Wizards

Quick Links

Morning tip: Can Markieff Morris be Wizards' Draymond Green?

usatsi_9125057_141983962_lowres.jpg

Morning tip: Can Markieff Morris be Wizards' Draymond Green?

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It would seem silly to think that the Wizards' hopes of beating the Golden State Warriors at home, where they are 35-0 this season, would hinge on the health of Markieff Morris but they do. Of course, better teams have come to Oracle Arena with a plan and failed miserably when faced with the wrath of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. 

The Wizards (36-37), however, are fighting for their playoff lives and pulling off such an upset could revive them psychologically as well as in the actual East standings.

"We got to go over there and just give everything we have. There's one word that has to stand out in front of everything. It's just desperation," said Wizards center Marcin Gortat. "We got to play desperate. We want to leave everything out there on the court. If we're not going to play like that then we aren't going to have a chance to win."

On Feb. 3, the Warriors won at Verizon Center 134-121, but it was an entertaining scrap in which Curry went for 51 points and John Wall countered with 41 points and 10 assists.

Undersized, the Wizards were starting Jared Dudley at power forward. He was just 1 of 4 for five points as no starter other than Wall scored in double-figures. Now the starter is Morris, who was acquired at the trade deadline and possibly will play tonight. Morris is 6-10, versatile enough to allow the Wizards to switch on coverages, a luxury they weren't able to stick with when Dudley was in the lineup.

Morris sat out Sunday's 101-88 win vs. the L.A. Lakers because of soreness in his left calf to improve his chances of playing Golden State. He's a much better option against Draymond Green, who can play center when the Warriors go to a small-ball lineup and allows them to switch everything and close out shooters more successfully because he can defend positions 1 through 5.

The Wizards are finding that Morris has a lot of the same qualities, evidenced by what he did consecutive games against Carmelo Anthony and Paul Millsap recently. He can hold his own one-on-one in the post and on the perimeter. Not having to help automatically improves the integrity of Washington's defense as a result. 

Golden State (66-7) won't have Andre Igoudala (ankle) and his replacement, Brandon Rush (knee), has been listed as questionable to play. Morris having a big game is a necessary component for the Wizards to have any real chance at winning.

"I think he can help us a lot, being able switch and those type of things are things we're going to need," Wall said of Morris before shifting focus to why Curry was able come within two points of his season-high in Washington by scoring 36 in the first half alone. "He just got off. We were switching (pick-and-rolls). You don't switch Dud on Steph Curry. He don't want to get switched on (him). He was getting open looks and being aggressive, putting Dud in a bind. In the second half we were being more aggressive with him, more physical."

Bradley Beal, who came off the bench after having returned from a leg injury, will have to show up, too. He only had four points against the Lakers. Garrett Temple's defense is pivotal in relief as he has to help make Curry work for every look he gets.

"I think we should change some things because he had 51 points. He's going to hit some tough shots," Temple said. "As long as they're contested shots and he's not getting in the lane and making plays for everybody else, we'll have to live with the contested 30-footers.

"This game is going to be won on the defensive end. The few teams that have beat them they've been able to keep Curry in check and just defend more than one of their big three, Curry, Klay, Draymond."

The tendency is to have Gortat pressure the passer from the high post, in this case center Andrew Bogut, because he's the least threatening of their offensive weapons. But Bogut is a magnificent passer. He'll pick up cutters to the basket particularly when Golden State runs its Triangle actions. The more shots he he's allowed to take, the better off the Wizards will be.

"When Bogut has it don't pressure him. You've giving them the paint so wide open with everybody chasing over the top," Wall said of ball screens and dribble handoffs. "(We should) fall back into a zone and let that man (Gortat) protect the paint. Then you can chase Steph Curry off of threes."

There may not be enough time left in this season to determine how well Morris can work in Washington but he has three more years left on his contract at an average of $8 million each. What he produces compared to what he gets paid -- relative to players at his position and of his quality in an open marketplace -- makes him a bargain.

