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Wizards-Heat a mismatch of epic proportions


Wizards-Heat a mismatch of epic proportions

On paper, it’s a mismatch of epic proportions.

The defending champion Miami Heat, who are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the best record in the NBA [11-3], pay their first visit to Verizon Center Tuesday night against the last-place Wizards, who own the NBA’s worst record at 1-13.

The numbers speak for themselves.

The Heat rank second in the NBA with 104.6 points per game; the Wizards are last at 89.4. The Heat rank first in the league in shooting percentage [49.5] and 3-point shooting [42.5]; the Wizards are last in shooting percentage [40.3] and rank 27th from long range [30.2].

In fact, the Heat’s four leading scorers – LeBron James [24.7 points], Dwyane Wade [19.5], Chris Bosh [19.3] and Ray Allen [13.3] – are all averaging more points than the Wizards’ leading scorer, Jordan Crawford [13.1].

So, how does Randy Wittman plan on taking down the mighty Heat in front of what promises to be an arena full of crazed LeBron fans? With a stone and a slingshot, perhaps?

Actually, Wittman believes that if the Wizards can knock down their open shots, eliminate turnovers and rebound the ball, they can keep pace with the defending champions.

“If we don’t, it’s going to be difficult, there’s no two ways about it,” Wittman said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

With James and Wade leading the way, the Heat loves to push the pace and Wizards rookie Bradley Beal says the Wiz need to embrace that.

“They're probably the fastest team I’ve ever seen in my life,” Beal said. “We're just going to stay with the game plan. We're going to try to take things away from them and turn them into jump shooters.”

Beal said the Wizards don’t mind getting into a track meet with the Heat, saying they are just as capable of playing a transition games.

“We don't want to play halfcourt,” he said. “We love to play fast. It’s going to be a fast game, I can guarantee you that. It may get a little sloppy at times with guys just going up and down the floor.

“We're not going to change the way we play for them. We're going to stick to what we're doing and make them try to stop us as well. We're not going to back down. We're going to come at them hard.”

If the Wizards hope to keep pace with the Heat, they’ll need to avoid turnovers while creating a slew of them with hawkish team defense. The Wizards are averaging 16.2 turnovers per game, compared to the Heat’s 13.9.

“If you don’t turn it over you’ve got a good chance, absolutely,” Wittman said. “You’ve got two guys -- Wade and LeBron – and LeBron, with the size he is, if he gets his hands on a turnover, you’re not stopping it. Sam with Dwyane. That has to be our No. 1 objective: taking care of the ball.”

Without John Wall for the 15th straight game and with Nene playing only a limited role, the Wizards are going to need herculean defensive efforts by Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin if they hope to contain the Heat’s physical presence down low.

Swingman Martell Webster said the Wizards can’t get intimidated by the star power of the Heat or the disparity of the two teams’ records. At least not of they want to climb out of the 1-13 valley they dug for themselves.

“We’ve got to treat every game like we’re playing defending champions,” Webster said. “That’s how the great teams play. We’re not going to win every game, but if you’re preparing yourself like you’re going to war, Game 7 of the playoffs, more times than not, you’re going to go out and compete and leave with a win.

“That’s how our mind and our preparation has to be from here on out. We don’t have that luxury of turning the switch on and off, cruising through games. We can’t do that. We have to go out like we’re playing the Miami Heat every game.”

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Visit by wounded warriors gives Wizards' perspective


Visit by wounded warriors gives Wizards' perspective

When Chris Powell and Darryl Fletcher were dodging bullets and land mines in Iraq, neither dreamed of someday shooting hoops with Sam Cassell and John Wall of the Wizards.

In fact, it’s fair to say the only thing they dreamed of was waking up alive.

“My experience over there was one of those experiences that you say you’d probably never go through again if you didn’t have to,” said Powell, a 26-year-old army sergeant from Riverdale, Md., who was among a handful of war veterans invited to attend the Wizards’ practice at Verizon Center on Monday.

“Every day you wake up and you’re not really too sure what’s going to happen,” Powell said. “… A lot of people talk about fear. I get that question a lot. Are you afraid? Were you afraid? And I tell them, ‘Yeah, in the beginning I was.’ But then after a couple months go by, you kind of get used to it. So the fear never really goes away, but the showing the fear kind of goes away.”

