In The Scrum With Ernie Grunfeld

On the eve of the biggest draft pick the Washington Wizards have had in nine years, Team President Ernie Grunfeld took some time to speak with the media. He spoke about his impressions on John Wall, the limitations of player workouts, what positions he’s looking to upgrade in the draft, JaVale McGee’s summer plans, and what moves the Wizards may make tomorrow night.

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Draft Prospects To Conduct NBA FIT Clinic

On Wednesday, June 23 from 3-4 pm, top 200 NBA draftees, along with Hall of Famer Bob Lanier and former NBA player Felipe Lopez, will conduct an NBA FIT clinic for 100 New  York boys and girls. 

The FIT clinic, which will be held at the legendary Madison Square Garden, will have various stations designed on showing them the importance of health and nutrition.

Also in attendance at the this NBA clinic, will be 13 year old Justin Freelander, found of “Justin’s Quest”.  After being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer last year, Freelander,  established “Justin’s Quest” to raise awareness and to hopefully find a cure for this terrible disease.

Freelander, whose lives in the Washington D.C.  area and is a Washington Wizards fan, vowed to shoot a basket for every person diagnosed with a  brain tumor each year in the US – approximately 63,000 baskets – and all proceeds from “Justin’s Quest “will benefit the National Brain Tumor Society.


60 Minutes With John Wall

Prior to the 2007 NBA draft, aside from Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, one of the most intriguing  players available was Yi Jianlian.  He was 7’0″, 250lbs, with a deft shooting touch, he had averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Chinese basketball league and the general feeling was that he was the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki. 

Yi and his handlers organized an individual workout in Los Angeles, so that coaches and scouts who may have been skeptical about this talent, could see him up close and do their own evaluation.  Yi went through a series of shooting, dribbling and agility drills against nothing more than a chair, but still seemingly did enough to wow the scouts into saying he was a top 10 draft pick. 

Sure enough, just a few weeks later, Jianlian ws the sixth pick in the 2007  NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

I remember hearing about that workout, and wondering how so many respected NBA scouts, front office folks and coaches could be convinced of a player’s greatness on the strength of an individual workout with a chair.  Although Yi had been dominant in China, the level of competition and the quality of players is much higher in the NBA.  I also remember thinking if I was a GM, and I only saw this guy against a chair, and not NBA-ready players, I’d be inclined to take him lower in the first round–not in the lottery.  To me, basketball is a team game and is best evaluated as such, not with an individual workout.

So all these thoughts were in my head when the Washington Wizards PR staff announced that former University of Kentucky All-American, John Wall would be worked out individually.  Unlike Yi, Wall played with and against NBA-ready talent during his one year of college, and he thrived by averaging 16 points and six assists.  The sense from NBA people in the know, was that Wall had merely scratched the surface of how good of a point guard he could be.  Still, I was highly skeptical of what, if anything, could be gleaned from an individual workout. 

After a brief 30 minutes, I realized that my Yi Jianlian-influenced skepticism about individual workouts was justified.

In front of audience that included Wizards forward Andray Blatche, Team President Ernie Grunfeld, Owner Ted Leonsis, bloggers, beat writers and Wizards coaches, Wall did his best to dazzle in an individual workout. 

The first drill I saw Wall performing was a pick and roll drill where he would come off a pick and then pull up for a jumpshot, but the shots were not falling consistently.  He then moved on to a drill where Coach Flip Saunders would throw the ball, and Wall had to let it bounce twice, before he picked it up and shot it.  Wall shot the ball a little better, but he still appeared to be fighting with his shot–much like Ray Allen did throughout the NBA Finals.

When head coach Flip Saunders asked Wall to dunk the ball from each side of the floor, he seemed to come alive a bit.  Initially he just did two, one-handed Jordan style baseline dunks a la  Michael Jordan, but towards the end he got fancy and did a Dominique Wilkins style windmill.  The thing that struck me the most was how easy it all seemed to look and how little he seemed to phased by all the eyes that were on him, and only him. 

The workout was ended prematurely, and Wall later admitted that his back had stiffened a bit.

