Wizards training camp: Randy Wittman sings Jordan Crawford's praises

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Some notes from Tuesday's Wizards training camp practice, including Randy Wittman talking up Jordan Crawford.

FAIRFAX -- Here are some notes from yesterday's Washington Wizards training camp morning session besides the two pieces I already wrote.

Jordan Crawford gets praised

With John Wall out for eight weeks, Jordan Crawford becomes an even more pivotal player for this team going forward. He will receive more minutes at both guard positions, and he'll have to adjust his game to make it more team-friendly. His confidence is fine, but he also can't hoist as many errant shots as he did in the past if he wants to stick in this league.

That's why it was significant that Wittman was effusive in his praise for Crawford's approach thus far.

"I'll say this about Jordan: these were the three best practices I've ever seen," Wittman said.

Wittman said that he and Crawford talked about the need to be more mature and fit more into Wittman's vision, and so far at least, Crawford has done just that.

"I think he had one of the better summers he had of everybody on the team, in terms of his growth, his understanding of me and the things he's going to have to do to take the next step," Wittman said. "We've done a lot of talking, and I've seen the result of that. He's doing a lot of the walking on the floor showing me that."

Wittman installing new sets

When Wittman was promoted following Flip Saunders' firing, he was an interim coach that had to change the team's mentality with almost no practice time. This training camp is essentially his first chance to actually teach some new ideas to his team without having to do so in a game setting. He said yesterday that he's taking advantage of that opportunity.

"A lot of things I'm doing here early are new things for all of the guys, even the ones that were here last year," Wittman said. "There are things that I want to integrate into this team that I wasn't able to integrate last year."

Wittman said that he's spent most of his time working on defensive concepts thus far, but some of the quotes he gave about the big men shooting mid-range jumpers may provide a clue to some new offensive plays.

The value of leadership

"Leadership" is such a vague concept, but Emeka Okafor and Martell Webster both delivered some interesting quotes about ways they put it into action. First, Okafor was asked about his time with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, and he explained how he uses that experience to teach young players what he learned.

"When you're young, you don't know. You kind of hear it, but you don't quite process it. You kind of nod your head and go, but you don't know. I know that because I was there," Okafor said. "They would tell me and I would be like 'Ah, whatever' and go along with it. Now that I'm older, I see young guys making that mistake. I think to myself, 'Ah. I've been there.'"

Okafor also said it was "an interesting experience" to be propped up as a leader before his very first game. The Wizards essentially did the same thing to Wall when he first entered the league, and it hasn't worked out as well as anyone would have liked. Maybe they wouldn't have done that if they knew Okafor's experiences in Charlotte.

Webster, meanwhile, was asked about his perception of the Wizards last year.

"The way I viewed the team in the games I saw, they had a great chance, but that's where that youngness comes in, not being able to finish games," he said. "There were some times you guys were up big, 20 at halftime, and blow a 25-point lead and lose. You guys were fun to watch, but in the fourth quarter what happened? That comes with experience. Guys have that bad taste in their mouth, but they also know the feeling of success from those last 10 games."

Odds and ends

  • Webster said that the first day of training camp was "about getting the rust off those lungs," whereas this practice was "all mental." Pretty sure that's the first time I've ever seen an athlete talk about getting rust off their lungs.
  • Chris Singleton told us that he's working very hard on becoming more of a one-foot jumper when he gets into the lane instead of always having to gather himself off two feet. He also said that he noticed he stood around too much offensively instead of being more "active." It's as if he read jkhan15's Clipboard post from last year.
  • Wittman revealed absolutely nothing about the starting point guard job with Wall out, but did single out Shelvin Mack for having a second straight strong practice.
  • Wittman also wouldn't name an incumbent starter at small forward. "I'm not really too concerned about that. It's too soon with this many faces. We started here on Tuesday and we're playing a game on Sunday. I'd rather that not be the case, but it is the case. So I'm not going to speed up what I need to do with my process."
  • Webster said he's encouraged that the Wizards are trash-talking each other during practice, because it helps provide energy and keeps the body moving when the mind is tired. The problem? "Right now, we're trying to train some guys. Sam [Cassell's] still the best talker." Cassell, of course, doesn't play.
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