After five days and eight overall practices, the Washington Wizards take the lessons and play designs they have learned on the road for Sunday's preseason opener at Charlotte. Here's what you need to know about the first of eight exhibition games before the regular season opener on Oct. 30 at Cleveland...
Watch those turnovers: Seeing as the game is not televised, I asked Wizards coach Randy Wittman following Saturday's practice's what those of box score-only analyzers should be on the lookout for against the Bobcats. Like a springy defender anticipating an incoming pass, Wittman jumped my question.
"Turnovers," Wittman exclaimed, sounding a like a coach not willing to participate in a second straight season where the team averages 15.3 miscues per game. "Obviously that's got to be one of the areas that we this year. That number has got to come down a lot for us to be successful. You're always going to have someone what to run and push the ball like we want to but its still got to come down.
"That's probably my number one concern. It always is. We threw the ball all over this gymnasium Tuesday morning so, I'm hoping that doesn't happen."
With John Wall (knee) sidelined and Jannero Pargo (abdominal strain) having missed the previous two days worth of practices, the primary ball handling and push the pace responsibilities fall to A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack.
"I don't think we have any pressure," said Price, one of the several players expected to make their Wizards debut on Sunday. "Our job is simple: just not to turn it over. That's the only thing we have to be concerned with, not to turn the ball over. We don't necessarily have to score. We don't have to really rebound. We don't really have to do anything but not turn the ball over, make sure we get into our sets and we get good shots every time down."
To this point in his first training camp as Wizards head coach, Wittman has been pleased with the work done, the effort provided. Now comes the first opportunity to gauge whether the lessons learned (or at least taught) have sunk in.
"I just want to see a carryover of what we've put in and our execution of it both offensively and defensively," Wittman said. "We've got a long way to go still with what we're going to add, that's my main thing. On the flight back here to George Mason I want to look at the film and say 'oh that's petty good carryover' or it's not and we've got to get right back in here and get to work. That's what I'm looking for."
The Wizards return to George Mason University Monday and Tuesday for the final two days of the formal portion of training camp.
Beal vs. MKG: Wizards rookie Bradley Beal's de facto NBA debut comes against a team sporting another first-year player he's quite familiar with. One pick before Washington selected the University of Florida shooter, Charlotte tabbed another Southeastern Conference stud, Kentucky's grinding small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
"Im pretty sure were going to guard each other," the 19-year-old Beal said. "Hes a competitor and I love playing against him because he never takes it easy on anybody. I mean Im real close friends with him, but that doesnt mean anything to him. He just wants to beat you, he wants to be competitive, he wants to be the best that he can be.
During his one season at Florida, Beal faced Kentucky three times. After shooting 6-for-25 in the first two games, the 6-foot-4 Beal turned in arguably his best game of the season against the Wildcats during the SEC Tournament, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and sank 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
"So, whenever I match up against him, its always a competitive battle. I love his game. I love the way he plays. I love his heart and passion and how hard he plays. I just have to be able to retaliate and hopefully play better than him."
Wittman is simply looking forward to seeing Beal play when the lights come on.
"I want to see what he can do," Wittman said. "As (for) what he's done here these five days and if any of that carried over into a game like situation against another team, that's all I'm concerned about right now as we move forward. I want to see where we're at retain wise and how we execute from where we're been."
While Beal's thoughts are focused on the upcoming events in Charlotte, the St. Louis native confidently offered a prediction for a certain National League Divisional Series that kicks off today in his hometown.
"Cardinals. Thats all Im going to say," Beal said as St. Louis hosts the Nationals for two games before the series shifts to Washington on Wednesday. "Im trying to actually go to the game, if were free. Itll be a close series. I know the Nationals are good, but I still got the Cardinals."
As for whether he caught any of the Cardinals playoff win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday, Beal cracked, "I knew they were going to win, so there was no point in watching."
Charlotte who?: Last season the 20-win Wizards finished 4-0 against the Bobcats. They weren't the only ones to find that winning feeling against a Charlotte team that underwent significant changes this offseason after a seven-win campaign and finishing with the lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Former St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap was named head coach while the roster shakeup included the additions of NBA veterans Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood along with Kidd-Gilchrist.