The Junkies were live at the Wizards’ facility on Friday for a little basketball show ahead of Saturday’s home opener, and they got a chance to sit down with head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to get a look at this year’s squad!
And he agrees with most fans that the season opener wasn’t what they had drawn up.
“Not our best effort; I think we let our offense dictate a little bit of our defense, scored enough to win the game and there were some good moments, but our overall defensive disposition wasn't quite up to par,” Unseld said. “You’re gonna have those nights, but we didn’t help ourselves on defense. Some of that was predicated on our offense, the turnovers, but we gotta have a little bit more awareness and urgency, especially on that end, and especially against a team that really thrives in those areas.
Unseld explained what an NBA film session looks like to the guys, and how and what they’re breaking down, and how they hope things stick.
“We have a lot of young guys, and eight guys who are new to this group, so when you factor that in, we’re going to have to live through a lot of youthful mistakes,” Unseld said. “You have to be strategic with (dealing with them). You don't want guys to feel like they're playing on eggshells every single possession; then your head’s spinning and you got no confidence. You want them to play with freedom and clarity, and obviously, there's certain standards you want to uphold, but you have to understand the game's fluid and fast. There will be mistakes, so they gotta understand what those mistakes are – but if they make repeated mistakes, sometimes you have to make a change.”
Six players are 22 or younger on the Wizards’ roster, including their longest-tenured player in Deni Avdija, so there’s going to be a lot of those growing pains.
“We have to be patient, and there are ways to find small victories within those moments, but we don't want to heap too much on these guys too soon,” Unseld said. “It's gonna take some time and there will be some tough nights, but I love the spirit and the vibe of this group. They're connected, they want to compete and play for each other. In those areas, we’re off to a good start.”
First-round pick Bilal Coulibaly is the youngest of those players,
“His size and length, and you realize he’s 19; he has a seven-plus wingspan, and you can’t teach some of that,” Unseld said. “To see where he’s at now even, he’s adding different facets of his game, showing a lot more composure and poise that’s unique for a 19-year-old. You can project some things, but you can’t teach size and instincts, and every day he shows us a little more.”
He only had 23 minutes off the bench in the opener, and the rookie’s role is going to be quite fluid as they figure out how to best utilize him.
“You want to give him a chance to have success and not just throw him out there, but you want to push his threshold, see what he can do,” Unseld said. “You want to challenge him to defend different spots, play different positions. We’re gonna be patient, and I think it's gonna be a great environment for him. The player development piece this season and moving forward is gonna be really something we have to dial into.”
Take a listen to Unseld’s entire segment, which also includes some scouting reports on other new players, the new load management rules, expectations of the new front office regime, and more!