Wizards

The latest on the Dwight Howard situation

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The latest on the Dwight Howard situation

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has met face-to-face with Dwight Howard, but the team isn't commenting on what was discussed. Team spokesman Joel Glass confirmed a meeting between Hennigan and Howard, but declined to discuss any particulars from it. Howard is in California, rehabbing a late-season back surgery. Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com have reported that Howard reissued a preseason trade request in that meeting and listed the Brooklyn Nets as his preferred destination. Hennigan said last week he wanted to keep all discussions with Howard confidential, and ownership has told him only to do what is in the best interest of the organization concerning Howard. Howard gave up the opt-out clause in his contract last season and is under contract in Orlando through the 2012-13 season.

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Potential of Tomas Satoransky playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal is starting to show

Potential of Tomas Satoransky playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal is starting to show

Head coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards front office told Tomas Satoransky at the beginning of this past offseason that they wanted him to improve at playing off the ball. Knowing how much they rely on John Wall as an All-NBA point guard, backup minutes behind him are always few and far between. Positional versatility is the key to Satoransky earning a larger role in their rotation.

Satoransky worked diligently over the summer at parts of the game that are outside his natural point guard skillset. He put up countless three-point shots and trained to develop timing and precision cutting to the basket.

Satoransky got significant minutes this season at first because Wall was injured for a nine-game stretch in November and December. Since Wall returned, the Wizards have seen the dividends of Satoransky's improvement playing off the ball.

"Tomas, give him a lot of credit along with our staff," Brooks said. "He doesn't play exclusively backup point guard. We can play him at the two or the three or we can play him like we have in the last few games with John and with Brad [Beal]."

Satoransky played much of the fourth quarter with both Wall and Beal on Jan. 5 in Memphis. In the five games since, Brooks has experimented with different guard combinations as backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks continues to struggle with a 35.3 field goal percentage.

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On Monday against the Bucks, the potential of Satoransky running the floor with Wall and Beal was on full display as Satoransky caught alley-oop lobs from each of them.

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Satoransky is 6-foot-7 and is a prolific dunker with the ability to play well above the rim. Wall is one of the game's best passers and Beal has made tremendous strides distributing the ball.

Fastbreak dunks are an emphatic way of showing how Satoransky can play off the ball, but there are also little, less noticeable things he is doing to make the most of his time on the court with Wall and/or Beal. Most notably, his three-point shot has improved to 40.5 percent this season, good for third on the Wizards' team. He can help space the floor as Wall and Beal go to work generating the offense.

Satoransky says corner threes are "much easier" for him at the moment, but he is developing range from other parts of the court. Simply getting playing time has helpd.

"It was crucial for me to increase my percentage of threes in order to stay on the court and to play off the ball," he said. "When John got hurt and I knew I was going to play more games, that's when I caught that rhythm where I caught the confidence to shoot threes."

When it comes to cutting to the basket, Satoransky is developing instincts for when to break when Wall has the ball in his hands. Their chemistry is nascent, but the potential is obvious.

"[Opponents] know John tries to drive to the basket and that really sucks in the zone, so I'm trying to cut at good moments and play without the ball," he said. "You have to be sprinting a lot because he's very quick with the ball."

The Wizards are sorting out what to do with their backup shooting guard position. The trade deadline is coming up in a few short weeks on Feb. 8 and they are currently evaluating their options with Meeks slumping. Satoransky may not solve those problems entirely, but his development playing off the ball can only help their cause.

PODCAST: BRADLEY BEAL ON HIS GROWTH AS A LEADER

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Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?

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USA TODAY Sports

Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?

The bye week is a good opportunity to evaluate what happened over the course of the first half of the season and start to look forward. Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan answer the biggest questions surrounding the team at the bye.

Today's topic: Where do the Caps most need to improve in the second half of the season?

El-Bashir: The area where the Caps must improve, without a doubt, is special teams.

Let’s start with the talent-laden power play unit. After a protracted dry spell in mid-December (one goal in nine games), Alex Ovechkin and Co. have shown some signs of life lately. In fact, they produced five goals in the seven games preceding the bye week. Still, the unit ranks just 14th at 19.6-percent. Whether it’s overpassing, predictability or not getting enough production from the second unit, there’s simply too much talent there to rank near the middle the pack. The power play has also surrendered six shorthanded goals; only five teams have allowed more.

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The bigger concern, however, is the penalty kill. The unit appeared to have turned a corner in late November and early December when it gave up just one goal in 10 games. But it has struggled in 13 games since, surrendering 10 power play goals against (74.4-percent). 

The penalty kill was particularly porous in the Caps’ last game before the bye, a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Carolina’s power play struck twice, and afterward Coach Barry Trotz called the unit out.

“I think they maybe spent 10 seconds on the power play and got two goals,” Trotz said. “That’s an area where we’re going to need a little more commitment in some areas, a little more detail and get better.”

So far, the Metro-leading Caps have managed to overcome their inconsistent P.K. But in the playoffs, where special teams often play an outsized role in determining outcomes, they may not be so fortunate. Whether the problems are being caused by scheme, personnel or taking penalties in bunches, the team’s capable coaching staff has 37 regular season games left to sort things out.

Regan: There are two ways to approach this question. My biggest concern for the team is defensive depth, but the area in which the team most needs to improve is shooting.

The Caps have not one, but two rookies on the blue line in Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Barry Trotz has sheltered them well this season, but that becomes much harder to do in the playoffs when coaches can focus on one specific team.

Plus, we saw the trickle-down effect an injury to a player like Matt Niskanen can have. If they lose any of their top three defensemen, that means more minutes for two rookies, more minutes for a 37-year-old Brooks Orpik and no real replacement you can feel comfortable with plugging in for an extended period of time.

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But depth is an area the team can’t really improve on. You either have it or you don’t in which case you have to acquire it.

Something the team absolutely can and must improve on is getting shots on goal.

The Caps rank dead last in the NHL in shots per game with 29.0. Washington will not maintain its 3.04 goals per game (9th in the NHL), unless they get more shots.

Washington is not chasing games as much as the possession metrics (shot attempts) seem to indicate. They simply are not taking advantage of their opportunities. They overpass the puck often giving up open shots in favor of more difficult set-ups which often results in giving up possession

The Caps must absolutely learn from Lars Eller who is on a hot streak with five goals in seven games. His goals have been simple. He is not being too cute or getting fantastic setups, he’s just shooting. In games in which Eller scores, he averages 3.50 shots. When he doesn’t score, he averages only 1.61.

Say it with me now everyone: Shoot the puck!