If he can become anything like Green, who benefits from having once-in-a-lifetime shotmakers around him who arguably inflate his assists numbers, Morris will be a steal.

MORE WIZARDS: Wall shares thoughts on postgame convo with Kobe Bryant                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Quick Links

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

usatsi_10509697_1.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Wizards have big questions to answer coming out of All-Star break

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller look ahead to the biggest questions the Wizards need to answer after the All-Star break. They also explain why Bradley Beal proved a lot in his first All-Star Game appearance.

They also unveiled a new segment involving guessing Wizards players based on their social media captions.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

Quick Links

Biggest storylines for Wizards coming out of the All-Star break center around John Wall

usatsi_10545716.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Biggest storylines for Wizards coming out of the All-Star break center around John Wall

The Wizards experienced a wild ride before the All-Star break, but came out of it on solid ground, fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 33-24 record. With 27 games still remaining until the postseason, here is a look at the biggest storylines moving forward...

Who will they sign?

The Wizards are close to signing a new player as they were left with open roster spots following the trade deadline when they dealt guard Sheldon Mac to Atlanta for a second round pick. The Wizards have keyed in on the backup point guard position and are likely to go in that direction with the move. But they could still be in the market for other players, possibly someone at the backup wing position, even if they sign a point guard.

The Wizards only have a few days left to make a move because they need to get their roster to 14 players within 14 days of the Mac trade on Feb. 8. Their next game is on Thursday against the Cavaliers, so they could have someone in the building in time to play in that game.

RELATED: WIZARDS DID WELL IN FIRST HALF DESPITE OBSTACLES

When will Wall return?

Wall had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Jan. 31 and was prescribed a recovery timeline of six-to-eight weeks, meaning he still has about another three weeks to go before a return is possible. It could be another five weeks before he's back on the court. That puts him in the range of missing another 10-to-17 games.

The Wizards have played nine games since he went down and have won seven of them, but they aren't even halfway there yet. They have a long way to go. Because it's Wall and his return will have a domino effect, this is the most important storyline to watch for the Wizards moving forward.

How will Wall fit back in?

Wall's return will of course be a big deal for the Wizards. They will be adding an All-Star back into their lineup with just weeks before the start of the playoffs. But at the moment, they have a good thing going and are playing much better than they were in the last week or two before he was shut down. That, of course, had a lot to do with Wall playing injured.

It will be interesting if the Wizards are still winning at anything close to their current rate when Wall comes back. That would be the ideal scenario because they could ease him back into the lineup and take their time getting him up to speed. But it will also create a complex situation for head coach Scott Brooks, who will need to make adjustments to his rotation. The alternative would be if the Wizards aren't playing well when Wall returns and the concern there would be the urge to rush him back in any capacity.

PODCAST: BREAKING DOWN THE WIZARDS' FIRST HALF

Tough schedule

The Wizards have fared quite well for themselves so far with a 33-24 record despite injuries to Wall, Markieff Morris and Otto Porter to varying degrees. But they have done so while enjoying the easiest schedule in the NBA, 30th out of 30 teams. It is about to get a lot tougher coming out of the All-Star break.

All in the next five weeks the Wizards will see the Cavs, Bucks, Warriors, Raptors, Pacers (twice), Timberwolves, Celtics, Spurs (twice) and the Nuggets. Of their next 17 games, 15 will be against teams currently in the playoff picture. They could be without Wall for all of them. That won't be easy.

Can Oubre get back on track?

While Wall has been out, just about everyone on the Wizards has stepped their games up to compensate. Though he still impacts games in other ways, Kelly Oubre, Jr. has been one exception on offense. In his last 11 games, Oubre has averaged 9.4 points and shot just 31.2 percent from the field and 23.2 percent from three. In his previous 46 games, he averaged 12.4 points while shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three.

That is a major difference and the Wizards certainly want to get the early-season version of Oubre back. At his best he is one of their most consistent scorers and an excellent three-point shooter. When he's contributing on both ends of the floor, the Wizards are tough to beat.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS