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John Wall stands by Wittman though firing imminent

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John Wall stands by Wittman though firing imminent

If there's one thing to know about John Wall, it's that he can be very candid about what he thinks about a topic, or in this case Wizards coach Randy Wittman who almost everyone expects to be fired after Wednesday's regular-season finale with the Atlanta Hawks. 

He spoke at length about a supposed argument he had in front of his team last week during a practice with Wittman, both sides denying it was a personal attack and at least four other players confirmed that it was overblown -- even Jared Dudley who is no fan of the head coach.

"It was just a shouting match going back and fourth during practice," said Wall, who was in a 5-on-5 scrimmage in which coaches were the referees. "I never sat there and cussed coach Witt out. I never sat there and cussed my whole team out.

"It's been like that even when we were winning games. When practice is going in a bad direction, we want it to be a better way of practice. You've seen guys shouting back and forth. You all have watched us playing games there has been shouting matches on the bench sometimes through the other players. It's just something you go through, you sit it aside and keep competing."

Wall is correct about the tone of practices and even during games. It's been chronicled here about his spirited discussions with Marcin Gortat over defense in practice. Nene and Bradley Beal went at each other with passion in a home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Alan Anderson tried to intervene and was shouted down. Occasional outbursts were even common two years ago, when Trevor Ariza had to clear the air and called a players-only meeting after a 2-7 start when things grew too personal among teammates.

Wittman has rubbed some of his players the wrong way, especially Gortat, by calling them out as "soft" multiple times as they struggled to get above .500. They never did that, with their last winning record just 11 games into the season.

"Every time somebody says something bad about me, I don't be mad at the person. I use it as motivation," Wall said. "I think we were playing soft. We weren't the team we was before, a feisty team, a dirty team that played hard, played physical. That's not the team you've seen this year. When he came out and said it, he was saying the honest truth about all of us." 

Wall has blossomed under Wittman, and even if he's gone after tonight to take the All-Star point guard he at least said all of the right things.

"My relationship is a great relationship (with him). It was times when in the past they were asking if he was going to come back, they were going to sign him another year, I was like, 'Yeah, that's definitely the coach I want to have.' He's been here every year I've been in the NBA," Wall said of Wittman, who signed a three-year extension in 2014. "I've become a better player, improving me as a person. How he's been coaching, we've become a better defensive team. We made the playoffs because of him.

"People can always say what they want to say. ... With all the people that have been injured and what's been going on, he did the best he could trying to get this team to .500 and trying get this team to the playoffs. Just put in a tough position where you have a lot of guys coming in on one-year deals and you're trying to figure out who to put in rotations and you having guys you don't know who you're going to play on certain nights. It's been tough for him. If he come back, it's great for us. I know what he's meant to me as a coach and meant to me as player helping improve my game."

RELATED: Randy Wittman, too, denies report about spat with John Wall

 

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS