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Morning tip: Jared Dudley is just a smaller version of Nene


Morning tip: Jared Dudley is just a smaller version of Nene

That Nene could be out for tonight's game for the Wizards puts an even brighter spotlight on Jared Dudley with the second unit. He's everything that the 7-footer is in a lot of ways, especially between the ears, but brings a different dynamic.

Nene (sore left calf) used to be a power forward. Hes' now the backup center. Dudley used to be a small forward, but he's now a 6-7 power forward who stretches the floor to the three-point line. 

“You look at his stat line sometimes but his knowledge and basketball IQ and ball movement and positioning on the floor defensively have all been really, really good," said coach Randy Wittman of Dudley after Monday's practice. "That’s been a big plus in the development of our second unit. It doesn’t come in terms of points or rebounds or assists. He has probably more hockey assists than a lot of guys on our team."

Dudley was slow to get acclimated with his new team, after coming here in a trade from the Milwaukee Bucks over the summer. He had surgery on his lower back to repair a bulging disk in July. He wasn't able to even shoot the ball during recovery and was 242 pounds for training camp in October. He's down 10 pounds, and the Wizards (6-4) are up in production when Dudley is on the floor as they outscore teams by 17 points per 100 possessions.

That puts Dudley in elite company, but he figures he could drop a few more pounds if needed though he won't go too far. Every Monday, the Wizards check every player's body mass index.

"Maybe five pounds. I still have to guard power forwards. I can’t be out there 225," Dudley said. "When I was in Phoenix I think the lowest I was was 227. I’m 232 right now. For me it’s a good weight. I think the lowest would be 229. Over here we don’t really go by the weight. We go by the body fat."

The 27 minutes that Dudley played in Saturday's 97-95 win in Detroit tied a season high. He had nine points, one rebound and one steal. But that hardly reflects his impact.

“What I’ve learned over the last two, three years, I try to be the quarterback on defense even though I’m at power forward. I feel they can control the defense so much more than the point guard and wings because I can call the defensive coverages even though my man might not be in it," Dudley said. "It might be Nene, I can call (isolation). I can tell the rookie to stay high and me low.

"I can have more impact defensively where I can kind of control the pieces and how I want them. I started (that) in Milwaukee. It’s been huge for me.  I can see the game on the backside looking at the whole defense, seeing who we want to shoot the ball, who we don’t want to shoot the ball. ... You get to a point in your career, I don’t care about stats. It’s not to me averaging 10 or 12 points. I want to shoot a good percentage so I’ll turn down a good shot if it gets Gary Neal a great shot."

When the Wizards started to fray in the third quarter vs. the Pistons, Wittman went back to his bench early to help erase an 11-point deficit. That meant Nene, Dudley, Garret Temple, Ramon Sessions and Neal. 

“How many minutes have we ever played together? Preseason we weren’t out there. I was in and out of the lineup. First six, seven games I didn’t know if I was going to play or not. Now I think you have more of a chemistry, commitment," said Dudley. "Temp wasn’t even in the rotation that we got now. He’s a huge part of that. It’s a different dynamic. We’re better defensively. Coach Wittman changed the defensively philosophy and simplified it. I think everyone agreed with that. We’ve shown the commitment to that.

"Offensively, it starts with Nene. He’s the one guy that can get his own shot and then we move the ball. Me being the four, when I get the ball even when I’m open sometimes it’s getting the ball side to side and getting other guys involved."

With possibly no Nene, Dudley will have to do more vs. the Pacers. During this three-game winning streak, he's 8 of 12 shooting, including 6 of 8 on threes. For the season, he's shooting 49% from the field, and 43% from three.

"The thing for me is being healthy," Dudley said. "Once I’m healthy, I’ve shown throughout my career I can shoot the ball well. I can play at a high level."

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."


In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.


Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."


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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

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Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.


Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."


Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.