What up, y'all! My name is Andrew Sharp, and I write primarily over on SBNation.com, but for better or worse, I'm also hopelessly addicted to the Wizards, and this season Mike's been kind enough to let me help out on Bullets Forever. And yesterday was media day, which means basketball is OFFICIALLY (almost) BACK.
Let's talk about media day.
It couldn't have come at a better time. After last week's Friday of Doom, we needed something to distract us around here, and most importantly, we needed a reminder that with or without John Wall, the Wizards are still one of the most enjoyable teams in sports, with media day serving as our annual holiday for irrational optimism, ridiculous quotes, and general good vibes all around. I took the metro over to Verizon Monday, and this year's festivities did not disappoint.
So what did we learn from Wizards Media Day 2012 in D.C.? Glad you asked!
BUCKHANTZ AND CHENIER EXPLAIN THE NEW ERA
Phil Chenier on the mood in and around Verizon:
"It's like having a new identity. We had that identity with the Big Three, and that was exciting and fun, but it fizzled out. Now you gotta re-tool and regroup, start getting some new players, and establish new roles and new identities."
"I don't want to use the term 'clean house' ... But to bring in the type of guys not just on the floor but the type of people that they want in this organization, so that they considered legitimate professional, serious basketball players. I'm not going to use the term that other people have used for some of the guys that aren't here anymore, but we know who they are and for whatever reason they weren't going to thrive in this system, and they're not here anymore. Now, the serious guys are here. I'm looking forward to that. It's refreshing."
Is Phil Chenier the Wizards Godfather or is it Steve Buckhantz? Either way, they do a nice job as spokesman, and the message from media day was clear. If there was a word cloud from the hundred different media sessions, LEADERSHIP and VETERANS and PROFESSIONALS would be five times as big as anything else. That, and the end of last of season. Almost everyone who spoke touched on those themes, and if nothing else, it's encouraging to see that everyone's excited to be a part of carrying over the momentum this year.
What does it say when everyone feels the need to congratulate each other for taking their job seriously and totally deciding to care about basketball this yer? Well, it's quite a testament to how spectacularly dysfunctional things have been for the past few years. #NEWTRADITIONS4EVER.
Speaking of the old Wizards...
JORDAN CRAWFORD EXPLAINS JORDAN CRAWFORD
Q: "Jordan are you aware of your reputation as a gunner?"
A: "When it's time to score, I score."
God bless Jordan Crawford. "He's a funny guy," Bradley Beal said Monday. "He's a character."
When a reporter asked about his new role as elder statesmen, Crawford said, "It's great because I kinda got the natural ability to lead, people look up to me, gravitate to me." Jordan Crawford, Leader is terrifying and exhilarating and mind-bending all at once. Easter time's comin' up!
KEVIN SERAPHIN EXPLAINS THE JOHN WALL INJURY
Asked to recount his reaction when he heard the news:
"Hmmmmmm.... That's bad."
Kevin Seraphin is everyone's favorite player this year.
JOHN WALL EXPLAINS THE INJURED LIFE
"Play video games ... Sleep ... Play video games."
When pressed, Wall said he plays Madden, NBA 2K13, and Call of Duty. Meanwhile, Nene's not on the Call of Duty bandwagon. "I don't play video games," he said. "I play basketball, I just have fun." So, uh, now you know. #MediaDayInsight.
Note: In an alternate, evil universe Wall replaces "sleep and video games" with the Kendrick Lamar bridge here, followed by 60 seconds of dead silence and a Wizards media person hyperventilating and rushing him back to the locker room. Oh, and speaking of hip hop and drank and John Wall controversies.
JOHN WALL EXPLAINS HIS SOCIAL LIFE
(via City Never Sleeps).
When a reporter asked him about some of the (very quiet) concerns over his partying habits:
"Listen man, it's summertime I'm gonna enjoy myself, but at the same time as long as I'm up every morning at 6 a.m. going to the gym at 7, it doesn't matter. Throughout the season if I was doing it, it'd be a lot different. I enjoy playing basketball and I'm gonna enjoy myself in the summer. But at the same time I'm enjoying myself with my family, friends, it's also a time to get better at basketball. So as long as I'm doing that, I'm okay."
