but anyone's going to. We've seen Gil, and he's put on a little weight, but nothing where you'd automatically walk in and say 'Whoa!' For him, it's been a whirlwind ... so we haven't talked too much about basketball at this point."