WASHINGTON, D.C.: Flip Saunders spoke to the media at the Verizon Center today, and he was in a very good mood throughout, cracking jokes like we haven't seen him crack jokes in a while. A couple especially good one-liners:
- On JaVale McGee, Part I: "He has to become more a player of substance than of highlights."
- On JaVale McGee, Part II: "We're going to eliminate his full-court dribbling. If he does it, he's going to be sitting with Michael Lee over there."
- On Jordan Crawford: "I didn't know he was as good as Michael Jordan. I didn't know that. That's one thing I didn't know. But I did know he had a lot of confidence."
- On Nick Young, JaVale McGee and maturity: "They all need to show their maturity, not only on the floor, but off the floor. Cinnamon, that thing doesn't cut it."
Those are the jokes. Here's a summary of his remarks:
- On shorter seasons: "You can have an argument for whatever you want to. Veteran teams are going to say the shortened season helps them because they've been together and can plan. Young teams are going to say it helps them because they're young and athletic and have a quicker recovery time. Whatever you have, you can make an argument however you want."
- On what the Wizards need to improve: "We talked a lot this summer, not knowing what was going to happen, and we're going to pare down some things. We need to be better offensively at not turning the ball over. That cost us a lot. I always say that if you don't turn the ball over, you're going to have a chance to win. Our turnovers need to go down. We have to get better defensively as far as the containing and as far as rebounding."
- On last year: "We lost a lot of games close last year. We lost 15 games when, with three minutes or less, the score was three points one way or the other."
- On John Wall's last year: "I think John, coming in, it was a lot harder than he thought. He knew he was playing against great players, but maybe not every night. There's an all-star point guard he's playing against every night, and I think that helped him really prepare as far as his focus and how hard he worked."
- On Andray Blatche: "A lot of people are very critical of Andray at times, but if you look at games, we had the most success when he played. He might not at times have done what you guys wanted him to do and other people, but it helped us as a team win."
- On Blatche's leadership: "At some point, we are young, and we have a lot of guys who are 22 or so. He's not one of those guys. He's a veteran player who has been in the league for six years. You don't have that crutch anymore."
- On what McGee needs to do to take the next step: "From a basketball standpoint, we need to get him to be a better defensive rebounder. He had trouble against centers with lower body strength, and continue to grow and become a low-post kind of scorer. He showed some signs as far as being able to shoot that jump hook and more."
- On Kevin Seraphin: "He's in the best shape he's ever been. From a basketball standpoint, he's going to be coming in playing at a really high level and with a lot of intensity. He can be that backup center. He's going to push [JaVale]."
- On improving defensive rebounds in general: "Most breakdowns in rebounding are because of your inability to guard people on the perimeter. You're beat off penetration, the bigs have to step up to help, and that opens up the rebounding for their people. A lot of people say, 'We gotta rebound better with our bigs.' They gotta do it, but our rebounding improvement is going to come by our perimeter defense becoming better."
- On Crawford: "This training camp is going to be really good for him, because he's in a tough spot. He's going to have to play two positions at a high level. He's such a great scorer and he has the ability to play the 2 and play that, but he's also going to have to play the backup point to John and change how he plays at times at that spot. He can't just go and try to score every time he touches it, which is something he sometimes will do when he's a two."
- On getting a veteran backup point guard: "We'll bring in some people, and if they're good enough to make our team, they'll make our team. I don't think we're going to be in a situation where we're going to go out [and get someone] ... "We're not in a situation where we have to go and say, 'We have to sign a backup.'"
- On Young: "Nick had the lowest assist among people who averaged 17 points in the league. Those are things you can't have. Just become a more diversified player ... "When I came here, all he did is one-on-one, playing on the floor and trying to get shots up. We changed him to a point where last year, he became a catch-and-shoot shooter where he wasn't putting it on the floor all the time. Now, we have a situation where, not only should he shoot it every time, but also gotta make plays for other people."
- On Young's defense: "He improved defensively. We found out he's a pretty good on the ball defender. Off the ball, he had a tendency to fall asleep at times."
- On the "P" word: "I think we can compete for the playoffs. Last year, we lost 15 games in the last three minutes where things could have gone either way. We find a way to win 10 of those games, all of a sudden, you're up to 34 wins. If you keep injury-free and your guys progress -- John progresses, Dray progresses, JaVale progresses -- you've got a healthy Rashard and your rookies come along, all of a sudden, you're looking at wins into the 40s. The second you get into the late 30s, in our league, you have an opportunity to make a run at making the playoffs."