Tonight was the first chance to see the 2008-09 Jays in action for the fans as they had an open house at the Qwest Center and a live practice with the team. Luckily I had the chance to go and take it in. What I was surprised about was the crowd waiting at the escalators to get into the open house at around 5:30. Fans streamed up the stairs to see the practice. I would say that there were about 1000-1500 people there as the lower bowl had a decent amount of people and a lot of people were sort of walking around all over to see what seats were still available for the upcoming season.
The team did some weave drills and some offensive sets. What was great about these was that it really took all of the players and they seemed to be all rotated in and mixed up so different looks were on the floor. It was a mix between some half-court sets and some full court movement.
But as the offensive set practice was over with then it was on to several 3 minute scrimmages with what appeared to be the “first team” against the rest. The first team seemed to consist of a rotation that included Josh Dotzler, P’Allen Stinnett, Booker Woodfox, Justin Carter, Chad Millard and Kenny Lawson. So although I considered that maybe Casey Harriman would be in that starting rotation when I was predicting starting lineups, I would probably lean now towards 5 of the 6 mentioned above though Casey was working hard and getting several great comments his way.
Some new energy was in the house tonight watching Justin Carter play. He definitely looked as advertised. He was flying around the court, driving to the basket, shooting threes and diving for loose balls. He probably got the biggest Ohh-Ahh of the night when he swatted away a sure layup by one of the other players on a fast break. However, the one area that appears might be an issue is free throws, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
I would have expected to see Josh Dotzler and Booker Woodfox sort of tired with the trip to St. Louis earlier in the day and then back in town for the evening practice. Actually Josh looked really energized and seemed to lead the team well, though Booker did seem a little tired, especially shooting and trying to get open. He had a real tough time getting free for the open look and then when he did get a shot it was a little off. However, it was a big day for the both of them, so I totally understand that.
Now maybe I haven’t looked at P’Allen’s tattoos enough, but after taking some pictures tonight, I noticed that he has a bleeding 1 on the back of his left arm and a bleeding 0 on the back of his other arm probably noting his #10 jersey. Anyway it looked kind of cool and a friend of mine provided me with the picture.
One of the bigger cheers of the night was towards the end of practice when the team was doing wind sprints back and forth on the court. Big man Kenton Walker wowed the crowd by blowing the competition away in the beginning, but a the end P’Allen caught up and ended up finishing first.
Kaleb Korver looked pretty good as well tonight. He won the set of wind sprints in the group before and had a great pace to distance himself from everyone else in the group. He definitely has put on some extra strength and as others have noted does look a little taller. Still a sweet shot from outside.
Freshman looked like freshman as Josh Jones and Antoine Young at times looked like they were struggling and learning to make the right decisions a Coach Altman was telling them to make “simple plays” and asking “why did you take that crazy shot?” But they are on the learning curve and I think they will be fine.
After the scrimmages were over, the team went through full court sprints passing the ball and making shots on the run which they were running their shoes off and I guess part of being able to be a good transition team is to make shots on the run. Not as many shots were going in during the scrimmage part, but during this time most shots were going in.
As far as the rest of the guys go, you could tell Cavel was having some issues with his ankle that he injured last week in practice, but is working really hard to do the same thing as the rest of the team. Chad Millard was kind of quiet as far as I could tell, nothing really stuck out about him. Our favorite walk-on Dusty Sitzmann was not at practice. At the end of practice fans were invited down to get autographs from their favorite Jays player.
All in all it was a fun evening even with no “glitz” but it would have been nice. It looks like more season tickets were sold as well, probably around 150 from what I heard. But it is good to get the juices going to get excited about the season.