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Continuity was key in Wizards' decision to retain Otto Porter

Continuity was key in Wizards' decision to retain Otto Porter

One of the prevailing themes from the Wizards' press conference to announce Otto Porter's new contract last week was the simple fact the Wizards really like what they already have, enough so that making major roster changes did not seem wise. By bringing Porter back, they maintain an element of continuity which they collectively see as pivotal to success.

Majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced continuity often during the press conference and afterwards in his off-camera meeting with the media. With Porter under contract for four more years, plus the deals already signed by John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have ensured that trio will have played together for eight years by the end of the 2020-21 season. That's a long time in professional sports.

"The data points are, for the most part, the teams whose core has stayed together have good results," he said. "The hodgepodge grabbing of players, throwing free agents in and expecting them to get it and fit, that hasn’t been the case. So, you try to be guided by data and continuity works. You look at the best team in the league, [the Golden State Warriors], their core has been there for a long time. They were able to bring in a free agent [in Kevin Durant]. We have tried to bring in free agents and we’re not going to stop. We have to manage things well, but I still think we can improve our team."

[RELATED: Otto Porter sees Wall and Beal as examples to follow]

The Wizards aren't the first team Leonsis has owned or business he has run and says the same concepts apply to other ventures he has been successful with in the past. That includes the Washington Capitals, who have a proven formula for the regular season. Three times in the last eight years they have won the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the NHL.

Leonsis believes keeping the same players together has had major benefits in chemistry.

"What I’ve learned is that a lot of times it’s better the devil that you know than the devil that you don’t," Leonsis said of retaining players a team drafted. "You get to see how they practice. You get to see who they hang out. You get to see their commitment to their health. The coach now has a real, loud voice. [Scott Brooks] told us how important Otto was to what he’s trying to do. You want coachable players. You want good people and that’s what was happening with the Caps, too."

Brooks has one year under his belt as head coach of the Wizards and that one season was characterized by change. Beyond the starting lineup, there were many new players on the bench. There was a brand new coaching staff and training staff, as well.

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of commitment rarely seen]

Next year should be different in that regard and Brooks believes continuity will keep them trending in the right direction. He sees a core group that is continuing to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"I think it’s huge for our success moving forward. It’s nice to have players who can do it on both ends of the floor," he said. "Now we have three perimeter guys who are basically interchangeable on the defensive end. They can all guard each other’s players."

Porter fits well within that strategy given his complementary style. He can play off the ball while the Wizards' offense runs primarily through Wall and Beal. Last season Porter was super efficient with a team-best 60.8 effective field goal percentage, yet he was seventh in usage percentage among the Wizards' core rotation players. He doesn't need plays run for him or a high volume of shots to still make an impact offensively. 

Porter feels that comfortability and fit will help the Wizards continue to reach new heights after posting their most wins (49) and first division title in 38 years.

"Sticking with the guys and keeping that small core, we can only go up from here. There’s no going backwards," he said.

Keeping teams together can be easier said than done, of course. Stars leave their teams all the time and especially in the NBA. Leonsis believes there are reasons why he has been able to prevent that with both the Wizards and Caps.

"I think when players are young and you can develop a relationship with them that’s built on trust and that they internalize that Washington, D.C. is a great city and when you’re in it together, it makes these things easy," he said. "It’s not like I’ve had to sell Alex [Ovechkin] and Nick [Backstrom] and John. If you’ve noticed, players are leaving other teams that the team didn’t want to lose. That happens all the time. That’s not happening with us. The players that we want to keep, they believe in us."

[RELATED: Kyrie Irving sees Wall's role with Wizards as a model to follow]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes, Travis Thomas and Julie Donaldson reset the series and looked ahead to Game 5.

They were joined by TSN Sports anchor Kayla Grey to find out the Toronto perspective. The Wizards have all the momentum in this series, now they just have to keep it going.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

You would not have known it by John Wall's towering poster-dunks over Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl in Game 4, or his fourth quarter takeover after Bradley Beal fouled out, but Wall is still technically working his way into midseason form from the left knee surgery that kept him out more than two months down the stretch of the regular season. Add into the equation that he sprained his right ankle in Game 3, then resprained it in Game 4 right after Beal went out, and it's quite clear that what he is doing is simply not normal. 

Throughout Wall's recovery, his head coach Scott Brooks remarked how Wall can regain his form unusually quick following an injury absence. Game 4 was just his eighth game back, yet through four playoff games he is averaging an absurd 26.8 points, 13.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks.

If that's what he's doing eight games removed from recovery, and against the top team in the Eastern Conference, what does peak playoff form look like? 

"I told y'all, I told all the media that I only need like three or four games. I really didn't need too many games," he said. "All the hard work that I did in those two months was to prepare myself to be ready for the playoffs."

Wall said he started feeling like himself in his final regular season game, his fourth outing following the injury rehab. It was against the Celtics and he scored 29 points to go along with 12 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

"I just started to see shots fall down that I was falling short with a couple games before that," Wall said of that night.

Brooks saw a change in Wall against the Cavaliers on April 5, in just his third game back. That game Wall put up 28 points, 14 assists, four rebounds and three steals. Most importantly, he logged 38 minutes.

"I knew I was going to challenge his body with extra minutes," Brooks said. "The way he responded to that, I knew he was back."

Whenever the turning point happened, there is no looking back. Wall has found his groove to not only impact, but at times dominate playoff games against one of the best defensive teams in basketball.

In Game 4 once Beal went down, Wall looked like the best player on the court. He scored eight of the Wizards' final 14 points to seal the victory and did so on a bum ankle. He outshined both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, two All-Star guards.

Wall even played sound defense on DeRozan in big moments. DeRozan shot 10-for-29 in the game.

"I think I did a good job of contesting him," Wall said. "Just do whatever it takes to help this team win."

What Brooks predicted would happen has indeed played out. He has been with Wall for about two years now and knows what the star point guard is made of.

"I've been with him two years, he loves to play," Brooks said, noting there have been some tough conversations to convince him to come out of games.

Consider this: Wall has scored 20 points or more in six straight games, his longest streak of the 2017-18 season. He has actually reached 23 points or more in those six games, which is tied for the longest such streak of his entire career.

Through eight games overall and four games in the playoffs, Wall has reminded everyone of what the Wizards missed. Yes, they went 10-3 when he first went down with the injury in late January, but that was not sustainable.

They need Wall to reach their full potential as a team and especially in the postseason. Late-game situations like in Game 4, when Beal exited and it was tied with 4:58 to play, are when the superstars separate themselves.

Wall did that and now the Wizards are in good shape with the series at 2-2 and having won two straight.

"Blame everything on him," Brooks joked of the Wizards' up-and-down regular season. "If he wasn't hurt, we'd be better, right?"

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