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Morning tip: Dudley's impact is just tip of the iceberg for Wizards


Morning tip: Dudley's impact is just tip of the iceberg for Wizards

About a week ago, everyone outside of the Wizards' locker room wanted to blow up the pace-and-space offense, trade Marcin Gortat because of his struggles adapting and rebounding or claim doom and gloom because of Bradley Beal's absence.

Now two games later, after a blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks 115-86, how smart would that have been? The Wizards (5-4) appear to have gotten their swagger back by defeating a team that's expected to compete for a top four seed for the second time this season. And they're not even close to being whole with Drew Gooden (back spasms) ailing, Beal missing his third game in a row (left shoulder contusion) and Alan Anderson (left ankle surgery) yet to play this season. 

But one of the other key pieces, Jared Dudley, appears to finally be in full swing. He had his best game of the season with 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot off the bench in 23 minutes. 

"This whole summer, I had surgery, didn't get to work on my game," said Dudley, who had a bulging disk in his lower back repaired. "You come back you have to get back in shape. My weight is at where I want it to be. I wanted to work my way back instead of practicing, waiting until December. It's time. It's rhythm. Any time you see the ball go down you get a little confidence and your teammates look for you a little more."

Dudley played for the Bucks (5-6) last season. Because coach Jason Kidd started Giannis Antetokounmpo at power forward, Wizards coach Randy Wittman rode with Dudley over Kris Humphries who was coming off a career-high five three-pointers in the previous game.

After misfiring badly on his first attempt, Dudley had the hot hand. His basketball IQ is off the charts. How good can the Wizards be? They've already beaten an elite team in the San Antonio Spurs. The Orlando Magic aren't nearly that good, but they're more of a gatekeeper of the East. The Wizards have bested them twice like the Bucks who have given up an average of 116.5 points to Washington despite their length at every position. 

"It's not so much scoring," Wittman said of Dudley. "Spacing, smart, ball movement, being in the right spot, fighting his tail off at the defensive end. I like those things that he's done the last couple of games."

Dudley is a key part of any success they have going forward. He was part of a bench that contributed 46 points.

"My game it's not stunning when you look out there. It's not something that I'm going to wow you," Dudley said. "Anytime I hit some shots, it buys me more time to do all the little things. ...

"Guarding this team, I know all their plays. I played there. I know their strengths and weaknesses. It's a huge advantage for me."

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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