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Interesting rotation choices await Wittman in near future


Interesting rotation choices await Wittman in near future

The Washington Wizards welcomed Bradley Beal back to the lineup Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time since Dec. 9 -- and promptly lost Otto Porter with a hip injury. That's how things have gone much of the season and particularly the last seven weeks. Just when somebody returns, someone else takes a seat.

Yet at some point this season, in theory, coach Randy Wittman will have a deep array of options. That's when certain rotation decisions become rather interesting.

Since Nov. 27, Wittman hasn't many choices. Teams typically use 10-11 players and occasionally a dozen during regular season games. The late November meeting at the Boston Celtics was the last time Washington had 12 players available.

By the way, of the 15 players on a roster, teams can have 13 active. You might not realize that based on watching the Wizards. They haven't had a baker's dozen almost the entire season.

They certainly haven't had a full roster at the ready seeing as swingman Alan Anderson missed every game following offseason ankle surgery. Center Marcin Gortat (infection) and forward Kris Humphries (knee) joined Anderson on Wednesday's inactive list. We'll see if Porter becomes a candidate before Friday's game at Indiana.

Only John Wall, who's played through pain at times, and backup point guard Ramon Sessions have been in the lineup for all 37 games. Though Jared Dudley played every game since sitting out the season opener, it took some time before he shook off the rust after undergoing back surgery in July.

Beal returning against Milwaukee was important. Their leading scorer will need some time before ramping up -- he had 11 points over 23 minutes in Washington's 106-101 win.  Eventually he'll play in the 25-35 minute range most nights.


Yet even with Beal's limited minutes Wednesday, rookie Kelly Oubre appeared headed for a DNP-coach's decision after becoming a regular and occasional starter over the last month. Wittman used Porter, Garrett Temple, Beal and Gary Neal at the two wing positions. Then Porter goes out in the third quarter and Oubre eventually entered. Rave reviews followed. He "helped change [the game] with his activity at the defensive end," Wittman said.

Assuming Porter doesn't miss a game and Beal soon plays more, the lengthy rookie may not. His coach historically bypasses first-year players when a veteran option exists. Temple stepped up with all the injuries, turning into one of Washington's better two-players. Neal is one of the few on the roster who can get his own shot. This doesn't even factor in when Wittman goes with his two point guards together or Anderson's eventual appearance.

This post isn't about Oubre specifically, but rather pointing out there won't be room at the inn for all whenever the injury report becomes empty.

But let's say Wittman goes with Oubre in certain small ball looks - get the first round pick more experienced regardless - while still using Dudley as the primary stretch-4. If Gortat and Nene eat up the center minutes, then Humphries or Gooden are watching and possibly both.  

Regardless of how the coach wants to use his perimeter players, how many of the bigs does Wittman really want to use together? Gortat, Nene, Gooden and Humphries have all missed games over the last seven weeks and in such a sequence that Wittman often had only two available at a time. For a team thinking small ball, ball movement and up-tempo offense, that's been fine.

Gortat is much better playing alongside the 3-point shooting Dudley than a true power player. Just ask him. Nene's interior and passing presence must play assuming the Big Brazilian is cool with that on a given night. During the three-game winning streak, Nene's net rating (points per 100 possessions) is an impressive 29.2.

Humphries and Gooden can sink the 3-pointer and battle for boards. Defending opposing stretch-4's is a challenge and neither is a ball handler, but both are worthy of work.

When the Wizards are at their best, the ball is moving offensively and the defense forces turnovers, both of which help pick up the pace and get many players involved. Washington had seven players reach double digit scoring in each of the last two games. Assists and shooting percentages are up.

"They've been playing a little bit smaller so the ball has been moving a lot more," Bucks center Greg Monroe said. "They have a lot of shooters on the floor so the next pass is always to a shooter. It makes it tough for any defense."

Depending on the opponent, Wittman can mix and match with his lineups. Well, at least he'll be able to someday. The better teams can play different styles. Once healthy, the Wizards might able to do that. Simply having all available will allow Wall, Dudley and Nene more rest for the second half of the season.

Wittman will have many options. The fun part involves seeing which he chooses.

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Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

The relationship between Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and Bullets legend Phil Chenier goes beyond your average friendship between a current and former player, or a current player and team broadcaster. Beal and Chenier are close to the point Chenier often offers advice as a fellow shooting guard who helped lead the organization to some of their most important accomplishments.

Beal is always open ears when Chenier is talking and took great honor in being the one to tell Chenier personally that his jersey would be retired by the Wizards. The day has come for Chenier's No. 45 to be raised to the rafters and Beal feels a unique sense of pride in seeing a man he reveres to the highest degree finally have his day in the sun.

"It's unbelievable. It's more than deserving," Beal said. "I was happy to be the one who told him about it. It's a special night for him. He's been a mentor to a lot of us for many years."


Chenier was a three-time All-Star for the Washington Bullets back in the 1970s. Following his playing career, he became a legendary broadcaster calling Bullets and then Wizards games for over 30 years.

Beal is now an NBA All-Star himself, having earned the honor for the first time this season. He is a shooting guard, just like Chenier.

Chenier was the color analyst for Wizards games for the first five years of Beal's career and Beal has always seen Chenier as a model to follow both on and off the court.

"It's always motivation for me to get better and I feel like this is the final touch of it, having your jersey retired by the franchise that you played a part in their success," Beal said.


The honor Chenier is about to receive is another goal to strive for. Beal wants to achieve a lot of what Chenier has accomplished in his life from winning a championship to making All-NBA to now having his jersey hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena.

"It definitely motivates me for that to be a goal of mine. Especially with the fact we both play the same position," Beal said.


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For more on Chenier's jersey retirement, check out our in-depth interview with him on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

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


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

Special night

It will be an emotional night for many as the Wizards get set to retire Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey. Chenier was not only a great player for the franchise during their heyday in the 1970s, but he was a legendary broadcaster of Wizards and Bullets games for decades and has been an ambassador for the organization for a long, long time. 

His jersey will be raised during a halftime ceremony hosted by Chenier's former broadcast partner and good friend Steve Buckhantz. Chenier will have many friends and family on hand. All fans will also receive emoji signs with Chenier's face on them.

Chenier's ceremony will air live at halftime during the NBC Sports Washington broadcast, so make sure you stick around for that. It should be a great moment for D.C. sports fans.


Harris is out

Like the Wizards and John Wall, the Nuggets will be without one of their best players as star guard Gary Harris is dealing with right knee soreness. Harris, just 23, is Denver's leading scorer with 17.7 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from the field and 39.9 percent from three. 

The Nuggets still have plenty of firepower beyond him. Nikola Jokic is one of the game's brightest young stars with averages of 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He shoots a ridiculous 39.3 percent from three as a big man. Guard Jamal Murray, just 20, is averaging 16.5 points while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three. Then there is Paul Millsap, a four-time All-Star who is averaging 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season.

The Wizards' defense will be put to the test, as the Nuggets are one of the best scoring teams in basketball. They boast the seventh-best points per game average (109.8) and the sixth-best offensive rating (112.4). 


Last time was interesting

The first time these teams squared off, back on Oct. 23 in just the third game of the season, things got a little weird. In the final minute, Jokic was assessed a technical for bumping into Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.

It was a bizarre sequence that helped the Wizards come away with a win. Given it was an incident between a player and coach, nothing will happen in the way of retaliation, but it's something to keep in mind as these teams go at it again.


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