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Martin making most of training camp experience

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Martin making most of training camp experience

Moments after the Wizards' Thursday night, split-squad scrimmage restarted following a mid-session break, Cartier Martin drained a 3-pointer from the wing. Another trip or two down the court later, the 6-foot-7 swingman splashed one in from the deep left corner. Moments later and back beyond the arc, another successful 3-ball splash.

Watching Martin knock down shots from long range is not a stunner, seeing as his 38.7 percentage from distance last season led the Wizards. The shocker is simply seeing the perennial late season signee with the team at this stage of the campaign.

"It feels good, it feels really good to start from the beginning, get a feel for the whole system from the beginning," said Martin during Monday's Media Day. "This is basically a dream come true for me."

The four-year veteran's NBA experience includes three total stints with the Wizards. As Washington looked to fill in an injury-depleted roster over the final weeks of last season, Martin averaged 9.3 points in 17 games. Needing perimeter help, Washington resigned the former Kansas State star this offseason.

Following Thursday's shooting display, Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Martin, "It's always tough bringing someone in in March and getting them to fit in. He's comfortable obviously because he was with was us at the end of last year and he's doing a nice job."

Armed with a consistent touch from long range enhances the 27-year-old Texan's comfort level on the court.

"As a shooter, I'm always confident," Martin said after Thursday's practice. "Earlier, a couple hadn't been going down for me, but the main thing for me is to keep shooting and trust in my shot. These guys have confidence in me that I can shoot the ball, and I go out there and shoot it."

Part of the battle for small forward minutes behind presumed starter Trevor Ariza, Martin's versatility extends into the backcourt and with his ability to defend a variety of wing players. After years of living as a professional basketball-playing vagabond with stops in China, Turkey, two additional NBA cities and elsewhere, Martin used the knowledge that he had a place to call home to his advantage during the offseason.

"You know exactly what you need to work on once you know the program where you're going too. I talked with the coaches, I knew what they wanted me to work on, I worked on those things to get myself better and to be a better player for the Wizards."

Martin ticked off a laundry list of items he's been practicing, including "working off the dribble pick-and-rolls...Catching and shooting is one of the things I'm doing well right now. I'm working on one-dribble, two-dribble pull-ups, and just getting into my scene and finding open shots."

Wittman has repeatedly emphasized the competition for minutes in this camp and how the players will ultimately determine their lot in the team's rotation.

"Hey, I'm confident that they'll use me in the best way to be able to help us win games," Martin said. "So whatever they ask me, I'm a team player, I'm going to go out there and play my role."

At least this time, Martin will play the role, any role, from the start.

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Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

Marcin Gortat loses the Mohawk, much to the approval of his teammates and coach

WASHINGTON — After the Washington Wizards fell behind to a 0-2 hole in their series with the Toronto Raptors, there were a lot places where people jumped to criticism. Marcin Gortat was right in the middle of that discussion after his Game 2 performance.

Heading into Game 3 though, Gortat made a change. Not only on the court, but in his appearance.

Yep, he shaved the Mohawk.

“There were a lot of people insisting,” Gortat said. “Keef [Markieff Morris] was bringing, for the past week, he was bringing clippers to the practice to try to shave me after practice, but I was always dipping.”

“I pulled a Houdini trick, I was disappearing right at the end of the practice. So I finally said 'You know what I'm done' fixing, you know it takes a lot of time to maintain that so I decided to shave it. And I'm glad because I was smoother out there.”

Smooth is right, and to the tune of 16 points, 8-of-10 shooting in nearly 26 minutes of action, Gortat had his best scoring output since March 17. He was one of five Wizards to reach double figures on the evening.

“That was the key,” John Wall said.

Often times in sport it superstitious to shave anything during the postseason. After all, the Mohawk has been a staple for the 6-11 center for the entire 2017-18 season. Now he is back to his polished look, one that helps identify the ‘Polish Hammer.’

“We needed the old Marc back, we need the hammer back. I felt like we got him back,” Morris said. “I'd cut his head. He's too cute with that Mohawk.”

A small sample size, but Morris’ point is valid. Time will tell if the post-mohawk era for Gortat will favor the Wizards past one game.

“I think he got an age-appropriate haircut,” head coach Scott Brooks said.

He has a point too… Gortat is 34-years-old.

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.

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