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Markieff Morris demands better focus from Wizards -- and himself

Markieff Morris demands better focus from Wizards -- and himself

TORONTO -- The discipline that the Wizards lacked in their two losses out of the All-Star break came to the forefront in their latest two victories. Markieff Morris, stroking his chin and cracking a smile, knew not to overreact because it's an 82-game season with lots of ebbs and flows.

"Same team. Ain't (expletive) change. You don't make judgment off of two games," said Morris, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Wedneday's 105-96 wipeout of the Toronto Raptors. "Like I've said, Philly was a trap game. Not taking nothing away from Philly. Fresh off the break, they're playing balls-out hard. We were still in it and had a chance to win it. In the second game, Utah just beat our ass. They were just more prepared than we were."

The Wizards (36-23) have stacked two impressive victories, including over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, to erase the taste of their second loss this season to the Sixers.

They had a focus that was absent when they botched rotations on the perimeter, allowed dribble pentration and failed to make the extra efforts to protect the rim. It wasn't one player at fault but multiple ones.

Wednesday, they disrupted DeMar DeRozan as he had 24 points on just 7-for-20 shooting for Toronto. He didn't make his first shot until 4:20 remained in the first quarter on a post-up of the smaller Bradley Beal, but that was easy as his looks would come.

"It's hard to contest his shot because he has a high release and he's so athletic. He has a great shot fake before and after the dribble," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought we did as well as we could possibly do. We haven't particularly played him well. ... Our guys did a good job of staying engaged. Our switches were good."

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Kelly Oubre would come in late in the first and force DeRozan into a miss on a drive with his 7-2 wingspan. He then harrassed him beyond the three-point line and drew a charge. DeRozan isn't a three-point shooter and he also is a master at the pump fake to get defenders out of position and on his hip. That's how he lives at the free-throw line to supplement his offense. 

When Morris covered DeRozan on switches, he forced him to try to shoot over his 6-10 frame, not allowing him into the lane by biting those up-fakes. 

"We're almost at the point where if you know what a guy's doing and you bite for that pump fake, you got to pay a fine," Morris said. "That's the type of level we're trying to get to. Guys know their assignments, what exactly he's going to do because it's going to be like that in the playoffs once we get there.

Morris only drew two fouls. He was in foul trouble vs. the Sixers and the Jazz. In the latter, he was ejected after he was assessed a technical for arguing a call and throwing the ball. That also cost him a $25,000 fine from the league. He had a flagrant 1 earlier in the game because he was frustrated by a no-call when he was shoved in the lower back by Jazz forward Derrick Favors. 

"I hate to be scored on," said Morris, who had a season-high four blocks on Golden State and then became a set-up man with his ball distribution Wednesday. "I'm being selfish if I take fouls that's going to get me out the game so I'm just trying to get better with that."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."