Cassell understands. The former NBA all-star and current Wizards assistant coach grew up in Baltimore in a military family. He said he appreciates the service of men like Powell and Fletcher, each of whom is recovering at Walter Reed from injuries suffered in Iraq.   

“It’s tough on your family,” Cassell said. “You never know what may happen or you may get that phone call. I have an uncle that’s been in the Navy for 30 years.

“He told me a long time ago that it could be a long time before this war ends. And that was six years ago. Right now, we still have troops over there and it won’t be over until every single troop is home. It gives closure to that family that has a son or daughter over in Iraq, to come home safely. Until the last American solder comes home, it’s not over.”

Fletcher, 39, is a Staff Sergeant from Trenton, N.J. who had his arm badly injured in Iraq in 2010.

“We were extended an invitation to view a controlled demonstration, which went awry,” Fletcher said of his injury. “There were corners that were cut. But in lieu of that I survived, but the guy that was next to me did not. But through God’s grace and mercy I’m here today.”

If nothing else, meeting Powell and Fletcher put into perspective the Wizards’ worst start in team history. They own the NBA’s worst record at 1-13.

“Sometimes you worry about wins and losses and what’s affecting us,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who will spend the next 24 hours game planning to beat the defending champion Miami Heat. “And then you see guys at a young age putting their lives on the line to make the world a better place. It kind of opens your eyes a little bit. We’re thankful for these people for what they do for us. They’re more than welcome to come out here any time they want.”

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal said it’s as much an honor for him to meet our nation’s wounded warriors as it is for them to meet him.

“It just helps you realize the blessing that you have,” Beal said. “And at the same time it shows what you're thankful for. These guys are selected to defend their country and they're blessed to be able to come back. Some of the people didn't make it [home from] over there and they're blessed to come back, even if they're wounded.

“That’s a blessing in itself and you still have your life to live. We're just so thankful for that, especially myself. That just touches me because they represent us. And it’s just crazy because they actually know who [we] are and we have no idea who they are besides the fact they're in the army.”

Beal said one of the soldiers asked him if the lifestyle of an NBA player is everything people say it is.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, it is. It’s pretty amazing,’” Beal said. “He was like, ‘Don't get too Hollywood on us. If you see us in the street just say hey.’”

Cassell says a word of thanks is the least every American can do for the men and women who serve their country.

“I don’t think we can thank them enough,” Cassell said. “They are fighting for our freedom and everything this country stands for. You can tell these guys have sustained some serious injuries over there. I just thanked them for fighting for our freedom. Everyone on the streets that sees these individuals should show their gratitude.”

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Wizards handed 13th defeat by Knicks


Wizards handed 13th defeat by Knicks

All of the good feelings that came from the Wizards’ first win of the season Wednesday night ended 48 hours later with a lopsided 108-87 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square


The game was lost beyond the arc, where the Knicks shot 12-for-29 [41 percent] and the Wizards shot 5-for-18 [28 percent].

The Wizards also managed just 11 assists – the Knicks had 20 – and turned the ball over 17 times to the Knicks’ eight. Ten different Wizards committed at least one turnover, led by Kevin Seraphin’s three.

Add it up and you have the Wizards falling to 1-13 and the Knicks improving their record to 11-4.

“The first and third quarters again were not good for us,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman told reporters in New York. “When you shoot 50 percent -- or whatever we did from the line [actually 12-for-21] – and have 11 assists and 17 turnovers, playing a team like this makes it hard.”

Turnovers have been a problem for the Wizards all season and against Carmelo Anthony [20 points] and J.R. Smith [20 points] they proved to be the difference.

“Whenever we turn it over like that it puts them out into the break with shooters who spread the floor and put you in a bind,” Wittman said.

Offensively, the Wizards were led by Jordan Crawford’s 17 points off the bench. Bradley Beal added 14 points and Kevin Seraphin recorded his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Nene played 18 minutes in his fourth game back from plantar fasciitis, managing nine points on 4-for-7 shooting. Beal led all Wizards with 31 minutes of playing time.

The Wizards are expected to have the day off on Saturday and return to practice Sunday in preparation for Tuesday’s home date against LeBron James and the 11-3 Miami Heat.