Wizards are adjusting without Wall and Nene
The effect of opening training camp without John Wall and Nene was felt throughout the Wizards' media day session Monday at Verizon Center.
Yes, there was disappointment that the team's two best players are injured. But it wasn't hard for the able-bodied players to find a silver lining: Opportunities will abound when practice starts Tuesday at George Mason on a roster full of young players and veterans looking for new opportunities.
"It doesn't change the expectations," said forward Martell Webster, one of six new faces added since the end of last season. "It changes us cosmetically. Those are two leaders. We have our maestro in John and our veteran enforcer in the post in Nene. But you know, we can't put a stamp on anything right now. Neither could we if they were healthy. We look good on paper."
Veteran point guard Jannero Pargo, signed Monday morning to fill in while Wall is out, fielded questions from reporters in a numberless jersey. The 32-year-old, who has played for five different teams since 2002, said his choice had been between coming to Washington or another stint with the Chicago Bulls, who have been to the playoffs seven of the last eight years. With the Wizards he will compete with A.J. Price to be the opening night starter.
"I've been in Chicago a number of different occasions and didn't really get the opportunities I wanted," Pargo said. "This situation, they're going in the right direction. [Trevor] Ariza, Nene, guys who know what it takes to win. I think they're rebuilding, and they'll be a lot better than last year, and I want to be a part of that."
Wall reiterated that he was stunned by the stress injury diagnosed in his left patella, a condition that will reduce him to "video games and sleep" over the next eight weeks. Nene, who is recovering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, remains hopeful for a return in time for the Wizards' season opener Oct. 30.
"I don't give specific time," Nene said. "I just going to control my act, go to therapy, rest and do what is possible to get well."
Bradley Beal, the third overall pick in the draft, said Nene still hasn't called him by name yet, referring to him only as "rookie." But the 19-year-old has embraced being taken under the wing of Jordan Crawford, the player he eventually is expected to supplant at starting shooting guard.
"The dude is a funny guy," Beal said. "He's a character. On the court, it's tough to guard him. It's a challenge every day."
For his part, Crawford has no problem with being labeled a gunner, especially as the offensive load shifts to him without Wall, the team's leading scorer last year.
"When it's time to score I score," Crawford said. "That's how it should be. For the past two years we had like 18 players hurt since I been here, if you add it up. If you go into the arena with eight players, who else going to shoot?"