Five key questions that the Washington Wizards can answer as training camp begins.
The Washington Wizards will open training camp on Friday night, and are a number of questions and storylines that will unfold in the coming weeks. SB Nation will be in attendance throughout the week. Before the games begin, though, here are the five questions that intrigue me about this year's team that can be answered in training camp:
1. How is John Wall relating to his teammates?
It's going to be difficult to tell whether John Wall's jump shot is improved or if he really is fully healthy based on a bunch of scrimmages and practices. The real games will tell the answer to that. So I'm more concerned about the more intangible things we can learn from Wall. Namely, is he going to take on more of a vocal leadership role during practices? Will he be barking instructions to his teammates on where to go, or will he simply be quiet and accept Flip Saunders' instructions? How will his Wizards' teammates respond if Wall becomes more of a vocal leader? Will they bond with him? Will they accept his instruction, or will they look the other way?
2. How good is Jan Vesely?
We haven't seen or heard much from Jan Vesely this summer, other than a couple cryptic quotes about how disappointed he was that there was a lockout. The shortened season and training camp throws an obstacle his way, and he'll have to overcome it. How good can he be right away? Can he actually compete for small forward minutes right off the bat, or is he more of a project? Can he fill the position despite not being a great shooter?
My best guess is he'll take a little while to make his mark, which I'm guessing the Wizards will accept. With Rashard Lewis back and Chris Singleton and potentially Mo Evans also in the mix, the Wizards can afford to give Vesely some time to find his bearings.
3. Is Andray Blatche walking the walk?
Obviously, Blatche himself is a huge story this year. We're entering Blatche's fourth straight make-or-break year, and he still hasn't really broken through. There are clearly no more excuses for Blatche -- even last year, he could have fallen back on his summer foot injury.
To me, though, the far more interesting thing is to see how his talk about being a leader translates. His efforts are earnest, and the team will publicly talk about how well he is doing in an attempt to maintain his confidence, but I still sense that the players don't quite buy what he is selling. If they did, they would have dropped their offseason commitments and flown to D.C. for offseason workouts instead of staying in Los Angeles.
But if Blatche truly is giving great effort, both in his talk and in his play, that could change. That's the major challenge for Blatche. All the talk in the world means nothing if he doesn't back it up.
4. Will Flip Saunders' hard-line stance on JaVale McGee become a problem?
JaVale McGee is a talented player who often makes poor decisions on the court. Lots of Wizards do the same, but McGee's often are seen as more problematic, especially in coach Flip Saunders' eyes. Whereas Saunders is delicate in his public comments with Blatche (probably to preserve his confidence), he is much sharper in his criticism for McGee. What happens if McGee doesn't exhibit much growth in his on-court intelligence during training camp? What if he does and Saunders is tough on him anyway? Will there come a point where McGee gets fed up and tunes out his coach?
The latter question has major implications, since McGee is a free agent after the year.
5. What do the Wizards do with Jordan Crawford?
With NIck Young still a restricted free agent and therefore not in camp, Saunders will have a dilemma when it comes to Crawford. If Young is back, the plan is to have Crawford play some backup point guard in addition to shooting guard. But what happens if Young returns midway through camp, and Crawford has been impressive? What happens if the Wizards need to change his role again?
The issue with Crawford is never how he performs in practice and scrimmage settings. He always rises to the challenge because he's just so damn competitive. But the challenge for Saunders will be to get that to be applied in a team setting. Having Crawford play multiple roles may cause more harm to that than good.
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