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Morning tip: Morris ascends to rightful place as Wizards' starter

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Morning tip: Morris ascends to rightful place as Wizards' starter

Markieff Morris didn't know until just before tipoff that he'd be in the starting lineup for the first time since joining the Wizards two weeks ago, and to Marcin Gortat it felt like old times. 

"I think it was super-sweet," said Gortat, who played with him when both were with the Phoenix Suns. "The feeling came back from Phoenix. The difference is back in Phoenix, we were 20-60. Here we are at least 30-30."

Well, almost. After Monday's win in which they came back in the fourth quarter for a 116-108 win vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wizards are 29-30. A win at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday puts them back at .500.

"It was cool. It felt normal," said Morris, who had 16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 37 minutes. "I wanted to bring energy, come in and play hard and get the win."

Morris started fast and was just two points shy of a double-double before halftime as the Wizards led by 12. Then they came to a halt, fell behind by eight to the NBA's worst team and had to rely on John Wall's 37-point outburst to secure the win.

Gortat set a career high with 20 rebounds, seven of them offensive, 18 points, five assists and three blocks. 

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The Wizards led 110-100 with 2:15 left in the game on a layup by Gortat but the Sixers wouldn't concede. Two turnovers later and the deficit was down to three until Wall found Morris popping to the top of the key on a pick-and-roll for a wide-open look.

The 6-10 forward, who isn't a three-point shooter, calmly drained it from 19 feet to make it a two-possession game with 51 seconds left, 112-107. Philadelphia's run was over.

"He can make the three but he wants to be more mid-range. The good thing is when teams like this get to switching pick-and-rolls you post him up, throw it to him," Wall said. "He's a willing passer and a great enough passer for us to make shots and finish plays on the post. In Phoenix they used him more in isos and post-ups."

Coach Randy Wittman started Morris expecting the Sixers to go to a lineup with Jahlil Okafor at center and Nerlens Noel at power forward. He figured reserve Jerami Grant would be a better matchup for Jared Dudley, a three-point shooter who'd started 39 games for Washington this season.

Okafor (shin) was held out so the opposite happened: Noel moved to the five spot and Grant was the starting four. Morris still did more than enough to win that matchup with Grant (14 points, six rebounds).

"It's not like I can't make the shot. I was open," Morris said of his late jumper with Grant on the court.  "That's what great point guards do. They get the ball to the guy that's open and I made the shot."

Wittman said he'll determine who'll be the starter at power forward based on matchups, but it's hard to envision a scenario in which Morris shouldn't be the starter.

With rebounding being a major weakness with the Wizards before the trade (last in NBA, 30th), they're now plus-12 in eight games since the All-Star break. They've had Morris for seven of those games which puts them at plus-24. 

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

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2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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