Okay here's the thing: Everything Wall says there is fair. On the other hand, I don't think the concern is Wall going to clubs, but going to the sort of clubs where he gets photographed on ten different random nightlife blogs. Every NBA player goes to clubs, but it seems like only guys likeand show up on these random websites every other week. And you know, those are the same players we look back on and say, "Damn... What a waste of talent." So yeah, THAT is what's concerning.
Now, is this just blatantly unfair and irrational paranoia? Almost definitely! Nobody whispered about how much Chris Cooley was partying in the offseason. But then, Chris Cooley wasn't the no. 1 pick quarterback and linchpin to everything the Redskins had planned for the next decade. So it's complicated. In any case, this is what it's come to while we wait for Wall's potential to pay off.
MARTELL WEBSTER EXPLAINS MINNESOTA WEATHER
"Brutal, brutal. My kids wouldn't be able to survive there another year, I can tell you that."
Trading Minneapolis for D.C. has to feel a little like winning the lottery, right? Martell was also asked about getting to D.C. early to get settled and he explained he did so that his oldest daughter could get enrolled in school and adjusted to the new city, and it was all pretty adorable.
Martell seems pretty great.
BRADLEY BEAL EXPLAINS WASHINGTON D.C.
"DC is... Well NOW, it's busy. It's just too political for me. Everywhere you go it's always about Obama or Mitt Romney. I mean it's great, it's a great city overall, great people, a lot of sightseeing and things like that. I've been enjoying it."
Pretty cool that Bradley hates the same things about D.C. that I do.
BRADLEY BEAL EXPLAINS THE NBA'S MESSAGE TO ROOKIES
"Save your money."
Also, here's Beal on rookie hazing: "Nene the most out of everybody, they told me to watch out for him. I can feel the hazing coming already from him. Ever since Day 1 he's called me rookie, he hasn't called me by my name yet."
Okay but if Nene screamed, "Carry my bags, rookie!", wouldn't you burst out laughing? Wouldn't he? I refuse to believe Nene's ever successfully hazed anyone. This is why Nene's the greatest.
NENE EXPLAINS PHYSICAL THERAPY
Asked about his foot, Nene said:
"Right now? Because I don't jump, do nothing, it's good. But I've been working hard, doing physical therapy, take care of myself. ... You need to feel good, and you need to be good, so you need to be smart."
Asked whether his foot could bother him all year, he said, "No I hope not. I'm gonna do what I can control, and the time is gonna be my friend, you know?" Nene is Brazilian Confucius.
TREVOR BOOKER EXPLAINS RANDY WITTMAN
"He's very honest. He's gonna play the players who need to be on the court. Players know if you don't go out there, if you don't play, if you don't play defense, give it your all, you're gonna be on the bench."
Speaking of Trevor Booker...
Try to lick ur elbow— Trevor Booker (@35_Fitz) August 19, 2012
Yep, should've asked Booker to try to lick his elbow. And we didn't. #MediaDayRegrets
BUCKHANTZ AND CHENIER EXPLAIN SUMMER LEAGUE
It's always amazed me that Buckhantz and Chenier announce Wizards summer league games from Comcast studios in Bethesda. Because the only thing more depressing than watching a summer league game is announcing one -- and they don't even get to go to Vegas. I asked them about it between interviews on Monday:
Me: "I saw you guys announcing Summer League from the studio, which is serious, SERIOUS dedication. How have you not convinced them to send you out to Vegas?"
Chenier: "Well, [points at Buckhantz] he has the seniority..."
[both burst out laughing]
Chenier: "So if we don't get out there to do a game, it's his fault."
Buckhantz: "And my thinking is, he goes to Vegas so often, he's happy to stay here. That and Hiltonhead are his second homes."
Chenier: "I woulda lost money."
Buckhantz: "Seriously though, I don't know why we don't go out there. I don't know if there's room out there. The NBA controls that summer league and they have even their own broadcasters. We're able to pick up their feed and use our own announcers at Comcast SportsNet, and it's nice."
Yeah, it IS nice.
If we're going to watch Wizards summer league, we'd all much rather watch with Wizards-centric announcers who spend the entire time talking about Bradley Beal. So shoutout to Buckhantz and Chenier for going the extra mile every single summer. One day they'll make it to Vegas.
KEVIN SERAPHIN EXPLAINS SNAKES
"If you go in the woods, those snakes... They are dangerous. I would not touch them. But the pets, they're not dangerous! They're cool. They're 'chilling'," he said using air quotes.
