Dāvis Bertāns brings sharp-shooting, unselfish mentality to Wizards

Growing up in Latvia, Dāvis Bertāns always told his parents he would play in the NBA. Like most parents, they didn’t take him too seriously, brushing off his notion but supporting his dreams. Bertāns remembers in particular watching re-runs of the Chicago Bulls 1996 championship team, telling his parents that would be him one day.

“I told my parents,” Bertāns explained, “and I was completely serious about it, that I was going to play in the NBA one day. They just thought it was a joke, just a silly kid from a town of 3,000 people.”

Bertāns was born in the gym. His dad used to play basketball; both of his parents were physical education teachers in Latvia. Dāvis and his brother, Dairis, who also made it to the NBA level for the first time last season with New Orleans, would be on the court every day. Basketball was always priority number one, but Dāvis played hockey, soccer, and volleyball growing up.

“We grew up in the gym,” Bertāns explained, “and as a kid, you always just wanted to shoot from as far as possible and try to make it.”

Bertāns, now 26, was tall compared to his teammates as a kid, but his peers caught up between the ages of nine and 15. He played point guard and a bit of shooting guard, before hitting another growth spurt into his eventual 6’10” frame. At some point, he realized he could play for the junior national teams and be a leader on those teams. He dreamed about playing in the Euro League and eventually the NBA, just as he had told his parents when he watched the ’96 Bulls.

In 2007, when Bertāns was only 15 years old, he turned pro. He’s played with almost three generations of players, taking a bit of something from player he’s come across. Entering adult basketball was not easy by any means, but he’s matured and developed into a 26-year old, skilled NBA player.

Now in what will be his 12th season of professional basketball, Bertāns enters his first season with the Wizards. Washington acquired “The Latvian Laser” from San Antonio in a three-team trade over the summer. Bertāns, who shot 42.9% from deep last season to earn his nickname, was touted as one of the best moves of the offseason league-wide.

He spent the last three seasons with the Spurs, learning under head coach Gregg Popovich. He took a great deal away from his experience in San Antonio, and what it takes to have a championship mindset. In his last year with the Spurs, most of the team came together well before training camp to get ready for the season. The team had a lot of new faces, similar to the Wizards this year.

The entire Wizards roster was in Washington a month before training camp began this week. Bertāns and the rest of the team have spoken at length at how important it’s been for the team to get to know each other. Introductions and team bonding have taken place over the past month, and now it’s about getting better every day and building team chemistry on the floor.

Bertāns, who has become one of the best shooters in the world, has been impressive in the opening days of practice. Outside of his 3-point threat, he’s underrated defensively and looks to make the extra pass. Head coach Scott Brooks told Bertāns that he doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, especially in transition.

“He's as good of a shooter that I've ever been around.” Brooks said after practice on Wednesday. “He's not a one-trick pony. He can do a lot of different things - he's not one dimensional. He can put the ball on the floor offensively. He can guard and chase around the perimeter pretty well."

In addition to defense, Brooks has also been preaching passing in the opening days of practice. Bertāns echoed that as well, explaining the importance of passing and how it develops team chemistry.

“If I see somebody else open,” Bertāns explained, “I’m not going to look at it [like], ‘I’m a better shooter, I’m gonna shoot the ball,’ instead of passing to somebody who’s open. That should be the mentality for the whole team. That’s what everybody’s emphasizing since we’ve been here. Share the ball mentality. If you share the ball, somebody will get it back to you. That’s how you create team chemistry and that also helps on the defensive end when players start sharing the ball more.”

Bertāns has 11 years of professional basketball under his belt, and he’s proven to be an effective and unselfish player in the NBA. He learned a lot in San Antonio and will be a valuable piece for the Wizards in the 2019-20 season. Similar to Bradley Beal, the two-time All-Star and leader of the team, Bertāns is all about max effort and winning.

“I know that there’s not a lot of expectations here,” Bertāns said, “but for me, when I step up on the court, and I know it’s [the same] for every single guy out there, winning the game, that’s the goal.”

“I know we’re going to do better than people expect us to do. We have that confidence.”

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