The five Wizards stories we're tracking today.
1. Trevor Ariza dishes on his time in D.C.
During a wide-ranging interview with Michael Lee of the Washington Post, Trevor Ariza admitted didn't want to be in D.C. during his first season here. But once a proposed trade to the Los Angeles Clippers fell through, he accepted his fate and tried to change the team culture. His improved attitude, plus a blossoming backcourt helped transform the Wizards into a playoff team last season.
"We went through a whole lot in Washington, from winning 28, 29 games to going to the second round of the playoffs in two years. That was a tough time and a great time as well. Early, like in my first year, it was really tough, because to be honest with you, I didn't want to be there."
It's harsh, but can you really blame him? Things weren't good in the District. But going from that statement to his most recent one of, "it was extremely tough to leave Washington," says a lot about huge transformations in Ariza and the Wizards. He became a key cog in an up-and-coming team.
"I just started talking to the players, trying to find out who they were as people, not just basketball players and it just grew from there. Everything started to click, just like that, once I had an open mind to it. It was great and it was fun. DC has become one of my favorite places in America."
The entire article, which includes Ariza's justification for signing with the Rockets, can be read here. A very good read from a very good writer.
2. Kevin Seraphin going hard in preseason
It's easy to remember the crushing screen Seraphin set on Chicago's Jimmy Butler in the third quarter of the Wizards' preseason win, but was it too much? No. Seraphin and Butler both acknowledged that. To Seraphin, a struggling big man needing to make a name for himself this season, it goes deeper than the Wizards' apparent intentions of trying to be this year's bullies on the block. Via Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:
"There are no preseason games for me," Seraphin said. "These are playoff games for me. I've got to show what I can do."
3. Paul Pierce wants to instigate
The foul Pierce committed on Butler that led to the shouting match with Joakim Noah was for a different reason than Seraphin's. Pierce is a future Hall of Famer with no need to make a name for himself. His on-court work does that for him. His hard foul was done to set a tone that the Wizards ain't nothing to ... well, you get the idea.
In his post game interview with Monumental Network, Pierce explained the Wizards' physical identity:
"That's what we're trying to establish right now. We're going to be a defensive unit, we're going to be a physical team, we're going to set hard screens and we're not going to back down from nobody. That's been our identity [with] every team I've been on. We're going to be the instigators."
As a supporter of a team that has seen the likes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Brendan (Haywood), Darius Songaila, and Kwame Brown manning the middle, I support this. I know it's controversial to some, but I like having (as Pierce mentions earlier in the interview) bench players who have been starters on other teams and a mean frontcourt as well. Having Pierce in a Wizards uniform and talking ridiculous amounts of trash is definitely going to take some getting used to. Let's just hope it gets backed up.
4. Wizards-Bulls defining moment
Pierce was not a member of the Wizards when Nene put hands (and a head butt) on Jimmy Butler during Game 3 of last season's playoffs. But with those two aggressive stances - whether it was Pierce being caught up in the moment, or a calculated move announcing his arrival to his teammates and the Bulls - he thrust himself in the middle of the budding rivalry.
Fortunately for the Bulls, and perhaps less fortunately for the Wizards, Derrick Rose also sent a bit of a message to his teammates and the Wizards.
5. John Wall learning from Andre Miller
I discussed this back in July. A young, energetic point guard on the rise could, and should, try to learn a thing or two from his aging backup who's methodical game is ageless.
It looks like the two are working on a few things to add to Wall's game. Via J Michael:
"It's about him feeling comfortable and confident to know when to do it and when not," Miller said of the 6-4 guard entering his fifth season. "Take advantage of his size and get teams into the penalty and get to the free-throw line. It's something that he'll get. He's got it. He's got to get more comfortable with it."