Bullets Fever

A blog and community website for the Washington Wizards and their fans.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Training Camp Roundup

Lots and lots is happening in Richmond at Wizards (Bullets) training camp. Here is some of the latest.

-According to multiple news sources, the Wizards have extended the contract of general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is a multi-year extension. While the Wizards probably didn't have to worry about Grunfeld going anywhere, signing him to an extension was a must. Grunfeld is completely responsible for the Wizards turnaround, having orchestrated the signing of Gilbert Arenas and the trades for Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler. For an organization who has been through many failed regimes (*cough Wes Unseld, Michael Jordan*cough), Grunfeld has been a breath of fresh air. It's about time the Wizards rewarded his success with an extension. Great, great news for Wizards fans.

-In lighter news, Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Blog has been all over Gilbert Arenas these last couple days, providing updates on his new tattoos, his nickname (Agent Zero or The Stealth...I personally like Agent Zero), and his views on the new ball. It's really cool that Steinberg is giving us a look at the other side of the Wizards training camp, especially because Arenas is such a character. While it's much easier to be entertaining when we're talking about a personality like Arenas, it's still really impressive for a newspaper reporter to have a type of relationship with the players where they'll tell him anything. That type of trust is hard to build, and I commend Steinberg and the DC Sports Blog for building it.

-Not to be outdone, Ivan Carter has been hard at work as the Wizards beat writer for the Post. He has a great article on Andray Blatche, a player he and I both see as an X-Factor this season. If Blatche can give the Wizards 10-20 solid minutes off the bench this season, the Wizards frontcourt issues will be much less glaring. Blatche's versatility was one of the main factors in letting Jared Jeffries go, and if he can have a good training camp, it will springboard him into the rotation, where he can finally show off that versatility.

Eddie Jordan has this to say about Blatche so far (via the Post's Wizards Insider).

"Right now, I'd give him an incomplete. Everyone is jacked up at the start of training camp. Let's see how he is when he's a little soar, a little beat up, a little bruised...when he gets tired. Let's see if he stays in it."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it's probably accurate. Let's wait and see on Blatche throughout training camp.

-In more concerning news regarding the frontcourt depth, new free-agent acquisition Darius Songalia missed his second straight practice with a sore back. While the injury does not appear to be too serious, back issues are never something to be treated lightly (just ask Tracy McGrady). Add that to the fact that Songalia hasn't exactly been mister durability in his NBA career, and there is some concern. Hopefully, we will see a healthy Songalia before the Wizards preseason opener against the Raptors on Monday.

-This Ivan Carter post on the Wizards Insider is a must-read. I haven't really seen much commentary from Carter in most beat articles, but through the medium of a blog, we see some real constructive commentary.

A portion of last night's practice gave me an idea of what to look for. The Wizards were working in a half-court set walking through a few basic defensive rotations. A visiting coach -- Kevin O'Neill, who is known for his defensive philosophies -- walked the fellas through a series of situations they will see in just about any game. A player drives from the wing to the baseline and is cut off by a rotating big man. Now what? O'Neill concentrated on the back side guys, in this case instructing Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson on how the coaches want them to react to a play that is going away from them.

To me, this is key because it is precisely how the Wizards were often hurt last season. Gilbert, Caron Butler, Jamison and other wing players would sometimes get caught shooting for a steal or sagging into the paint off of a weak-side shooter and that player would break the defense down either with an open shot with dribble penetration. Remember that late season night in Chicago when Ben Gordon made all of those threes off of skip passes or dribble penetration and kick-outs?

The area where Gilbert has struggled is not necessarily with on-the-ball defense though he hasn't exactly been Joe Dumars. The bigger issues have been when he's off the ball or has to get through screens while chasing his man (remember Jose Calderon running him off screen after screen in Toronto last season and gettting whatever he wanted?). Gil tends to turn his head, stop his feet and follow the ball with his eyes when it goes away from him and he tends to drop his hands and runs shoulder smack into a screener instead of using his upper body to slide around the screen. Caron got better at getting over and through screens as the season went on but also gets caught either che hiating to get into passing lanes or sagging off when the ball went away from him.

-Former George Washington star Mike Hall has impressed so far with his defense and may have a chance to stick with the team as a backup small forward.

In other NBA stuff...

-The Atlantic Division previews are officially done, as Jon from Passion and Pride posted his 76ers preview and Ryan from Hoops Addict posted his Raptors preview. Both guys are very optimistic about their team's chances. Jon predicts 47 wins from Phily this season, while Ryan predicts 42 for the Raptors. This means that every single Atlantic Division blogger has predicted their team to win at least 40 games. Either the Atlantic Divison is even more wide open than we thought, or there's a slight overdose of preseason optimism on the part of Atlantic Division bloggers. Personally, I'm leaning towards the latter, with a side dish of the former.

-The interview I had with Ryan at Hoops Addict for his Training Camp Rundown should be up soon. In the meantime, check out Ryan's interviews with ClipperBlog, Bobcats Bonfire, and The Nugg Doctor.

-With nothing more to say, I leave you with this old classic Sports Center commercial.

With Ernie Grunfeld now locked up for the forseeable future, what do you see his next move being? Something big? Something small? Nothing at all?

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