We talked for a five minutes about snakes, but sadly it wasn't recorded. The only other quote I wrote down was Seraphin telling us about all the different pets available to own. "You can own a chicken if you want to!"
KEVIN SERAPHIN EXPLAINS THE FLOPPING RULE
"That's a good thing! That's a good thing. Personally I'm not flopping, so that doesn't change anything for me, but now I can really go hard and play tough, like I used to. Because before when I go too hard, like, sometimes [they call] flopping. So now I can really play. Now we see now. Now we can play now."
I need to get a Seraphin jersey.
BRADLEY BEAL EXPLAINS HIS FAMILY
Asked what he's learned from his family, Beal said:
"It's helped me out a lot, honestly to always respect my elders, as well as just being the person that I am. Don't try to be anybody I'm not, and just be humble and be grounded and always be thankful for the blessings I have. Just remaining the same person, basically. They've raised me well, although they were STRICT, but still."
Yes, this is exactly the sort of quote that draws in the sappiest of sappy media, but damnit, I'm a man, not a machine. And Beal up close was about as impressive as you could hope for from any rookie, let alone a 19 year-old rookie. Asked about transitioning to the NBA and getting settled with his older brothers, he said, "Yeah they've moved in. They ate all my food, too. I'm back and forth to the grocery store almost every other week. But they've been helping me out a lot, making sure I'm doing the right thing, keeping me out of trouble."
Again: No different from most other rookie quotes at media day, but I'm falling for it anyway. Beal's just an impressive dude. When someone asked who could fill Wall's shoes as a leader for the first month of the season, he said, "Hopefully myself. I may be young, but I can always lead by example and be vocal in practice." He's perfect, okay? He's perfect. As Jake said on draft night, BEAL SO HARD.
PHIL CHENIER EXPLAINS BRADLEY BEAL
"You see the form, the shooting form, you see the confidence in that, he has to develop more of an aggressive attitude. There were moments when I thought he could have been more aggressive in that summer league. I mean it didn't happen--that's not a knock on him, but that's what he has to work on. But his shooting form is fabulous, his demeanor has been a pleasant thing, too."
But yeah, as a player Beal has a ways to go. Right now he's young and full of potential, but the one thing nobody's ever seen is a killer instinct. That seems like the biggest question mark this year and beyond: Is Beal a very skilled sidekick, or a potential killer that can turn a game inside out all by himself? We'll see. Either way I'm glad he landed in D.C.
A.J. PRICE EXPLAINS THE 2012 WIZARDS
"Just playing pickup with the guys, you see certain things. We got a lot of good pieces individually, I just don't [know] how good we are as a team. Indiana I saw that a lot, but it wasn't until we became a team that we became good. So once we start buying into that, whatever Coach Wittman asks us to do, buy in as a team? I think we'll be good."
The Wizards love to talk about The OKC Model when selling the Wizards' plans for the future, and just for the record, this is every bit as insane as a start-up tech company promising investors that they'll be following the Facebook model. But that doesn't mean all is lost for the Wizards.
I've talked to Blog Celebrity Dan Shanoff about this, and he thinks that what the Wizards are really doing is following the Pacers model -- stockpiling good-but-not-great talent, with lots of depth, and hoping it all comes together. And he's right -- just like A.J. Price says, there's a lot of good pieces here. A number of solid options that would start elsewhere (Nene, Ariza, Wall), a few veteran question marks (Okafor, Price, Webster), and a core young players whose development could make the whole roster twice as dangerous (Beal, Vesley, Seraphin, Singleton, Booker). And then Jordan Crawford, here to make sure the spirit of Nick Young lives on forever. Whether it comes together is an open question, but this is better than last season, when we were trying the same failed experiment for the third year in a row.
"We're gonna have fun," Nene said Monday. "We create a new bond, new chemistry."
First and foremost, media day taught me that Nene says chemistry like keemistry. But the two-hours at Verizon also made it obvious that this is a brand new roster with a personality still being shaped, full of players who don't expect to lose 50 games. With or without Wall, it'll be fun to watch them fight together.
"John's gonna be down so everybody gotta step up," Crawford said.
"Obviously I don't know what my role is as of yet," Bradley Beal said Monday. "But it all starts tomorrow." Now tomorrow is today, and we see what happens next. GO WIZARDS.