Wizards-Knicks Summer League highlights
LAS VEGAS –- As Marquez Haynes went through the lobby of his hotel, he heard travelers speaking French.
He jumped in the conversation, and they were shocked that he knew the language. In two exhibition games, Haynes has done something similar by thrusting himself into the conversation with the Wizards in summer league play. His game is translating quite well.
"I like the kid, Haynes. He’s pretty good, man," Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell said after a scrimmage with the Toronto Raptors on Monday at Thomas & Mack Center. "He hasn't hurt himself at all as far as the summer league. A lot of people asking and inquiring about him. More power to him."
Cassell mentioned Haynes without prompting, being asked what free agent has stood out the most for Washington. "Some guys get it. Some guys don’t get it," he said. "We've only had four days of practice."
Haynes began his college career and Boston College where he never averaged more than four points per game and spent the last two years at Texas-Arlington where he posted 22.6 as a senior. He fits the profile of what the Wizards are looking for going into this process of trying to find a diamond in the rough among unsigned free agents: 26, spent three years playing in France, Spain and Germany, a combo guard with three-point range.
The Wizards' head of scouting, Milt Newton, talked with Southern Methodist coach Larry Brown who had competed against Haynes and spoke favorably of him. Newton had already had Haynes on his radar.
“It’s a little different because coming into a situation like this where you’re trying to get one of those last roster spots. You have to try to fit in the best way you can,” said Haynes of the Wizards, who can extend a training camp invite and carry as many as 15 players when the regular season starts. They have 14 under contract. “There’s much more on the basketball floor I can do but that’s not going to really help me make a team.”
The Wizards play the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday (NBA TV, 10 p.m. ET). They have only two point guards on the roster with John Wall and Eric Maynor, who was signed as a free agent earlier this month. While Bradley Beal and Garrett Temple can help relieve pressure because of their ball-handling, neither is a true point guard.
For a long time, Haynes wasn't either. That’s a role that he has learned since going undrafted in 2010 when Wall was taken No. 1 overall. He played 20 minutes off the bench in the first summer game vs. the Golden State Warriors, tallying six points on 2-for-7 shooting and six assists. Haynes led his team with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 2 of 4 threes, in a loss to the New York Knicks. He started and played 24 minutes.
More importantly than points and stats, the Wizards were much more fluid in their half-court sets with Haynes, who appears to have surpassed veteran Sundiata Gaines, who started vs. Golden State, in the lineup. That was a problem in the opener when they scored just 52 points.
“We want to play with pace. When John Wall has the ball, you know that we’re going to have pace. If you’re going to make this team and play with the Wizards you've got to understand the pace is important,” said Don Newman, an assistant coach who is sharing the head coaching role with Sam Cassell in the summer league. “We like Haynes. He pushes the ball. He gets into people defensively. He’s coachable. That’s some of the stuff we’re looking for.”
Haynes didn't expect to be here. The Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz showed some interest but that didn't pan out. He’d played summer league in 2010 with the Detroit Pistons and with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season.
“I’m a lot more under control, becoming a better point guard. Coming out of college I was a big-time scorer and more often than not I was doing what I had to do to score the ball,” Haynes said. “Now I think from being overseas and playing more point guard and studying the game my pace has more changed a little bit and I’m understanding the game a little bit better.
“I’m trying to make the transition to being more crafty than athletic since I’m a little bit older. Coming out of school the knock on me was that I was only a scoring guard. Teams didn't know if I could run a team and make other players better. ... This is the least relationship I've had with a team. They knew the least about me, and its weird that this is the most comfortable I've been. I knew what to expect coming in. I knew my defense would get me some attention.”
Gaines and Andrew Lawrence are trying to secure roster spots as point guards, too. If not with the Wizards, they’re all hoping someone in the bleachers at Cox Pavilion will notice them and deem them worthy of a training camp invite. Haynes, showing the wisdom the Wizards like to see, tries not to think about that too much.
“I want these guys to all look great. If I go out there and do my job, make those guys look good, then I’ll look good,” he said. “From playing (pro) three years I feel like I’m as good as a lot of the players in the NBA. I guess that’s why I’m so comfortable while I’m out there. ... Good things are going to happen, regardless."
Last season, Haynes signed with a European team while playing summer league. He’s going to wait this time, hoping he has more options on the table. But if he never plays in the NBA, he's OK with it.
“At one point it was everything. It’s all I wanted to do,” Haynes said. “It kind of hurt me in these settings because I played tighter. Being in Europe and understanding my future is secure, I know even if I don’t play in the NBA that I’m good enough to. … I always wanted to prove to myself I can do it. Now I know I can do it. I know I can help an NBA team. If it doesn't happen, it just wasn't meant for me. There are great opportunities elsewhere, too.”