The Washington Wizards are pegged by some prognosticators to be among the Eastern Conference’s top tier this season, and taking into account its splashy summer transactions and the conference’s vastly different landscape in the second post-LeBron era, the expectations aren’t too far-fetched.
The team held its league-mandated media day Monday at at the DC Entertainment and Sports Arena, and on paper at least, the new-look Wizards like their chances, too.
Its acquisition of veteran center Dwight Howard is expected to boost the squad’s defense as a shot-blocker and double-figure rebounder, and the bench was bolstered with the additions of Austin Rivers and Prince George’s County native Jeff Green.
“I like the new changes,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said Monday. “We’ve added some great additions. I’m optimistic our guys will blend well together.”
Twenty-eight of the 30 NBA teams hosted media day events and expressed optimism for the upcoming season.
But inside the newly built $65 million complex in southeast D.C., Brooks and the Wizards starters from last season all said the 2018-19 campaign rests with consistency.
“Professionalism is going to be a big thing for us this year,” said power forward Markieff Morris.
The Wizards’ record against sub-.500 teams last year was only 20-15. By comparison, the Toronto Raptors, which eliminated Washington in the first round of playoffs in April, was 35-2 against such opponents.
Besides advancing to the conference finals and beyond, the Wizards plan to shoot more 3-pointers. Although Washington tied for third in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 37.5 percent, the team ranked near the bottom in attempts at fewer than 27.
Brooks wants shooting guard Bradley Beal to attempt at least 10 3-pointers per game, compared to his 6.5 per contest last season.
“I’m always about playing the right way and getting the best shot possible, but sometimes coach wants me to take bad shots,” Beal said. “As crazy as that sounds, that’s what he wants sometimes. It’s an adjustment I have to make mentally.
“When you have somebody who’s giving you the confidence … to shoot more, it gives you more confidence to know if the coach believes in you and the team believes in you, I have to do it,” he said.
The Wizards begin training camp Tuesday with a 20-man roster including two-way players Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae, who signed a contract last week to play with both Washington and its G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
However, Brooks said Howard will be listed as day to day with a sore back.
“Nothing appeared to be serious,” Brooks said. “We are going to be very careful with himThere isn’t a rush. We have three weeks to get ready for the first [regular-season] game.”
Howard said workouts and a recent trip to China caused “just a minor setback” but that he didn’t expect to be sidelined for long.
Fans can attend an open practice at 6 p.m. Friday on a first-come, first-served basis. The first 200 fans will receive a pass to participate in a post-practice autograph session with select Wizards players. The first 500 will receive a free T-shirt.
Interested fans are encouraged to RSVP at http://info.washingtonwizards.com/Wiz-OpenPractice09-20-18.