Ted Leonsis on the new season, John Wall and Bradley Beal, what he expects from Jan Vesely and more

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis addressed the media before Friday's open practice. A variety of topics related to the team were covered, most notably his expectations for the upcoming season and the successes and failures of the organization during his tenure as owner.

WASHINGTON -- Ted Leonsis took questions from reporters shortly before the team hosted an open practice Friday. The practice consisted of an hour of scrimmages and drills. Highlights from Leonsis' press conference are below, and you can watch the whole thing here. We'll have a practice report shortly.

Some key remarks:

Injuries to Emeka Okafor, Chris Singleton and Otto Porter haven't altered the team's expectations of making the playoffs "You know we had a little step backwards with injuries and I didn't see the wincing as we did last year, I think the team just shrugged it off and said 'OK we have enough talent in the room and no excuses, we can still be a really good team and a playoff team.'

On what he wants to see from Jan Vesely "I think what we're seeing. Jan is really, really big. I bet if we measured him, he'd be more than seven feet tall, and Jan's one of our fastest players, and he has good hands. Last year he had a lack of confidence and this year I'm not seeing that, I'm seeing he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to run with the ball, he knows if he beats his man down the court he's going to get the ball and he's having a lot of fun out there. What I want to see from him is strong contributions, obviously a major improvement year over year, but that he wants the ball. Last year if you noted he got the ball, he passed the ball as quick as he could, and I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing he's rebounding, he's running, he's dunking, he's shooting a little hook shot, he's working with [assistant coach Don Newman] a lot and I think he's going to be hard to guard, because there's not a lot of seven footers in the league that can run like him and he has good hands. So if he fills the lanes, he'll get the ball, he'll get a lot of easy baskets."

Bradley Beal and John Wall like each other on and off the court "I think they have a mutual respect for one another and it's really great to see them have, both on and off the court chemistry. I think they have an appreciation for each other's game, and just watching some of the practice and watching how Martell [Webster] and Bradley go to exactly the right spots, and John knows how to penetrate and find them both for open corner threes. They liked that play last year and it's good to have both of them being able to do it. It's going to be a hard team to defend."

"I didn't see any other way that we could get the team in a spiral going up other than ripping it down to the foundation."-Ted Leonsis

On the difficulty of rebuilding as an owner: "When you go through a rebuild, you internalize how hard it's going to be. It's why, frankly, coaches, general managers, presidents of the team, heads of marketing, say, 'Now, are you sure you want to do this? Do you know what you're signing up for? Do you know how hard this is going to be? Do you the ridicule and humiliation that you'll deal with on a daily basis?' And it really takes guts and strength of character to say, 'Yes, I understand what we're in for.' But as I've said numerous times, I didn't see any other plan or strategy. I didn't see any other way that we could get the team in a spiral going up other than ripping it down to the foundation."

On the Al Harrington signing: "I think that the respect that the city and the organization is being given is enhanced, and I do think that this is going to become a destination for named free agents. I also think that when you have young, emerging players who want to be here, they express their gratitude to the fans, they love the community, they love the city, they want to win for the fans, that that's a really good time. So getting John signed and getting that as kind of a check mark. Someone like [Al] is like a coach on the floor. He's been around, he knows good organizations, good situations and he too wanted to be here. Likes the city, likes the front office, likes the players. Players talk. They know right away whether this would be a good situation for them to be in and will they be happy here."

On Wall's competitiveness: "That's why we extended him. Making commercials, having sneaker deals, making a lot of money, that's a terrific side benefit of being a professional basketball player and being a great talent like he is. But he's our leader. He's the player with the ball in his hands all the time, and if the team doesn't do well, you can trace it to 'he hasn't matured yet, he hasn't realized his gifts.' And he understands that. And he naturally is about team success."
What am I not proud of? There were a couple players here that I thought we could make into core players, and we weren't able to.-Ted Leonsis

He's happy to have a clearer picture of the team's future, and regrets not being able to make things work with "some players" "I'm proud that the culture of the organization is very professional and that we have upside. There's no more chaos in the organization, there's no discussion about what is the plan, what is the strategy, who are the foundational players. What am I not proud of? There were a couple players here that I thought we could make into core players, and we weren't able to. That's all of our failings. I always feel that we can take players and make them culturally fit, and some of the players didn't, and I'm sad that we weren't able to make that work."

When Randy Wittman took over the team, it had a lot of guys who weren't playing with the team's best interests at heart "It was not a good team. It did not have good team optics. It was a selfish team. It had lots of rookies, it had lots of players who were playing for contracts."

Both Leonsis and the players have a great deal of respect for Wittman due to his honesty "He has been a very very authentic, honest guy, and I admire that about him ... I think the players respect him because he has been unabashed in his truthiness and I admire that."

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