Washington – Sam Schwartz, Sports Rabbi Correspondent
With Israeli sensation Deni Avdija’s preseason debut approaching, the rookie addressed the media today alongside head coach Scott Brooks, and sophomore forward Rui Hachimura.
On what he has seen out of Avdija in five on five scrimmages, Brooks spoke specifically towards his shooting ability, “He’s made shots every day he’s practiced, it seems like he makes big shots as well. I think his shot’s good, he’s just going to have to continue to work, it’s a work in progress. His form, the mechanics, I think are pretty solid.”
Following Brooks’ session, Hachimura spoke to the media on his first impressions of Avdija’s game, comparing his shooting ability to that of another foreign marksman on the team.
“He’s a good shooter you know, he’s almost, like a typical European. Big, tall, shooter, almost like a DB (Davis Bertans). He has a good shooting ability, he’s a good defender, he can move, he moves like a guard. He can do a lot of positions, he can kind of be point guard, he can play forward, he can be a shooter, he can do a lot of things.”
Lastly, the man himself was available for questions, and Avdija spoke on a variety of topics including his budding relationship with new teammate Russell Westbrook, as well as his early experiences attempting to transition to the speed of the NBA game.
Questioned on how his early entry into the world of professional basketball has prepared him to succeed in Washington, Avdija had nothing but gratitude for the lessons learned from his teenage career playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I came at the age of sixteen to play professionally and I experienced how it is to play with adults in Maccabi. You know everybody is older than you and they got different things to talk about, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, they wouldn’t help me. It made me tougher throughout the years, and I managed to face it and be better and really be a part of the team after three years. So after I faced that challenge, I think it’s very hard to challenge me again.”
Avdija, discussing his early interactions with Westbrook, expressed appreciation in the veteran point guard’s willingness to help him improve his game.
“Me and Russ got really good together. I mean we have a great relationship, he’s talking to me a lot, and I’m always listening to him because he’s been through a lot. Me and Russ are cool together, and hopefully, we can do great things this year.”
On his first impressions of 5 on 5 scrimmages, Avdija seemed to recognize that it would take some time to adjust to the speed of the game.
“It’s different, I’m not going to lie, it is different. In the beginning, you know also when I was in Maccabi, my game was accelerating more, I was playing more fast, I was not calm as I am, as I used to be. It’s all because it’s new to me, when things are new to me and I feel like, you know first days I’m not where a lot of players are on the team right now, it all seems so fast for me. But I believe when we start the season, we have these games, there’s more games I’m going to play, I’m going to feel the game come slower to me.”
When asked on how he has adjusted to American life, the young pro seemed strictly focused on maintaining a sense of normalcy through extended hours in the gym working on his game and conversing with fellow rookie teammates.
“You come to a new country and you need to find a house and a car and organize everything, and get to know everyone in motion. There are a lot of staff people. But all in all I’m living the dream. I’m happy to play basketball. I’m in the arena from 9 am to 3 pm, but I get paid for it. It’s my job. I’m good with everyone. I talk more to the rookies.”
Former NBA star Amare Stoudemire worked with Avdija in Israel, and the rookie discussed what having an American veteran in his ear did for his development.
“Amar’e was a big part of me and a big part of the game. The amount of experience and knowledge is off the roof. I always asked and he always answered. We became very good friends. Now I left Maccabi and now we can meet as a coach to player. It will be a bit weird but Amar’e is Amar’e. And it’s always cool to see him.”
On a non-basketball related note, Avdija provided his thoughts on representing both Israel, as well as Jewish people around the globe as one of the few NBA representatives from each of the groups.
“Maccabi was a high-pressure team with a lot of fans so I have experience with fans. I love that Israel is behind me as well as the Jewish community around the world and in the USA. It pushes you to play good, work hard, so to me it’s a blessing.
The Wizards’ preseason schedule begins on Brooklyn Sunday night, before hosting games next Thursday and Saturday against Detroit.