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John Wall Changes Everything for the Wizards

Sep 30, 2010 – 1:30 PM
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Michael Katz

Michael Katz %BloggerTitle%

Wizards Season PreviewWASHINGTON -- While the biggest story out of Wizards media day was the return of Gilbert Arenas, the biggest takeaway was the level of enthusiasm in and around the organization. For a program that finished with 26 wins last season, there is a ton of optimism surrounding the franchise.

That's because of John Wall.

"We got the number one pick, the energy in the building has changed," Nick Young said.

Our esteemed NBA editor Matt Watson called it a rebooting of a the franchise, a categorization that JaVale McGee ran with on Monday. "Definitely a rebooting -- a whole new operating system it feels like," McGee told FanHouse.

And so that's where the Wizards stand. A new roster, a new owner in Ted Leonsis, a new (at least outwardly) Arenas, and above all, a new centerpiece.

Wall isn't afraid of this burden, but deflected suggestions that it's already his team. "I just want people to know, it's just not me," he said. "It's us as a team. I don't want to get treated differently."

Except that he is. Walking around the practice facility, it's clear John Wall owns the place. As The Washington Post's Michael Lee so aptly put it, "the Wizards have handed (Wall) the keys, a spare pair of duplicates and the hidden location under the welcome mat in case he misplaces the others."

See for yourself:

"Nice shorts, John." "That's how I like 'em."

The man wears his shorts how he likes them, and don't expect that to change.

All Together Now

Can John Wall and Gilbert Arenas play together? That has been the question since the Wizards won the lottery, and Flip Saunders will be happy to figure out how to make the answer "yes." But put basketball aside. Do the pieces fit?

During midnight madness, Arenas and Wall stood next to each other during player introductions, the last two players to be introduced. They laughed, horsed around, and Arenas pretended to fall asleep on Wall's shoulder. They have a handshake. So far, things seem to be going swell.

It underscores the fact that Arenas appears to be the perfect veteran for this young, upside-laden team.

"Gil is Gil and his personality is his personality," Nick Young said. "Everybody is drawn to him.

It's possible that everyone is friendly on media day, like the first day of school. But the Wizards look like a cohesive bunch.

Whether it's JaVale McGee in position to establish himself as a starter or Yi Jianlian looking to reinvent himself on another team, many young Wizards share a common goal of finding their niche in the league, and Washington is a good place to do it together.

"Everybody, we're pretty much around the same age difference," Young said. "There ain't no vets to really tell anybody to be quiet, and do all this, and put pressure on you."

What constitutes success?

So (*cliche alert*) what are the expectations for this team? Well, it depends who you ask.

"We're not expecting to go out and be the greatest team ever in one year, you know? Rome wasn't built in a day," Andray Blatche told reporters. "It's gonna be time. We gotta build together; we gotta get a feel for one another.

"Right now we're just building for the future," he continued. "We got all the pieces we're just trying to put it together."

Young is a little more optimistic.

"I'm looking for success this year," he said. "My goal is I want to make the playoffs. My first year I made it and haven't been back since. I'm ready to break through and get back there, I'm tired of watching on TV."

Here's what the boss had to say: "We've had to rebuild the team, and I believe in young players, and there's a lot of young legs out there," Ted Leonsis told FanHouse. "We also wanted a big team and you can see we got a lot of size this year"

"If you have young players, and you can draft and develop them well, you can create a new culture, new levels of expectations," he added. "It all starts right now."

The only prediction that matters

I'll hold off on a predicition -- instead offering the wisdom of the great Gheorghe Muresan, whom I spoke with at the Wizards Midnight Madness. Despite his 7-foot-7 frame, I was almost able to reach his face with my FlipCam ...

There you have it.
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