Jan Vesely still plays like he's in Europe. As a native of the Czech Republic, it's not an easy habit to break.
But in his second season with the Wizards, the 6-foot-11 forward no longer has the crutch of inexperience to lean on, even if he was deprived of a normal rookie year. After a normal offseason, Vesely needs to accelerate the process of adjusting his skills to what the NBA requires.
"It's different basketball in Europe and back here," Vesely said Tuesday at George Mason, where the Wizards wrapped up a week of training camp. "But it's no excuse because I played one season here. I still try to accept this kind of basketball."
Vesely does fit the up-tempo brand of basketball the Wizards hope to play, showing comfort at his size making defensive plays and finishing in transition as an NBA rookie, averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
"He's not a guy that we throw the ball to on the low box to play off of," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He's got to create those things, and when he's just going through it, he's not effective. He can't be out there. When he's active -- hands, deflections, running all over the floor, getting out on the break, causing havoc -- that's what he's got to do. That's got to be all the time."
Cultural and geographical differences don't explain the airball Vesely launched in his first NBA free throw attempt along with what teammate Shelvin Mack estimated were "10 a day" in practice. Vesely went into the summer knowing that improving his jump shot was paramount, bringing Wizards assistant coach Joe Connelly over to Europe for a stretch and working in Los Angeles and in Washington. Vesely was 1-for-5 from the field in Washington's preseason opener at Charlotte, but his midrange game has been more consistent in practice.
"He's not hesitating," Wittman said. "He's taking shots. He took some in Charlotte. There wasn't a second thought, and that's good. Whether they go in or not, that's what you've got to do."
Vesely's bigger challenge is to reduce his propensity for foul trouble. The 22-year-old piled up 27 personals in four contests in Las Vegas, hitting the 10-foul limit in his first game. Against the Bobcats last weekend, he added another five, and Wittman believed three of them were preventable.
"Young guys that are aggressive have to learn how to play aggressive," Wittman said. "There is a way to do it."
Vesely knows he needs to slow himself down, but his natural instincts were honed where the game is more physical.
"I play like this in Europe when I was playing," Vesely said. "I like this kind of game, to play hard and fast basketball, running fast breaks and playing good defense, and from defense go to the offense. I like to play like this, and the team like it, too. I think if we play good defense, stay focused on defense like a team, we can make a success."