Summer Acqusitions

No Summer Rest For Wizards
By Josh Sekine,
September 23, 2002

To say this past summer was a busy one for the Washington Wizards front office staff would be an understatement. From late June to mid-September, General Manager Wes Unseld and Assistant General Manager Rod Higgins obtained nine new players through the NBA Draft, free agency and trade.

"I think initially we ended the season talking about some of the weaknesses we had, and we [used the off-season to] try to sew up some of those weaknesses," Higgins said.

June 26 - 2002 NBA Draft

Abe Pollin, Doug Collins and Wes Unseld welcomed their newest players to DC.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
The NBA Draft proved to be a success for the Wizards. In the words of Wizards Head Coach Doug Collins, the team drafted "proven winners" in Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon. Both players led their college teams, Indiana and Maryland respectively, to the NCAA Championship game where Dixon's Terrapins defeated Jeffries' Hoosiers 64-52.

Jeffries, selected 11th overall, averaged 15.0 points per game in just his sophomore season, and was named Big Ten Player of the Year.

"This is just going to be a chance for me to really kind of build with the team," Jeffries said. "It’s definitely a team on the rise with a lot of young guys, and I look forward to being a part of that."

The 6-3 Dixon, picked 17th overall, averaged 16.1 points per game his senior season and became Maryland's all-time scoring leader. He was named the Final Four MVP as well as ACC Player of the Year. In addition, Dixon was voted First Team All-ACC for the third consecutive year.

"My whole basketball career has been in the Maryland, D.C. area," said Dixon. "I had a great situation at Maryland and now I have the same with the Wizards. I’m going to take advantage of it, continue to work hard and keep the work ethic that got me here."

In the draft's second round, Washington selected forward Rod Grizzard and guard Juan Carlos Navarro. As a junior at Alabama, Grizzard averaged 14.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and was named honorable mention All-American.

Navarro, who is currently playing in Europe, led F.C. Barcelona to the Spanish National Championship in 1999 and 2001, and helped lead the Spanish National team to the gold metal at the 1999 World Championships. Navarro remains under contract with F.C Barcelona and will not be joining the Wizards this season.

"We are extremely happy with the outcome of the 2002 Draft," said Unseld. "We added four very talented players."

July 18 - Hughes Signs With Wizards

AUDIO: Hughes Press Conference
The first big free agent for Washington came when the team agreed to terms with veteran free agent guard Larry Hughes on a multi-year contract.

"In the free agency market we were able to obtain Larry Hughes who we view as a versatile player in the sense that he's a slasher, very athletic and can play over the rim," said Higgins.

"I wanted to get around an organization and a team that was focused on winning," said Hughes. "We have a lot of young guys here now that can only get better and I think we'll get better together."

In his four-years in the NBA, Hughes has averaged 13.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Last season, he averaged 12.4 points and 4.3 assists in 73 games with Golden State.

In the 2000-01 season, Hughes enjoyed career-highs in points (16.5), rebounds (5.5), assists (4.5) and steals (1.9).

“We are confident that Larry Hughes will make a significant contribution to our team,” said Unseld. “He adds versatility to our roster with his ability to play both of the guard positions and his athleticism will help us on both ends of the floor.”

September 10 - Russell Joins Wizards Frontcourt

AUDIO: Russell
The next area the team was looking to address was at small forward. The Wizards got their man in veteran free agent forward Bryon Russell who not only brings experience to the team, but also a reputation as a solid defender.

"The acquisition of Bryon Russell addressed one of our weaknesses defensively," said Higgins. "He's a tough three man who has been around the block a few times and has been in a championship setting with Utah."

"I feel that I can bring a lot of defense, enthusiasm and a lot of hard work to the team," said Russell.

Last season, Russell averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. In his nine seasons in the league, all of them with the Utah Jazz, he has averaged 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in the regular season and 10.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in the playoffs.

“Bryon not only fills our need for an athletic small forward, but he also provides us with veteran experience that includes nine trips to the playoffs and two NBA Finals,” said Unseld. “In addition to helping us win games, we are also confident that he will help in the development of our younger players.”

September 11 - Wizards Acquire Stackhouse

AUDIO: Stackhouse Press Conference
The Wizards biggest move of the off-season came when they acquired All-Star guard Jerry Stackhouse, forward Brian Cardinal and center Ratko Varda from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for guards Richard Hamilton, Hubert Davis and forward Bobby Simmons.

"Unfortunately for us we had to move a high caliber player in Richard Hamilton, but we were able to acquire a guy that we feel can instantaneously help us out every night and that’s Jerry Stackhouse," Higgins said. "He's an All-Star caliber player who took his team to a 50 game season last year. He's tough, strong and it doesn't matter where he plays, he's just going to be playing."

"Jerry brings a lot of different things to us," said Unseld. We gave up a guy who gave us a number of different things, but we feel that at this time of our development as a franchise and as a team that Jerry is definitely the right move for us."

Stackhouse brings a career average of 21.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game to the Wizards. His best season came during the 2000-01 season when he finished second in the league in scoring with 29.8 points per game. Last season he averaged 21.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and led the Piston to the top of the Central Division.

"I'm very excited to be a part of this franchise and help this franchise become a winning franchise again," Stackhouse said. "My plans are to come in everyday and, I know we are a pretty young team, just try to lead by example. Try to come in and work hard everyday, have a work ethic that is contagious among all the guys on the team and put us in a position to win games."

September 17 - Ewing Joins Coaching Staff

AUDIO: Ewing
The final transaction of the summer wasn't a player but a coach. The Wizards announced that All-Star Center Patrick Ewing agreed to join the Wizards coaching staff as an assistant coach.

Ewing, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA History, is no stranger to the D.C. area. He led the Georgetown Hoyas to the Final Four in three of

“It’s great to have Patrick Ewing on our side for a change,” said Unseld. “Obviously Patrick’s playing career speaks for itself and I know that the knowledge he has gained during his career will be a valuable asset to our coaching staff. You can’t measure the value of experience and Patrick will share that experience with our players.” his four years at Georgetown, winning a National Championship his junior year.

“What more could you ask than to have a future hall-of-fame player on your staff working with your players every day,” said Wizards Head Coach Doug Collins. “It will be a real privilege for our players to work with Patrick. His first-hand experience in this league, the ability to prepare yourself as a professional, and knowing what it takes to win, will be absolutely priceless lessons for our players to learn from Patrick.”

Only a week away from training camp, the Wizards front office seemed to be excited and anxious to see their off-season acquisitions in action. They hope that the moves bring a winning aura back to the nation's capital.

"As we are only a few days away from training camp, we are optimistically anticipating a great opportunity for us to improve on last season," said Higgins.