When asked how much better training camp is this year as opposed to last year, Wizards coach Randy Wittman—whose team opened training camp at George Mason University on Saturday—smiled.
“What do you think?” Wittman said.
Wittman, of course, was referring to the fact that franchise point guard John Wall is healthy and on the court this year, instead of sidelined by a knee injury that wound up costing him 33 games.
When Wall was asked about his memories of last season, he wasn’t in a joking mood.
“[I was] miserable and bored,” Wall said. “Didn’t know what to do.”
Despite playing just a portion of the season, Wall signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension over the summer. Wall and his Washington teammates opened camp early on Saturday—four days before the rest of the league—because they will be playing in the first NBA game played in Brazil on Oct. 12 when the Wizards open their preseason against the Chicago Bulls in Rio de Janeiro.
The Wizards enter the 2013-14 season with several new faces. Eric Maynor, who spent most of his four-year career with the Oklahoma City Thunder before finishing last season with the Portland Trailblazers, joins the team as Wall’s back-up at the point. And 15-year veteran forward Al Harrington and seven-year veteran forward Josh Childress were also added.
Those changes amount to minor tweaks as opposed to the massive changes that have occurred in previous years. And that’s the way that Wittman likes it.
“You know in the last two and a half years, [we] have tried to change the make-up of the team,” Wittman said. “I think what we saw was the potential of what this team can do. And it helps adding a couple of guys who I think are going to stabilize us not only on the floor, but also in the locker room.”
After finishing a dismal 29-53 last season the Wizards, with good health, could make a serious run at their first playoff berth since 2008.
But can the Wizards stay healthy?
Already rookie forward Otto Porter, the third overall pick in the draft, is sidelined by a right hip flexor injury that he suffered several weeks ago during a pickup game at the Verizon Center. He spent his first day of camp on a stationary bike.
Center Emeka Okafor is out with a herniated disc in his neck, and there is no timetable for his return.
And reserve forward Chris Singleton has a broken left foot, and is expected to miss at least five weeks.
Still, Bradley Beal called the mood of the team upbeat. Beal, who actually grew an inch in the offseason, is entering his second season but is already talking a bit like a grizzled veteran.
“I feel like I’ve played for the team like 10 years already,” Beal said. “I just feel more comfortable, more confident, I’m just excited. I’m ready to go.”
Carla Peay is a contributing writer for Blacktopxchange