WASHINGTON -- Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld were in high spirits for the first press conference of the 2014-2015 season for one big reason: new Wizard Paul Pierce.
When asked about the veteran small forward, both were effusive in their praise for his ability, versatility and professionalism. Ernie Grunfeld called him a "basketball junkie" who is the "first guy in, and one of the last guys out" of the Wizards' gym. Though he hasn't had a chance to coach Pierce yet, Wittman had other sources of knowledge about Pierce's professionalism and abilites:
"Paul is a leader. I know who he is just from coaching on the other sideline against him all these years," Wittman said. "Obviously Doc Rivers and I are very close, [and] he raved about what kind of leader he is. I think he going to fit right in with that."
"Since he's been here, he's one of the first guys in the gym every morning and that goes a long way," Witman continued. "He doesn't have to say anything. When you are a young guy and you got him beating you to the gym, you got to find out a way to get here before he does."
Pierce's ability to play power forward for significant chunks of last season didn't escape Wittman's notice either. Wittman noted that he's never coached a small forward with the ability to post up as effectively as Pierce, which, in addition to his abilities handling the ball and in the pick and roll, should give the Wizards greater versatility on offense. As for the other end, Wittman praised Pierce as one of the league's "better team defenders" and expects Trevor Ariza's absence will give Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. a chance to step up and fill the void there.
Wittman on Martell Webster's back injury: It's day to day. He's probably not going to obviously be 100 percent come Tuesday, but he's going to be able to do some things. When you are dealing with a back surgery, it's a matter of getting everything in your body regenerated and everything of that nature, so we've got to be careful of that.
I've never been a big ... you never hear me say two or three weeks or whatever. It's one of those things you don't know. He's progressing really well, and if it continues the way it is he'll be back.
Wittman on the 15th roster spot: "We'll look at a lot of different things probably with that. You can go a lot of different ways. If you find somebody you like, you have a spot to put him in. Or, you can go into the season with it open, obviously. Training camp cuts, or if all the sudden there is a surprise move and somebody is let go, you know. I think that flexibility is good going into the start of the year. But like I said, if I find somebody down in camp that I think will make us a better team I am going to go to Ernie and lobby to have that position filled in."
Wittman on the team's attitude: "For me, when we got beat in game 6 here, I thought I might walk in that locker room and see some satisfaction on the faces of our players of, hey, we got to the second round and beat the Bulls in the first round. I saw a lot of disappointment. That was encouraging."
Wittman on Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr.'s potential role this season: "There's going to be opportunity there. What I've seen from both of those guys this summer has been very encouraging. They both work extremely hard to put themselves in position. They're going to be put into a position to have an opportunity to play."
Ernie Grunfeld on the acquisition of Kris Humphries and Dejuan Blair: "You can never have too many bigs in this league and those guys became available to us. One thing about Kris Humphries, he's a pretty good 15-17 foot jump shooter. he's good in the pick and roll, he's a good rebounder, he's good athletically. He gets up and down the floor which suits the way we like to play. Blair's been in some big games. He's a tough guy, he can play power forward, he can play some center, he a very good rebounder and a good passer for his size, so we got to add some real depth to the front court. We feel now we have one of the deeper front lines in the league."
Wittman on Nene's stint with Brazil over the summer: "I learned a long time ago if you start worrying about injuries or somebody getting hurt, you're going to drive yourself nuts. Injuries are part of the game. I think players look at it this way: That's usually when you think of getting hurt, when you worry about getting hurt. He's in good spirits, good shape, I think."
Wittman on John Wall: "Each year, he's grown in front of my eyes. I saw a young kid, one year out of high school walk in here that was wide eyed and bushy tailed. Now he's growing -- as we saw last year and we saw this year -- into being a leader, being a better player, understanding what it takes, what he has to do.
... The great ones always add something to their game and John is doing that for us."