NBA AM: Wizards Build Chemistry in Vegas
Team G in Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series may look awfully familiar. The team is donning white jerseys and playing in an unfamiliar setting, but it’s still easy to recognize the group as the Washington Wizards.
John Wall, JaVale McGee, Rashard Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and Larry Owens are playing in Las Vegas and working hard to prepare for the upcoming season. While most of Impact’s rosters feature small clusters of teammates, few teams are as well represented as Washington. Because the team features so many young players, everyone involved agreed it would be beneficial to participate in the two-week lockout league.
“It’s important,” Crawford told HOOPSWORLD. “I think it’s more important for the Wizards than any other team because of how young and far behind we are. We’re really trying to push for the playoffs next year so I think this time right here is really important. We want to start the competitiveness now so that when the season comes around, we’ll be used to it.”
“It’s very important to be ready, especially for our team,” Lewis said. “The Washington Wizards are a very young team and we didn’t make the playoffs last year so getting this experience and playing out here together is important. I wasn’t able to play many games with them last year because I was injured, but now I’m able to get a feel for them. You can sit in a gym and do drills all day, but playing in a pick-up game is totally different. It’s important for us to be working out together and spending time together off the court.”
Not only are the Wizards working out every morning and playing in pick-up games, they’re also improving off the court as they bond together and develop chemistry.
“We’re starting to build that chemistry, which is very important,” Lewis said. “It’s not just playing together in these pick-up games. It’s hanging out and being around each other when you leave the building. I think being friends and having good relationships carries out onto the court because you’re going to be willing to help each other, not hate each other.”
“Once you have that chemistry off the court, everybody comes together on the court,” Crawford added. “Everyone start playing for the team instead of playing for themselves. I think everyone noticed that when the Mavericks won the championship this year, it was because of how close they were and the leadership on that team. We’re trying to build that same type of chemistry so we can make a run.”
If the Wizards are anything like Team G this upcoming season, they’ll be a running, fast-paced team. During his first two games in Vegas, Wall has pushed the ball endlessly and made an effort to get easy points in transition.
“He’s really special,” Lewis said. “Did you see how fast he was? Nobody can keep up with him. He was going one-on-four a couple of times. He knows how to get to the basket and he’s excellent at pushing the ball down court, which is why we have to make sure we’re in shape. With the team that we have, I think we’re going to be best off playing up-and-down at a fast tempo. But that means we have to be in shape because he’s going to push it.”
The team has done well in Las Vegas and spent quality time together off the court. The group has high expectations for the upcoming season and they hope that their time together as Team G will translate to success whenever they’re able to once again take the court as the Wizards.
Ford Wants to Join Contender: T.J. Ford has been one of the most impressive players during Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas. He’s scoring the ball well, finding his teammates and showing why he’ll be one of the most highly coveted point guards when the lockout ends.
Ford will be an unrestricted free agent so while he’s playing with members of the Indiana Pacers, such as Paul George, Dahntay Jones and Brandon Rush, there’s a good chance that he won’t return to the team. During his three-year stint in Indiana, Ford bounced in and out of the rotation and was nearly traded several times. Now, as he starts the next chapter of his career, he’s hoping to join a contending team.
“First, it’s about winning,” Ford told HOOPSWORLD. “I want to be on a team where it’s about winning and they’re heading in the right direction. Definitely, it’s a team that’s going to be in the playoffs and go further than just the first round. I just want to be part of a team. Whether that means playing 10, 15, 20, 30 or 35 minutes, I just want to be one of the factors that helps the team win.”
While Ford is looking forward to free agency, he’s currently focusing his attention on the labor talks.
“The most important thing is getting a deal done,” Ford said. “Being a free agent and in a lockout, we’re all in the same situation whether you have a contract or not. Let’s hope we can get a deal done.”
HOOPSWORLD has Ford ranked as the top unrestricted point guard in this year’s free agent class. To see all of the 2011 free agents by position, check out this list.
Thunder Organize Offseason Workouts: This week, the Oklahoma City Thunder made their way to the University of Texas for some offseason workouts. Kevin Durant and Royal Ivey, two former Longhorns, organized the minicamp, which was attended by almost the entire team.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Nick Collison, Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook and Reggie Jackson joined Durant and Ivey on campus.
Throughout the week, several other NBA players stopped by to play in the pick-up games as well including Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Michael Finley and Tristan Thompson.
Oklahoma City has a very tight-knit group and the team also spent a lot of time hanging out together off the court. If the lockout continues into the season, the Thunder will set up another minicamp in the coming months.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There are two chats on today’s schedule. First, Yannis Koutroupis kicks things off with his weekly chat at 11 a.m. ET. Then, I’ll start my chat at 3 p.m. ET. Both of these chats do fill up fast so please submit your questions as early as possible. To view all of HOOPSWORLD’s upcoming chats, click here.