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Grading Drew Gooden's play for 2014-15 season


Grading Drew Gooden's play for 2014-15 season

It wasn't until after the All-Star break that Drew Gooden began to surge. He started the season opener and led the Wizards with 18 points when Nene was out with a suspension. His time quickly dwindled but when the Wizards needed a makeover to make another postseason push, Gooden jumped in the rotation because of his energy, hustle and long-range shooting ability. When coach Randy Wittman used him over Kris Humphries in a regular-season game with the Toronto Raptors, the results were much better than previous failures against their small-ball design which set a foundation of what was to come with a four-game series sweep in the first round.

The stats: 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 39% three-point shooting.

The improvements: The transformation is complete with Gooden, who isn't just an occasional three-point threat but now a true stretch four. Gooden lived at the arc and just as importantly was better at stepping away from the rim to defend players such as Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson (Toronto Raptors) than Nene or Kris Humphries. On a team that sometimes lacked the energy to secure 50-50 balls, Gooden stood out because he went after everything.


The next step: If Gooden stays, that creates a logjam with Nene and Humphries as both of them have a guaranteed season. If Wittman stays true to his word, Nene would be moved out of the power forward spot and play backup center to Marcin Gortat. Then Gooden and Humphries, the latter of whom is a mid-range shooter and energy player, too, make a better duo. Of course, if the Wizards draft another player at this position or acquire a better quality one in free agency, they'll have to cut somewhere. If Gooden re-signs with the Wizards and they acquire another player for the position, too, that's an indication other moves will come.

2014-15 grade: B.

2015-16 outlook: Gooden is an unrestricted free agent and as long as he wants to play he'll be on an NBA roster. Given the direction the Wizards want to go, a 6-10 forward with three-point range off the bench seems to be a good fit. They could offer him a two-year deal with the final being a player option to give him flexibility because he has been a good teammate and locker room influence. They did it with Garrett Temple last summer. But Gooden is no longer receiving amnesty checks from the Milwaukee Bucks so whether or not he's willing to accept the veteran minimum to stay in Washington remains to be seen. He could generate a slightly better offer even at 33 though likely not more than two years. He has shown he can help playoff teams that need size and versatility off the bench.

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John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

The friendly feud between Wizards guard John Wall and Raptors superfan Drake nearly tilted to Washington over the weekend as the rap star apparently floated the idea of showing up for Game 3 in D.C. 

Drake, in fact, was going to bring with him a prop to show just how confident he was after his team went up up 2-0.

"I told him to be here for Game 3. He told me he was going to be here," Wall said. "He didn't show up. He told me we was getting swept and he said he had the broom for us."

Wall and Drake exchanged trash-talk throughout the first two games held up in Toronto as Drake sat courtside. Their back-and-forth was caught on camera and went viral.

Wall now has the upperhand with the Wizards having won two straight games as the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday.

"I wanted him to know that they wasn't going to sweep us," Wall said. "We did what we were supposed to do. We came home and took home court, won two games."

Wall continued to say that him and Drake "are just having fun." He has referred to Drake as a friend in the past and Drake is a fan of the University of Kentucky, where Wall starred during the 2009-10 season.

But that friendship is currently on hold. Wall, in fact, says isn't listening to any of Drake's songs during the series and that includes 'Nice For What,' Drake's latest single. The song is being played everywhere, but Wall is avoiding it. 

"I can't?" Wall said when told he can't get away from 'Nice For What.' "I always have my headphones on."

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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