Last night at Verizon Center was Wizards SummerFest, a season ticket holder sales pitch disguised as a free family night out. The event featured a lot of cool stuff in the concourse that my kids loved, but of course I was there for the basketball. Here are my random observations, which are probably incomplete given that I was busy with a 4 year old the whole time. Please note that this was just one practice, so these guys might play quite differently when the games begin this weekend.
Blue (First) Team
Kelly Oubre - Looked like the star of the team, for the most part. Loves playing to the crowd. Did a couple of flashy dunks during drills and splashed a couple of nice threes, but otherwise seemed to be on cruise control. Jumped out of the way of a fast break alley-oop, and comically raised his hands as if to say "man, I'm not contesting that". Got a huge laugh from the sparse, mostly disinterested crowd. As I said, he loves playing to the crowd.
Jarrell Eddie - Looks like a lock to remain with the team, given his competition. Deadly from long range. Didn't seem to miss anything. Appears to have bulked up a little. Looks confident. I spoke with him briefly during the autograph session and asked him if he's still rappin'. He laughed and looked at me like I'd revealed an ancient family secret of some sort. In short: he had to "back off that" when he made the league last year. Good decision Big Dippa.
Aaron White - Still the same aggravating player we saw last summer. Passive. Treats the ball like a hot potato, which lead to plenty of audible groans from the crowd and a few "just shoot it!" yells. Passed up multiple wide open 3's to unsuspecting teammates. Didn't look anything like a 2nd round pick. Made one nice wide open 3 (there wasn't a man within 10 feet of him) and had an impressive, but pointless putback dunk (which came after a teammate was already fouled). I don't see this guy's ceiling as being anything better than Jeremy Evans at this point. I also see his designated roster spot going to another guy (more on that later) at this rate.
Rayshawn Simmons - Played with the first team as its nominal point guard. Didn't do much other than dribble the air out of the ball and make wide open 3's. Not a great passer, which might pose problems in LVSL.
Michael Eric - Interestingly played as the 1st team's center over Jaleel Roberts. Didn't do much of anything. Big and tall, but that's about it.
Red & White (The Other Guys) Teams
Danuel House - Acted and more importantly, played like the star of the team. If you didn't know any of the players already, you'd assume he was the star. Carries himself like Lebron James. Has a ridiculous blond mohawk which makes him stand out of the court. Built and plays like a grown man. Dunked everything. Shot 3's from loooongrange. I heard "who's that guy?" more than a few times from people sitting around me. Reminds me a little of Johnathan Simmons of the Spurs, and could easily carve out a similar 12th/13th man role on some team. How the heck did this guy go undrafted? Might end up playing himself into White's camp invite.
Sheldon McClellan - Didn't stand out in any way. Got to the line a few times, and missed free throws. Looked jittery. I expect more in Vegas.
Shawn Dawson - Awful haircut, and little more. Didn't touch the ball much, but made one nice drive and reverse layup. Might not get a fair shot given that House is playing better.
Gilvydas Biruta/D.J. Cooper/James Southerland - Made some open shots.
Jaleel Roberts/Tywain McKee/Daniel Ochefu/Sterling Gibbs - Did nothing of consequence.
Kaleb Tarczewski/James Nunnally - Didn't show. Or at least I didn't notice them.
Seen & Heard
Bradley Beal showed up midway through the scrimmage and sat on the bench with a lady friend. Didn't acknowledge or even look up at the crowd. Already acting like a $128 Million Dollar Man.
Markieff Morris was on hand to address the crowd. Mumbled his way through a halfhearted "I'm happy to be here" and sat on the bench at midcourt watching the scrimmage. Someone mentioned that this might be community service for him. Given his complete and utter disinterest, I'd be inclined to agree.
Scott Brooks was interviewed by Dave Johnson during the scrimmage. The Verizon Center's awful sound system, coupled with the echos from all the empty seats made it impossible to hear him, but we already know he speaks in generalizations and seldom says much of interest, so...
Sidney Lowe is coaching the summer league team. The man looked very happy to be head coaching anything again, after his debacle at NC State. I couldn't be happier for him.
The crowd wasn't all that big (surprise!). A smattering of a couple hundred on each side of the arena. Not much applause for anything other than the occasional dunk. Zero for Morris, very little for Brooks. I can totally see why a free agent would survey this landscape and go sign in another city where the NBA matters.
That said, it was good to see hundreds of people rockin' Wizards gear in the dead of summer, in and around the arena. You can't help but feel that if Monumental Sports put just a bit more effort into promoting its most valuable commodity, this team might register more than a blip on the local radar. There are people who love this team, as evidenced by the throngs of families who came to a dead arena on a 97 degree day to watch a bunch of guys who will never even play an NBA game play 6 minute sessions of inconsequential basketball. People must like this team enough to watch games that aren't even games. If this organization had a clue, that's find a way to tap into that.
The event was (oddly) Hawaiian themed. They gave out red white and blue leis with Wizards SummerFest logos on them, which was a really nice touch. There was also free facepainting, tattoos, nail tattoos, a green screen where kids could record Jumbotron chants that might be used during games next year, free Ritas water ice, and autographs with the players. It's not a bad way to spend a July afternoon and it was totally free and open to the public. We'll be back next year.