Literally and figuratively, Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders just hit the lottery. By winning Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, the 16 year veteran head coach coming of an extremely difficult – on and and off the court – first 26-56 season with the team, Saunders should be able to land the piece (or pieces) they covet to rebuild their franchise – on and off the court. Presumably that will be freshman Kentucky point guard John Wall, but at the very least, the Wizards are in the driver’s seat to “control their own destiny” when it comes to adding a player (or players) through the draft. And it really could not have come at a better time.
In the middle of the season, the team blew everything up to start fresh, moving Brendan Haywood, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler and bringing in Josh Howard, Al Thornton picks and cap room/expiring contracts. Along with those two players, the team does have some young, athletic talent with 6’11″ Andray Blatche, who is just 23 years-old and can play three positions, 7′ JaVale McGee, who is 22 and very efficient and even 6’6″ SG/SF Nick Young who is just 24. None of those players is a point guard, which means John Wall could definitely help. And not only could he help run the team as early as next year, his presence on the team may also help to attract free agents to a team that has a young star… Now if they could just figure out what to do with Gilbert Arenas (and all that money he is owed).
Flip Saunders joined the Junkies on 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C. to talk about landing the top pick, John Wall, the Boston Celtics, Michael Jordan, and the John Wall Dance.
On if he is happier that the season is over or that he has the #1 pick:
“I feel like the season is beginning. In some realities, there were definitely trying times. But late in the year, with the young players we had, I actually had a fun time coaching those guys… I guess the basketball gods reward you. We tried to break the team up and go in a different direction and try to rebuild. We started working that way. We got the right ping pong ball and that will facilitate our process for sure… It’s a great day for us from the standpoint that it jumpstarts our organization again. The people of DC should be excited because they know that we are going to get a star player in here.”
On John Wall:
“John is the by far most dynamic player in the draft. He’s probably one of the most dynamic guards to come out in a while when you combine his athleticism, his ability to defend and the speed that he has. A lot of times when players come into our league, you are trying to develop a guy into a point guard. Sometimes you are trying to change a guy who was a scorer or more of a shooting guard in college into point guard who can lead a team. John is definitely a guy who is a point guard. He averaged a lot of assists at Kentucky and pretty much dominated.”
On the (new) gameplan for free agency:
“We said the number one thing we were going to do was see where we are in the draft and that would facilitate what we do in free agency. We are going to get out there. No matter who we get, there will be some intrigue from free agents to play with some quality type players.”
On the Boston Celtics’ play in the playoffs:
“Am I surprised at Boston? No. The reason I am not surprised is 1) they are healthy and 2) is that when you get in the playoffs, there is always rest in between games. And a team like them that is a veteran team that has the ability to rest and prepare – which is something that veteran teams can do at an exceptionally high level – is going to be of benefit to them… The playoffs are about match-ups and they have great match-ups. Their power forwards are having problems playing against Garnett and being able to score against Garnett. And Rondo is winning both of the point guard situations.”
On Kobe Bryant approaching Michael Jordan’s ring count:
“There is no question that Kobe is going to go down as one of the greatest players. He continues to amaze. Everyone said that when he entered the league, that he was the closest thing at that time to a Michael Jordan. There’s one constant factor that’s involved with all those championships and that’s Phil Jackson. Phil’s has been in great situations getting great players, but he puts players in a situation to succeed.”
And on if he knows the John Wall Dance:
“We were doing the John Wall Dance and the Evan Turner Dance and all those dances when we won the first pick.”