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Bengals coach Lewis challenges Dalton, Maualuga

Bengals coach Lewis challenges Dalton, Maualuga

CINCINNATI (AP) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis publicly challenged quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga on Wednesday to become more forceful leaders on their 3-4 team.

The move was out of character for Lewis, who prefers to handle things quietly and internally. It underscored the Bengals' predicament approaching the season's midpoint - it's time to start winning or else.

``We've wallowed around here in mediocrity,'' Lewis said. ``Let's go. That's the thing we've got to do.''

Cincinnati has lost three in a row heading into home games against the Denver Broncos (4-3) and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants (6-2). The Bengals went 9-7 and got a wild card berth last season, when Dalton was a rookie and Maualuga was in his first season at middle linebacker.

With this season starting to slip away, Lewis challenged the two young players - Maualuga is in his fourth season overall - to step up.

``We're looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team, and I think that's important for us,'' Lewis said. ``I think both guys are such good people, that you've got to be a little bit of a (jerk). You do.

``Andy has a great deal of confidence, self-confidence, internal confidence, confidence in the guys around him. But at some point you step out of your skin and you go. And it's time to go.''

Lewis' comments weren't off-the-cuff. He said essentially the same things during a conference call with writers in Denver, making a point to challenge the quarterback and the linebacker.

Lewis has defended Maualuga as the defense struggled this season. The linebacker said he feels he has the support of Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He accepted Lewis' comments as a challenge to become a more vocal.

``So I guess it is my opportunity - not like it was never given to me but at the same time, time to be a jerk, time to get in the middle of that defense and start spicing things up and get everybody running around and be on the same page,'' Maualuga said. ``A quote that coach (Lewis) gave me before I came to the facility: `The rate of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader.'

``So I think the quicker I get things going, the quicker I get things riled up, the more people will buy into it and the more we can get things started and get going. I love the opportunity and the challenge, so I'll give it everything I've got.''

Dalton was reluctant to assume a leadership role last season, when he was a rookie learning the offense as he went along. He left it up to other veterans to take charge, concentrating on what he had to do to learn the position.

Lewis wants Dalton to start taking a bigger role in making sure everyone on the offense is doing things correctly.

``The natural progression of it,'' Dalton said. ``As a rookie, you come in and you are meeting new people. Now, second year, it is your offense. It is your team. That is how I've got to treat it.

``He just wants some fire out there, making sure we are perfect in practice in everything we are doing. I am not too worried about what he said. It's just he expects a lot out of us.''

The coaching staff talked to him during the bye week about taking on a more prominent role.

``We're looking for Andy to take the next step of being the leader of this football team,'' Lewis said. ``A confident, vocal (leader) if it needs to be, but grab this football team by the back of its neck and let's go. Let's move forward.''

Notes: DT Pat Sims returned to practice Wednesday on a three-week roster exemption. Sims hasn't played because of a hamstring injury on July 26th. He can practice for three weeks before the Bengals have to decide whether to add him to the 53-man active roster. ... C Kyle Cook will have a pin removed from his right ankle within the next week, giving the Bengals a better idea of whether he'll be able to return this season. He hurt the ankle in the final preseason game. He went on the injured reserve list with the option of returning during the season if he's healthy.

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS