Young Wizards bond, build for the future at Mason training camp

Owner Ted Leonsis chats with guard A.J. Price during Thursday's session at the Patriot Center (Photo by John Irwin).
Owner Ted Leonsis chats with guard A.J. Price during Thursday's session at the Patriot Center (Photo by John Irwin).

After finishing the 2011-2012 regular season with a dismal 20-46 record, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis needed to make some changes. The changes that had to be made were a priority for a team that had become a laughingstock in the National Basketball Association over the past few seasons. His main focus shifted to building a contender through the draft and by developing young, talented and character players.

“We are building a fundamentally sound team,” said Leonsis, last night at the Patriot Center. “The level of athletic play in the NBA has never been better with the number of stars it has. But it’s still a team game.”

The youth that Leonsis wanted to stress began to bond as a cohesive unit this past week at the Wizards training camp held at the Patriot Center with both a morning and evening session. The practice was open to season ticket holders and the media and the new additions to the team were introduced to the fan base.

All eyes were on last June’s first round draft pick Bradley Beal, who has impressed the staff and will be a contender for a starting position before the season starts on Oct. 30 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With star point guard John Wall out for 6-8 weeks with a recent patella surgery, Beal could see significant minutes out of the gates. Beal has the ability to create his own shot, using screens, penetrating the lane, off the dribble along with a perimeter jumper that keeps defenses honest when covering him.

The Wizards will attempt to fill the scoring void that Wall’s injury causes by playing new acquisitions Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and free agent Jannero Pargo, who was signed on Monday.

"I've been here only 17 hours and I already feel at home," said Pargo. “Everyone’s been really accepting and we’re already joking around with each other.”

The departures of JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche showed Leonsis’s determination and vision of creating a culture of character, combined with both youth and talent to build a team that can persevere in an ever-improving NBA.

“I want a team that is built to last by building around young talent,” said Leonsis. “We want to be a team that’s hard to play against and we can do this by doing the little things at a higher pace.”

The Patriot Center has become a training camp home for the Wizards over the past few years. The team hosted their 2010 camp at the facility and was planning to hold camp their last fall before the NBA lockout cancelled the beginning of the season.

“It’s great to have camp on a college campus, staying in a hotel, close to home and in the center of our fan base. What a great thing for our players to grow together.”

The Wizards will be traveling to Charlotte, NC on Saturday to play in a pre-season game against the Charlotte Bobcats at 1 p.m. They will be hosting their Tip-Off event open free to the public on Tuesday Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m.  

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