NBA AM: Price Not Pressured To Replace Wall
Leading up to the start of training camp, all signs pointed toward the Washington Wizards being a much more competitive team on the court this season. Then, the club’s first set of adversity took shape. In late September, point guard John Wall was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right knee, which will keep the emerging floor general and Wizards team leader on the shelf for almost eight weeks.
Wall’s replacement in the starting lineup is A.J. Price, a fourth year guard, who primarily served as a backup during his first three seasons with the Indiana Pacers.
If the pressure of maintaining the keys of the Wizards’ offense during Wall’s absence is a tough one to bear, you wouldn’t know it from Price’s demeanor. The former UCONN product says he doesn’t feel any additional pressure because the Wizards’ coaching staff has made it more about him expanding his own game and less about replacing Wall’s dynamic abilities step-by-step.
“I really don’t feel any pressure,” Price told HOOPSWORLD. “John Wall is a great young talent in this league, a superstar. His game is much different than mine and mine is much different from his. Coach [Randy] Wittman told me to play my game and don’t try to be John Wall by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m just coming out and doing what I know how to do.
“Coach Wittman has given me a lot of confidence to come in and play my game. He told me that John is going to be out and he needed me to step and play a big role. I have to give all the credit to him for instilling that confidence in me and now I just have to come out and play my game, which he’s told me to do.”
Quiet as kept, the Wizards had a very strong offseason while continuing to reshape the culture of their locker room, which has been a hindering point in their growth over the past few seasons. The team traded for veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor and selected promising shooting guard Brad Beal with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. With the additional pieces in the lineup, there is now a legitimate chance for a run at the postseason for the first time since the 2008 campaign.
Price, who was a member of the Pacers’ last two playoff squads, believes the Wizards have the talent to be a playoff team but there’s work to do in order to get there.
“We have a lot of great weapons, a lot of great assets in our starting unit and off the bench as well,” Price said. “Trevor, Emeka and Nene still hasn’t played with us [yet]. Bradley Beal, the rookie, has been very impressive. So we have a lot of weapons but it’s going to be up to us to put it together and try to make a run at the playoffs.”
But there are still many who view the Wizards as being at least a season away from grabbing one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff spots.
Price hears some of the skepticism but doesn’t stray from the organization’s goal of making the postseason in 2013.
“I think we have a lot of good pieces when we’re at full strength,” Price said. “In our minds here, in this organization, we want to make the playoffs. That’s been our goal since day one, coming in with all of these new guys. So regardless of being slept on or not, that’s our goal as an organization. So we’re going to do everything we can to put our best foot forward.”
Josh Smith Pleased With Hawks’ Growing Chemistry, But Admits Challenges
Entering the 2012-13 campaign, there will only be five Atlanta Hawks players on the roster who were with the team at the end of last season. Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson, Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford are the only holdovers from an offseason of transition sparked by the hiring of president of basketball operations Danny Ferry.
Despite the addition of so many new faces, Smith is pleased with the cohesion in the locker room as the regular season gets set to open, but also admits it’s been a challenge.
“It’s sped up to a rapid pace,” Smith told HOOPSWORLD on the chemistry with his new teammates. “But to be honest with you it is kind of hard to have new guys come in and be able tie everything together and make it work, but we’re doing it. It’s surprising a lot of people in the organization but we believe it’s going to be able to work because we have guys that are willing to buy into what we have going on.”
The biggest question surrounding the team during the preseason slate was whether the club could maintain its current five-season playoff streak despite the loss of six-time All-Star guard Joe Johnson and the team’s longtime starting forward Marvin Williams from the lineup.
Smith believes this unit has the potential to keep the momentum of previous seasons intact.
“I’m confident,” Smith said. “I’m always confident, so I feel like we can do something special with this ball club. We just have to be able to play consistent throughout the whole year and we must play together even when we hit adversity. It’s a long season. It’s not a sprint it’s a marathon so we have to go about it like that.”
The Hawks open the regular season at home versus the Houston Rockets on November 2.
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HEAT-Celtics Rivalry Continues To Grow
True, competitive, spirited and non-manufactured rivalries are what make sports thrive.
The 2012-13 NBA season opened last night pitting one of the league’s best ongoing rivalries on full display. The Miami HEAT, fresh off their title winning campaign a season ago, defeated the Boston Celtics 120-107 on opening night.
Competitive play on the floor amongst the league’s best stars undoubtedly starts these rivalries, but it’s the other areas such as trash talking and hard fouls, which take these to another level.
Last night, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo flagrant fouled the HEAT’s Dwyane Wade with a blatant neck grab with less than twenty seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Safe to say there is no love lost between these two teams and the next three games between them will be even testier, especially with Wade labeling the foul a “punk play.”
Here is the clip of the foul from last night.
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