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Morning tip: Pros and cons of starting Bradley Beal


Morning tip: Pros and cons of starting Bradley Beal

Since the Wizards have come back from the All-Star break, they've won 7 of 9 games with Bradley Beal as a reserve. With 22 games left, coach Randy Wittman is faced with the decision to tinker a rotation that's not broken or leave well enough alone.

Beal still is on a minutes restriction. The most he has played since returning from the break is 34. He has been held to less than 30 in seven games.

The sliding scale on how many minutes he plays each night is explained here so when Beal keeps getting asked about it and pleads ignorance he's telling the truth. The max is about 35 minutes but the limit can change from game-to-game pending how much pressure he puts on his leg determined, for instance, by data obtained from SVU cameras at NBA arenas and other instruments.

After failed experiments to keep him from developing a stress reaction in his lower right leg, Beal had a fourth one for the fourth year in a row that sat him for 16 games this season. The Wizards (30-30) had to reassess their approach. Their two concerns: Keeping him healthy to make a playoff run but also retaining his value going into restricted free agency this summer. A fifth stress reaction ruins both.

"It's been like this for a while now," said Beal, who has come off the bench in 19 of 39 appearances going into tonight's game at the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I'm kind of getting used to it."

There are two legitimate schools of thought on what the Wizards should do:

Start Beal now:

  • Garrett Temple has started 38 of 58 games played. But in the last nine, he is 14 of 52 (27%) shooting. On threes, he's not a threat at 7 of 25 (28%) as defenses are leaving him open for most of those looks. Temple is a defensive shooting guard in the mold of Thabo Sefolosha. He's not there for offense though the open-court style the Wizards have been playing allows him to push the tempo and get to the basket for easier buckets. 

  • Now that the roster is healthy, especially with how Nene, Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and Ramon Sessions anchor the second unit, swapping Beal for Temple isn't a major risk. With the way Anderson is shooting since getting onto the court following repeated setbacks with his left ankle (8 of 16 on threes) and Dudley shooting 45.8%  from three (fourth best in NBA), Temple doesn't have to carry any offensive burden. 

  • Before Beal shot 10 of 15 overall, including 3 of 4 on threes, in Wednesday's win at the Minnesota Timberwolves, he had been out of sync. In his previous six games from three, he was shooting 6 of 29 on threes (20.6%). John Wall is a set-up man. Sessions is a shoot-first point guard. 

  • It's time if the Wizards are serious about making a push not just to make the postseason but to get a higher seed. The best starting five belongs on the floor to get them off to quicker starts and take pressure off Wall which should in turn open the floor more now that Markieff Morris is starting.

Keep Beal as a reserve:

  • Regardless of how Temple is doing statistically, the starting five is better with him there than Beal and that's far more important than an individual's numbers. There's ample evidence via advanced data to support the status quo. The Wizards are better points allowed/scored per 100 possessions with Beal coming off the bench. They score more (104.7 compared to 102.1) and give up less (99.4 vs. 105.5) with Beal as a reserve. That's a total differential of 8.7 points better. 

  • Beal is getting wide-open looks and still playing plenty with Wall in fourth quarters. All four of his looks in Wednesday's game were clean. Two were produced by drive-and-kicks from Wall. His other looks tend to come when he's running the two-man game with Marcin Gortat or Nene, both great screen-setters, and popping behind the arc. Wall is able to rest off the ball while Beal creates to give the Wizards a different dynamic.


  • Beal is now going against mostly second-tier opponents, which gives him a significant edge in those matchups. "I look at it as an advantage to me. I don't look at it as punishment or anything like that. It's just being aggressive, taking advantage of matchups that's out there," he said. Beal is keeping his dribble alive to compensate for his difficulty shooting, stepping into mid-range shots and getting to the rim. This could make him better whenever he does start again as all of these elements to his game need fine-tuning in game action.

  • Beal seemed to quip when he came back that Wittman would forget and leave him on the court too long and use up his minutes so he'd be better off as a reserve. But he wasn't really joking. In the heat of the game, it's easy for a head coach to lose track because they're so caught up in the moment. It's happened when Wittman used up Beal's minutes before by starting him. By having him as a reserve, it's easier to control them. Other coaches have indicated that it's problematic for them, too, when it comes to injured players. If Beal starts and the Wizards are in a close game that goes to overtime, he probably won't be available.


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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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