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John Wall eyes MVP award, appreciates Scott Brooks' confidence in him

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John Wall eyes MVP award, appreciates Scott Brooks' confidence in him

Wizards guard John Wall has never been afraid to share his personal goals, even knowing things can be taken out of context and used to set expectations in the minds of many.

Some athletes shy away from proclamations, knowing they will be held to them.

This offseason Wall already threw it out there he wants to make first team All-Defense for the 2017-18 season. And now he's talking about winning the NBA's most valuable player award. Actually, it was his head coach Scott Brooks who got it all started on media day last week.

"John Wall is one of the best players in basketball," Brooks said.

"I think now you can really talk about him being in the MVP conversation. He has that type of ability. He has that type of game."

When asked about Brooks' quote, Wall didn't walk it back or beat around the bush. That's not his style.

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"It's a goal that I have for myself, also," he said. "It's not more pressure. It's an opportunity knowing how much I worked on my game. It shows how much coach believes in me. He wants me to run the team. He's put me in different positions to excel. That's my ultimate goal, to be MVP one day, why not have it have an MVP season this year?"

Earning the MVP these days is about as difficult as it has ever been in the NBA. Last season, Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook took home the honors by setting an NBA record for triple-doubles. He was the first player to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. Rockets guard James Harden finished second and he had one of the best seasons in league history with an absurd line of 29.1 points and 11.2 assists per game.

The NBA's MVP award was so competitive last year that LeBron James finished fourth despite setting career-highs in rebounds and assists and helped lead the Cavs while Kevin Love missed a quarter of the season. Wall was just the second player in NBA history to average at least 23 points, 10 assists and two steals while shooting over 45 percent from the field in a season and he wasn't even a finalist.

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Now, last year was unusual in the annals of the NBA. Not since 1972-73 had a player averaged at least 29 points and 10 assists in one season and both Harden and Westbrook did so in 2016-17. Those are tough numbers to compete with, especially for a point guard like Wall who was directly compared to them.

If history is any indication, Wall will have to score more to leap into the MVP mix. His 23.1 points last season were excellent and enough to tie Bradley Beal for the lead on the Wizards. But no MVP has held a scoring average that low since Steve Nash in 2005-06. The only MVP to score less than 25 per game since Nash was Stephen Curry in 2014-15, but he had a 59.4 effective field-goal percentage and led the best team in the NBA. 

In theory, Nash's path the the MVP (he won it twice) is probably the best blueprint for Wall. Nash took home the award with seasons of 15.5 points and 11.5 assists (2004-05) and 18.8 points and 10.5 assists (2005-06) per game. Wall puts up those type of numbers on a regular basis, but much has changed about the point guard position since Nash's heyday. 

Now the top point guards are often the No. 1 scoring options on their teams and scoring is a big determinant of postseason awards. With everything Wall already does, between passing, rebounding and racking up steals, adding a few more points per game is what it will probably require to get his name into the MVP mix. An argument could be made he should have been in the discussion this past season, but as history shows it's scoring that reigns supreme, especially for point guards these days.

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After lopsided loss to Hornets, Scott Brooks says changes will be made for Wizards

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After lopsided loss to Hornets, Scott Brooks says changes will be made for Wizards

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is a master at keeping his composure when addressing the media, even if it's clear he has just calmed down from ripping into his team. But after Wednesday night's 133-109 loss to the Charlotte Hornets in which they gave up a season-high in points, Brooks was about as blunt as he has been when discussing his team publicly since taking over in Washington.

Brooks seethed as he called out his team. He didn't mention names, but hinted he's lost patience and is ready to shake things up.

"We have to change some things," he said. "We’ve gotta find guys that will compete."

Brooks has said similar things in the past, but this time it seemed different and guard Bradley Beal confirmed as much moments later.

"He’s pissed," Beal said of Brooks. "He’s upset. He’s mad. We’re not giving him what he wants from a production standpoint. He’s going to make a change for sure. That’s pretty much all I can say. He was beyond furious after the game. Guys should be ready, a lot of guys should expect to play and not play. That was pretty much his message."

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Brooks is limited in the changes he can make with the Wizards' current roster construction. John Wall and Beal are safe in the starting lineup. Though they are just as guilty as others at times on the defensive end, they are each having All-Star seasons. Otto Porter is signed to a max contract and when healthy provides value in many areas of the game.

The most obvious option for Brooks would be to insert Kelly Oubre, Jr. into the starting lineup. Oubre began the season as a starter with Markieff Morris sidelined due to sports hernia surgery and the Wizards' three best lineups this season based on plus-minus rating all include Oubre.

