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Kelly Oubre, Jr. on hitting a wall, hoping to fight his way back into Wizards' rotation

Kelly Oubre, Jr. on hitting a wall, hoping to fight his way back into Wizards' rotation

Weeks ago, before the Wizards pulled off a trade for forward Bojan Bogdanovic to boost the depth on their bench, several members of the organization approached second-year swingman Kelly Oubre, Jr. with a question.

"A lot of people came up to me and asked me if I hit a wall before the All-Star break," he said.

His teammate John Wall even brought it up publicly in an interview with CSN's Chris Miller following the Bogdanovic trade.

"I think it was a great [All-Star] break for Kelly… because he kind of hit the rookie wall, even though he didn't get to play as much last year," Wall said.

It was one day later that head coach Scott Brooks openly yearned for a "better version" of Oubre, a guy who earlier this season was the most consistent fixture on Brooks' bench while waves of changes were made around him. 

Now that major adjustments have been made to the roster itself, with the trade for Bogdanovic and the signing of point guard Brandon Jennings, Oubre has been among the biggest casualties. Before the Bogdanovic trade, he averaged 20.7 minutes through 53 games. Since, he's averaged just 11.7 minutes in 11 games and that stretch includes just :39 seconds of garbage time against the Timberwolves on Monday. On Wednesday, he didn't play at all against the Mavericks.

The playing time has all of a sudden dried up entirely for the 2015 first round pick out of Kansas.

"I never really thought I did [hit a wall], but looking back at it now, I was a little fatigued, man. Mentally and physically," Oubre said. "All year I've been pretty much trying to find my way. I've had ups and downs... Now I've gotten a little rest and the second half of the season is up, there is more focus on the playoff push, obviously. I'm just trying to end my sophomore season off with a bang."

As Brooks has shown this season, just because a player is out of his favor at one point doesn't mean they are banished for good, and vice versa. He makes some of his decisions based on things the media and others do not see in practice. It can make his line of thinking hard to predict.

As for what Oubre needs to get back into the mix, it all comes back to a common theme for him: focus and discipline.

"More discipline, man. I have all the talent. I have all the skills," Oubre said. "I work on it every day. I just gotta continue to remain disciplined and try to follow the right reps and do things the right way every time. Just continue to get better. I've been watching a lot of film, staying in the gym and trying to work on my craft."

Oubre offers no ill-will towards anyone or any part of his situation. He thinks he can eventually play with Bogdanovic and within the new structure of the Wizards' roster.

"We're very versatile. I don't like to categorize people on the basketball court," Oubre said of the logjam at small forward. "We're all basketball players at the end of the day. We have to get the job done. Playing with [Bogdanovic] or playing against him, it doesn't matter. I just love to compete and he loves to compete, too. I'm glad he's on our side."

Oubre, 21, is looking forward to playing in the postseason for the first time this spring, no matter what role he will be in. It will be a new experience for him after the Wizards missed the playoffs during his rookie season.

For now, he has to wait his turn and improve in the best ways he can, on the practice court and in the film room.

"I feel like I have a lot of talent that people will really be in awe about. I just have to continue to stay consistent and be me," he said.

[RELATED: Wall on Cousins: 'He said he would come to D.C.']

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Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead


Wizards pick up Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s contract option with bright future ahead

The play of Kelly Oubre, Jr. over the past calendar year had made the Wizards picking up his contract option an increasingly easy decision. On Saturday, they opted to keep him for the fourth year of his rookie contract, the 2018-19 season, and did so with a week to spare before the deadline.

Oubre, 21, has emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards team with expectations of a deep playoff run. He is still finding his trule role in the NBA, but with his youth and potential, and the fact he's still on a rookie deal, Oubre has a unique place on their roster.

John Wall and Bradley Beal have already emerged as stars. Otto Porter still has room to get much better, but has already arrived and earned a max contract. Oubre, though already established in their rotation, has plenty of room to grow.

Oubre, the 15th overall pick in 2015, doubled his minutes last season to 20.3 per game under head coach Scott Brooks with averages of 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. He earned Brooks' trust mainly on the defensive end with his versatility and high motor.

Consistency is where Oubre needs to improve, but through two games this season he appears to have taken another step. Oubre added two inches to his vertical leap over the summer despite rehabbing from platelet-rich plasma treatment on his right knee. He also gained some muscle, allowing him to make strides as a rebounder. Oubre has 15 rebounds through two games and said it's specific focus of his.


The Wizards are a good enough offensive team currently to where Oubre can focus on defense and rebounding. But his growing confidence on offense has been evident so far this year and especially in the preseason. He has worked on dribbling with his right hand and the result is more aggression attacking the rim. Though still not a polished product, Oubre is taking small steps to emerge as a more dangerous scoring threat.

The Wizards will have another decision to make on Oubre this time next year. One day before the 2018-19 regular season begins, they will have to choose whether to hand Oubre a rookie scale contract extension. They weren't able to beat that deadline with Porter and the next summer he received a $106.5 million max deal after hitting the market as a restricted free agent. 

Oubre at this very moment wouldn't command that type of money in free agency, but the same was said about Porter at this point in his career. Porter was able to improve significantly in his fourth season.

Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis said this summer that he would love to have Oubre force the issue with his performance on the court.

"He's going to come back and work really, really hard and challenge us to pay him a lot of money, too, which I'm glad to do," Leonsis said. 

It's early in the season, but Oubre may be on his way towards making the Wizards ponder his long-term future.

The Washington Post first reported Oubre's contract option getting picked up.



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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

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John Wall doesn't hold LaVar Ball's talking against Lonzo, but knows 'he'll be targeted'

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley made a point to embarrass Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball in the latter's NBA debut. After dominating him on the court, Beverley said he had to "set the tone." 

On Wednesday, Wizards point guard John Wall will get a crack at Ball when Washington plays the Lakers at the Staples Center. Wall knows why Beverley went after Ball like that, but says he doesn't blame Ball himself.

"I think his dad put him in a situation where guys are going to target him," Wall said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast, referencing LaVar Ball. "Lonzo is one of those kids that is very talented. He's been a good player for years, he just don't say much. I think his dad does all the talking for him."

Ball, 19, was the second overall pick in this June's NBA Draft. He had just three points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Clippers on Wednesday, but bounced back for 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against the Suns on Friday. 

Wall thinks Ball will be fine as long as he can keep up his production on the court to back up his dad's trash-talking.

"He's a great kid from what I've seen on the outside looking in," Wall said. "A lot of people in this league are going to take it personally. It's not the son's fault. He went back and had a better game [vs. the Suns]. That's all he's gotta do is go out there and play. He's not gonna do any talking anyways. If he gets killed or don't get killed or kills somebody, he's not going to be the guy talking."

Wall is as competitive as they come and will give Ball a tough challenge on Wednesday night, but it doesn't sound like he plans to pull a Beverley and overtly embarrass him.

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast: