The joke? Echenique, a 25-year-old middle constructed like a sturdy NBA massive man of yore, was not presupposed to be posting up.
“I instructed him no post-ups,” Guthrie stated with amusing. “However then he did it anyway and scored, so I stated, ‘You get one.’ After which he got here down and did it once more, so I stated, ‘Okay, high-quality — two.’ ”
Guthrie’s rule had a objective. Echenique performs as a conventional middle, primarily within the paint, for the Wizards’ G League affiliate, the Capital Metropolis Go-Go. Guthrie spent the Summer season League making an attempt to carry the large man’s recreation out of the lane and into the current.
For the seven gamers on the Wizards’ Summer season League roster who frolicked with the Go-Go final season, that’s what this month’s Las Vegas showcase was all about.
Not like most golf equipment, Washington didn’t have its younger centerpieces, similar to Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert, play within the Summer season League; each held important roles through the NBA season. This yr’s lottery choose, Johnny Davis, underwhelmed, averaging eight.three factors and capturing 27.6 p.c in three video games whereas playing through back tightness.
However Echenique, Jordan Schakel, Vernon Carey Jr. and Jordan Goodwin — gamers whom even essentially the most die-hard Wizards followers would possibly wrestle to establish, the blokes who toil within the G League trenches — confirmed up.
“The G League guys are used to being on this setting,” Go-Go Coach Mike Williams stated. “It’s not a shock to their system.”
That degree of consolation in a big, bustling NBA ecosystem is what Washington is making an attempt to foster in its G League gamers. Whereas the broad objective of the G League is to function as a farm system of types, the Wizards delight themselves on having an particularly shut relationship with the Go-Go.
Washington’s eventual purpose is to create a pool of in-house expertise from which the Wizards can pull coaches, front-office members and gamers. Williams labored on the Wizards’ and the Go-Go’s staffs earlier than he was named the G League head coach. Ryan Richman, an assistant on Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr.’s workers, coached the Go-Go earlier than he was promoted. Amber Nichols, the Go-Go’s general manager, works intently with Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard and the remainder of Washington’s entrance workplace to make sure the groups are on the identical web page. On the similar time, she will get to construct up her personal bona fides as a basketball decision-maker.
As for the gamers, Sheppard has but to show a Go-Go participant into a major NBA contributor. However when the Wizards wanted our bodies throughout a coronavirus outbreak final season, they referred to as up 5 gamers from the Go-Go.
“We wish to develop into the Miamis, the Golden States, the Oklahoma Citys — the groups that carry these guys in on the G League degree after which they see a pathway to the NBA,” Nichols stated. “You’ve bought to domesticate them in your individual system, in your individual home.”
A technique Washington does that’s by protecting its G League gamers shut. Earlier than Echenique made historical past as the first Colombian to play in the NBA when he was referred to as up in December, he was a pleasant face at Wizards observe as a result of the Wizards and Go-Go share coaching amenities at Leisure and Sports activities Area. That proximity helps the Go-Go appeal to expertise, Nichols stated.
“I hear this from brokers on a regular basis: Seeing a guardian membership put money into the G League group, it makes them wish to put their gamers in such a group. There’s constant funding of their growth, they usually’re continuously getting evaluated by individuals in an NBA entrance workplace,” Nichols stated. “That’s big-time for what we’re making an attempt to do.”
Having a Summer season League squad filled with G Leaguers was, too. Guthrie spent the 11-day showcase getting the Go-Go gamers out of their consolation zone and in additional of an NBA mind set. Within the first three video games, he introduced Echenique off the bench and tried to maintain his minutes low.
“Not as a result of he doesn’t deserve extra however as a result of that’s his function within the NBA. As a result of there’s in all probability a middle on that roster that performs 35, 36 minutes a recreation,” Guthrie stated. “I believe there’s an amazing quote from Alex Caruso in JJ Reddick’s podcast. He stated, ‘You’ve bought to grasp what job you’re making an attempt out for within the NBA.’ A few of these guys within the G League suppose they’re making an attempt out to be the CEO. They’re really going to be a lot decrease down the totem pole.”
Echenique noticed that firsthand when he was referred to as as much as the Wizards. He was with the crew for 5 video games and bought on the ground simply as soon as — for 3 minutes — however left with a wealth of data and a way of motivation he had by no means earlier than felt. The sport he returned to the Go-Go, he notched a career-high 28 factors and 9 rebounds.
This month, he led the Summer season League squad with 6.four rebounds off the bench and was its third-leading scorer, averaging 10.four factors.
“For me, getting referred to as up was an appetizer,” Echenique stated. “It simply wakened a sense of starvation. It was like, ‘I belong there.’ Now [Guthrie] helps me perceive the difference from the G League to the NBA a lot extra. I really feel like I’m taking part in at my highest degree.”