The Junks were live on location from the Entertainment & Sports Arena in DC, the home of the Mystics and Go-Go, but it was the big club they were talking about – and they got a few minutes with the boss, new Wizards GM Will Dawkins!
And, as you can imagine, Oklahoma City is “a lot slower pace of life” than DC, so Dawkins is still getting used to his new surroundings, but he and his family are loving it so far.
“My wife’s from Oklahoma, my kids were all born down there, and I don’t think you understand: if something says it's 30 minutes away in Oklahoma, I'm getting there in 30 minutes. If someone tells you 30 minutes away here, it might take you 50, or it might take you three hours,” Dawkins joked. “I like the East Coast mentality, I’m from Boston, but we love it here; my family's probably been here two months and we found a school right away, the kids found friends, they're playing flag football, dancing...and there’s so much diversity. It was touching when my daughter, within the first weekend here, was like, ‘Daddy, there's so many people that look like me and have hair like me. And it's just like you live for that stuff, because your daughter is seeing a different side of her herself. It was awesome.”
Dawkins got here just before the Draft in June and hit the ground running, looking to start building something like what he left in OKC.
“They're on the rise and they're in a good place, and there's a system down there that they'll continue to repeat year after year,” Dawkins said. “Hard to leave for sure cause it's just great people from ownership on down, Sam Presti – the way the place is ran at a high, high level, how they treat players – but to have the opportunity to do that again here and recreate that with Mike Winger, who I've worked with in Oklahoma City, which is too much to pass up.”
When it came to that draft, Dawkins wouldn’t reveal too much on the team’s thinking about Bilal Coulibaly, saying only ‘he was in our Top 7,’ but did reveal Coulibaly’s lone pre-draft workout was with the Wiz.
“You build out your board like any other draft, and we were happy he was there,” Dawkins said. “We knew that, because him and Wembanyama had a heck of a run to the championship series, so by the time they were done, there's like a week before the draft and he's like, “I can only go to one or two teams’ – so I was like, ‘I’ll make it easy.’”
Dawkins had been watching Victor Wembanyama for years, so he had a beat on Coulibaly from watching the team – and as he said to the guys, the focus was then, is now, and always will be the big picture, even as there’s “so much in the day-to-day” to navigate.
“We’re making sure that we're working on our culture, working on the habits, the things that are gonna support us down the line, but every decision that we make is gonna be strategic and built towards down the line,” Dawkins said. “The conversations Wes and I have, and Mike and I have with him and the staff, are all about making sure we're maximizing the moment with the big picture in the back of our heads guiding us.”
So, JP had to ask, who was involved in what he called a ‘curious’ decision as a fan to re-sign Kyle Kuzma?
“One, it's who he is and who he was when we first sat him down, and how serious he was about basketball. We have to have people in the building that know what it looks like, have a competitive fiber and go out there and compete,” Dawkins said. “We're not trying to lose basketball games, we're going out there trying to be competitive, and he helps us do that. He’s still a player I see going (up) and has a lot of potential at the end of the day. He could have been a free agent, but we went to dinner with him and his agent and he said, ‘I want to be here, I love DC and I think we can do something special here, let me help you guys out and get there.’ When you hear that your first three weeks in the season, you're like, I want to give back to this person.”
So how does Dawkins balance the now with the future, all that said?
“We break the day down in growth; there’s a lot of internal measures, and we don’t want to skip any steps to get to where we want to get to, so we don't want to put a timeline on it either,” Dawkins said. “We want to be patient and naturally grow this thing. So for us, we have internal measures that we look at to determine did we have a good day today? Are we better this week than we were last week? We gave every player three goals for the entire season, and every 25 games or so we’ll go back and review it, see if we need to adjust it.”
Take a listen to Dawkins’ entire visit above, which also includes some fun thoughts on the personalities of the players, how some of the goals were collaborated on, the tough start to the schedule and more!