Their best lineup in net rating with a sample size of 100 minutes or more has Oubre alongside Porter, Wall, Beal and Marcin Gortat. That group was +17.8 in 192:51 entering Wednesday night's game.

The Wizards have also had success in the past two seasons with Oubre in there alongside Wall, Beal, Porter and Morris. That small-ball group has produced dividends particularly on the defensive end.

If Oubre were to be inserted into the starting lineup, it will not be an easy call picking who to remove. Porter is the Wizards' third-best player and both Morris and Gortat play valuable and specific roles when at their best.

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There are also egos at play. Guys like Porter, Morris and Gortat are used to being NBA starters. Pushing them to the bench would require a difficult conversation. 

Morris and Gortat going to the bench would create uneven spots in the Wizards' rotation. Unless he's replaced by Ian Mahinmi, Gortat on the bench would give the Wizards two centers of similar ilk who can't coexist in the second unit. If Oubre were swapped in for Morris, the Wizards would have a power forward logjam on the bench with no obvious backup small forward to spell Oubre and Porter.

Another option for Brooks would be to slide backup power forward Mike Scott into the starting lineup. He has been one of the Wizards' most efficient scorers this season and a standout on their bench.

The Wizards could of course change the dynamic with a trade, but that's unlikely to happen immediately with the trade deadline still three weeks away. The Wizards do not have anything imminent in the works, as their hope has been to patiently evaluate their roster leading up to the deadline like in years past.

At some point, a deal may have to happen but for now Brooks is going to have to figure it out with the group he has. Like Beal said, it's coming. We just don't know which direction he will go or how drastic it will be.

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Wizards blown out by Hornets as tempers flare in fight between teams

Wizards blown out by Hornets as tempers flare in fight between teams

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 133-109 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Defense was atrocious: The Wizards have had some ugly defensive performances this season and often at unexpected times against teams they had no business losing to. Their loss to the Hornets on Wednesday may top them all.

Yes, head coach Scott Brooks will not be happy after this one. The Hornets, who entered the game 17th in the NBA in points per game (105.0) and 21st in offensive rating, set forth a scoring barrage never before seen in their franchise history. They had 38 points in the first quarter and a franchise-record 77 points at halftime. Those 77 points were the most allowed by the Wizards in one half since Dec. 17, 2006. That was the game Gilbert Arenas dropped 60 points on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at the Staples Center. Good times.

Wednesday night was not good times. The Hornets added 25 points in the third quarter and 29 in the fourth to total 133 for the game. That was a season-high for the Wizards in points allowed.

The numbers are just plain hideous. Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Kemba Walker dropped 19 points and seven assists. Even the offensively-challenged Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points in 22 minutes. There is no excuse for that.

The Wizards are the best team in basketball at opponent's three-point percentage, but you wouldn't have known it in this game. The Hornets went 15-for-31 for 48.4 percent from long range. 

Get this: the Wizards have now allowed 100 points or more in 16 straight games, which is the longest streak in the NBA this season. Their defense is a disaster right now and there doesn't seem to be an easy answer to fix it.

This was their second straight loss. They have yet to lose three consecutive games this season, but that will be put on the line Friday against the Pistons.

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Fight night: Frustrations boiled over for the Wizards in the fourth quarter when the two teams got involved in a near fight that required referees and coaches to split up. It all began when Wizards big man Jason Smith and Hornets guard Michael Carter-Williams got tangled on a rebound. Carter-Williams went after Smith and ended up being ejected along with Wizards guard Tim Frazier, who had to be restrained by a referee as he tried to retaliate.

This will likely result in some fines:

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Beal balled out: The defense was an unmitigated disaster, but the Wizards didn't have many issues on the other end of the floor and that effort was led by Bradley Beal. Beal continued his All-Star push with a dominant scoring performance. He had 13 points in his first seven minutes and 20 by halftime. That was on 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-5 from three.

Beal is such a natural scorer that when he's really on it looks like he's not even trying. He can make it look that easy and that was the case on Wednesday. Beal casually dropped in three-pointers and when the Hornets took that away, he exploded to the rim.

Just look at this play. He made a difficult finish look very easy:

Beal finished with 26 points in 27 minutes, but clearly it wasn't enough..

Bad night for Keef: Markieff Morris stumbled before he could even get started in this one. It took him just 3:21 to pick up two fouls and get sent to the bench. Morris had his third foul midway through the second quarter and his fourth midway through the third.

It wasn't just the fouls that contributed to an off night for Morris. He had just two points in 15 minutes on 1-for-5 shooting. Morris has been a liability on offense in recent games. In his last five outings, he has failed to reach double figures four times. For a starter getting the minutes he's being offered, that is unaccpetable even if he's a secondary option.

Up next: The Wizards are off Thursday before playing at the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington Plus.

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