This week, they found out that things aren’t much different after 15 years.
“We just had a meeting with the team before this just to discuss a few things with our media relations team for all the new players,” Kuzma said. “…and he was sitting across the room, everyone talking. I’m listening; I’m looking at all my teammates. And we look at each other. And we just start laughing.”
Kuzma and Morris’ deep bond is unique to the Wizards team that features five new faces in its primary rotation as well as Kristaps Porzingis, the big man who accepted Friday’s 96-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors at the Saitama Super Arena who didn’t share the field with Bradley. Bill and Kuzma at the same time.
Each team strives to build chemistry during pre-season. Washington has the added advantage of doing it in a foreign country, where players dine together every day, travel on the same bus for training and games and back to the same hotel at night—not to mention the 28 hours together on a round trip.
It could be argued that magicians can use bonding time more than most.
Locker room breakdowns and poor communication between key players and coaching staff were largely to blame for last season’s chaotic power transition in the aftermath of the 10-3 start.
This season, the Wizards’ attack will be directed by Morris, a kind point guard that coach Wes Unseld Jr. has described as the natural bond between people. Unseld will know. Morris coached for five seasons in Denver. They also have Gibson’s simple crown as the locker room veteran and added players Dillon Wright and Will Barton.
Aside from Barton (low back tightness) and Deni Avdega (left thigh strain), everyone saw time to play against the Warriors as Unseld threw in different sets of lineups to get a better sense of what his tournaments would look like when the regular season begins in October. 19.
Unseld was generally happy with starters: Morris, Bill, Kuzma, Rui Hatchimura and Porzingis. Hachimura was an obvious choice to join the starting lineup given the place. A lively, cheerful crowd of 20,497 last night as he and Stephen Curry addressed fans before the game with bouquets of talented flowers in hand. Kari spoke in English and Hashimura in Japanese before the Wizards striker gifted Kari a bottle of wine. The Warriors may have been the home team technically, but it was evident from the host’s play.
Unseld and his coaching staff are considering the possibility of Friday’s starting lineup keeping their positions even after the team returns From Hashimura’s home.
“It’s something that’s definitely been talked about, and we’ve tried it in small parts in practice,” Unselde said. “So just seeing her run positive was generally positive.”
The group had some asymmetric sequences, but the quality of play was generally poor from both teams after extensive travel the past few days. The Warriors fired 36.7 percent from the field and made 17 turns while Washington fired 36.9 percent and made 14 turns.
Hashimura won praise from Bell and Unseld for his aggressiveness after leading Washington in scoring (13 points) and rebounding (nine). Bale scored nine points in his first game since he underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist.
“There is clearly a lot to correct,” Unseld said. “I loved our process. I thought we created some shots we were trying to produce – it was a tough shooting night for both teams, somewhat predictable.”
As for the chemistry on the court, Bell said he admires his new teammates. He highlighted Wright’s defensive prowess and Morris’s facilitation intelligence while noting that he and Porzingis were still learning each other’s preferences on court.
They will have more opportunities to network in the coming days, with charity events scheduled for Saturday afternoon, a skills competition at the Saitama Super Arena later that night and a team dinner right after Friday’s game at a location chosen by Hachimura. The teams will play on Sunday and then go home.
“It’s important,” Bell said. “A lot of us don’t have a family here, and some of us do, but this is just a time for us to be able to spend time together, build our camaraderie, build our relationships, and spend more time together. That’s all we can do: we cuddle.”