Still, this was still an individiual workout, and even though former NBA player and current Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell was in attendance playing “defense”, it was hardly enough to glean any additional information about Wall’s game or abilities.  

Less than 30 minutes after it all began, the workout was over and Wall was whisked away to an undisclosed location.  The Yi rule was still in effect as far as I was concerned.

But after about a 12 minute wait, Wall re-emerged in the media room to answer questions, and this is where I got an education about his game and where he wants be. He answered questions about playing with Gilbert Arenas, how it feels to be the center of attention, how it feels to be the number pick in the draft, and his assessment of the workout.  But there were two basketball-related answers of his that stuck out.

The first answer was in response to a question I asked him about watching Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.  The Lakers were taking on the Suns, and Wall was lucky enough to be sitting courtside.  I asked him what he learned from Kobe Bryant and/or Steve Nash.

“I was a fan, but I was also a student of the game trying to learn a lot,” Wall explained to me.  “Kobe has great footwork and every chances he gets the ball he knows the spot he wants to get to and that’s the key in the NBA, you have to know the spots and certain angles to beat guys.  He’s [Kobe] not as explosive as he was when he first got to the league, but now his footwork is so good, he knows how to get certain angles and get people off their feet.  That’s what I’m looking to do and try to get better at”.

The second response that impressed me came from a question courtesy of Mike Prada from Bullets Forever.  Prada asked Wall how comfortable he felt running the pick and roll, when that style of offense was not often run in the college game. 

“The key in the pick and roll is you have to be able to knock down shots, if not, you have to set the pick and roll a little lower, so you can get into the paint easier,” Wall told Prada.  “You see how guys are guarding [Rajon] Rondo off the pick and roll, and I want to be the type of player who can knock that [shot] down.”

Wall’s answer about Kobe Bryant’s  footwork  and angles demonstrated to me that he’s seemingly dedicated to making the game easier for him in preparation for the next level.  His observations on the pick and roll, and the way Rondo is handling it, tells me that he is interested in improving not just as a player, but as a point guard.  Amid the cliched questions and answers, it was quite refreshing to hear a top draft prospect actually break down the game of basketball.

18 minutes after he first sat down in the media room to answer questions, and after erroneously picking the Celtics to win Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Wall was ushered out by the PR staff.  The first 30 minutes had been relatively uneventful, but the last 30 had me even more intrigued about his capabilities in a Washington Wizards uniform.

Luckily for me, I only have less than a week to wait.

For the full audio of John Wall’s post-workout press conference click hereAnd please stay tuned to Hoops Addict for full NBA Draft coverage.

In The Scrum With John Wall

Washington Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis, Team President Ernie Grunfeld, and Coach Flip Saunders have remained relatively reticent about who the team’s number one pick will be.

But realistically, barring a turn of events of epic proportions, the Wizards will draft University of Kentucky All-American guard, John Wall.

Today, Wall participated in an individual workout in front of a rather large group of media, front office personnel and coaches on the Wizards practice court, and after he met with the media.  He discussed how his workout went, advice he got from LeBron James, what he learned by watching Kobe Bryant, the possibility of playing with Gilbert Arenas, and much more.

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Podcast: Say Queensbridge

Less than 20 minutes after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 83-79 to win the  NBA championship, Kobe Bryant was announced as the NBA Finals MVP–and deservedly so.  He averaged 27 points a game, and with the exception of  Game 7 , he kept the Lakers in every game.  But the Game 7 MVP was clearly Ron Artest.

He played a team high 46 minutes, and he scored 20 points and had five steals.  When none of his teammates seemed to be able to hit shots consistently, Artest picked up the slack admirably.  And when Rasheed Wallace hit a three-pointer to bring the Celtics within three points towards the end of the game, Artest calmly hit an open three-pointer of his own to effectively put the game out of reach.

During this podcast, Ryan and Rashad discuss the great play of Artest, the rebounding dominance of the Lakers, the struggles of the Celtics in the fourth quarter, and Kobe Bryant’s legacy.

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