Wizards

Quick Links

Morning tip: Wizards can learn from Hornets' success going small

usatsi_9243134.jpg

Morning tip: Wizards can learn from Hornets' success going small

The comparisons between the Wizards and Charlotte Hornets can't be avoided. While one appeared on track to bigger and brighter things ahead behind a possible All-Star backcourt, the other had to reassess its roster and steady itself following an injury rash.

Even after Sunday's 113-98 win over the Hornets, the Wizards (39-41) are the team that has been turned upside down. Their season ends Wednesday with nothing better than a .500 record following a 46-win 2014-15 in which they advanced to the conference semifinals. Charlotte (46-34) is a No. 6 seed with a shot at moving up to fourth, already 13 games better in the win column than a season ago. 

Like Washington this season, Charlotte was riddled with injuries last season. Like Washington did with Nene, Charlotte moved one of its bigs to the bench this season, Al Jefferson, and went with four perimeter players.

The Wizards began with reshaping Kris Humphries, eventually traded, as their starting "stretch" four while Charlotte's Marvin Williams has been learning that role for years. Then they went to Jared Dudley, a career backup who was undersized for the role which necessitated a move to acquire Markieff Morris.

Why were they more successful? The Hornets have moved up 22 spots in three-point shooting, from dead last a year ago to No. 8 going into Monday's games, without compromising their defensive identity. CSNmidatlantic.com had one-on-ones with Hornets coach Steve Clifford, their prize free-agent acquisition Nic Batum and the Williams who has gone from being an NBA nomad to a highly sought-after free agent when the season ends because of his versatility:

Steve Clifford

Batum is in the final year of his deal after being scooped in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers last season. GM Rich Cho, who spent a season running Portland, had a prior relationship with the 6-8 combo forward who can play shooting guard, defend both spots and stretch the floor with his three-point shot.

"There are two things. He’s such a facilitator. Even when you talk to him, the way he views the game is so much about making his teammates play better. Having one guy like that you can play through so much makes such a difference. He doesn’t care if he scores. It doesn’t matter. You can put him in the pick-and-roll, a dribble hand-off, run him off staggers (screens) or post him. When that second defender comes, he wants to move the ball. When your guys when you play through does that it becomes contagious."

The Wizards have Otto Porter as their starting small forward and Bradley Beal as their starting shooting guard. The latter has been injured or playing on a minutes restriction most of the season. Neither is as experienced as Batum. 

“Without being there every day, I think that to me you play to the strengths of your best players. There’s certain things that equate to winning. Being able to play four out is a big deal. With Williams and (Frank) Kaminsky, we’re always four out. To me, sometimes when you’re either taking a guy who is learn how to shoot threes or you’re just playing a smaller guy who can’t guard that position you can be four out but it’s hard to be balanced. Golden State, when people say they downsize, no they’re huge. Except when they play Draymond (Green) up front, they’re big everywhere. Again, I just think you have to have guys like Marvin. He can shoot the three and guard most four men so you can play four out.

Marvin Williams

"With Washington they’d played (Marcin) Gortat and Nene together for so long so it was a little different seeing those guys go four out, one in. Nene coming off the bench. Humphries was capable to shoot it out there but three-point shooting we work on every single day. Something I personally spend a great deal of time on and Frank does as well. Those are shots they want us to take to make the four-out-and-one-in work. I don’t feel it’s anything you can just take a team and do it. You got to have the personnel for it.

"Nic, he makes everything work for us. He’s guarding multiple positions. Obviously he can play multiple positions on offense. He definitely is the plus for us. With him out there playing the pick-and-roll and Kemba (Walker) out there playing the pick-and-rolls, Cody (Zeller) is such a great screener and he’s a little unorthodox as well because he’s such a  fast five man. A lot of guys can’t keep up with him. The organization did a great job putting together the right personnel.

“A few years ago a 'tweener' is a guy you can’t really find a spot for them. Now I feel like that’s what everybody is looking for one. Golden State kind of changed the game with Draymond. With Draymond’s ability to play out on the perimeter and on the inside, a lot of them are trying to do the same thing. It does help guys like myself.

Nicolas Batum

"I think Golden State, when they played small ball, they proved they could win. The whole league now starts doing it. We’re doing it with Marv. The first time I played against Marv, Marvin was strictly a small forward. Now he’s just a natural power forward. He spreads the floor. When you get a guy like Al Jefferson who can post up, you can free him up and get more space. That’s better. He’s close to 160 (made) threes this year. That’s a big thing for us.

"I think Morris is a good fit for them if you try to go that way. In the East, we’re all like that. Maybe Toronto is different because Toronto starts (Luis) Scola but they end up with (Patrick) Patterson. Patterson can shoot threes so it’s kind of the same. (Paul) Millsap can play outside. Boston got (Jared) Sullinger, they can put (Jae) Crowder at four, (Kelly) Olynyk shoots threes, (Jonas) Jerebko shoots threes. Miami got (Luol) Deng. Even (Chris) Bosh. The league is like that.

"I think they need more time to put Markieff in the system, training camp and get used to him."

MORE WIZARDS: Even minus Wall, Beal opposition thinks Wizards are playoff team

Quick Links

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Game: TV and live stream info, rosters, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is here with the annual showcase set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR GAME

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

ROSTERS

TEAM LEBRON:

Coach: Dwane Casey, Raptors
LeBron James, Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, Warriors
Kyrie Irving, Celtics
Anthony Davis, Pelicans
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Bradley Beal, Wizards
Goran Dragic, Heat
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Paul George, Thunder
Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Kemba Walker, Hornets

TEAM STEPHEN:

Coach: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets
Stephen Curry, Warriors
James Harden, Rockets
Joel Embiid, 76ers
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves
Draymond Green, Warriors
Klay Thompson, Warriors
Al Horford, Celtics
Damian Lillard, Blazers
Kyle Lowry, Raptors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Three things to watch...

New format

The NBA switched it up this season by doing away with the traditional matchup between the East and West. The teams were instead chosen by captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the two top vote-getters in All-Star fan voting. The idea was to breath new life into the All-Star Game and hopefully make it more competitive. The league also installed a system where the winners each get $100,000, $75,000 more than the losing team. 

All pro sports leagues struggle drawing interest with their All-Star showcases. They are always trying to get ratings up and this is the latest ploy by the NBA. The new format is definitely intriguing, but whether it will have a major impact on the competition itself is hard to tell. We'll see how the fans respond.

RELATED: JOHN WALL GIVES UPDATE ON HIS REHAB

Reunion time

The teams picked by James and Curry will give fans some throwback combinations with former teammates back together again. Team LeBron is full of them. James will reunite with Kyrie Irving, who essentially forced his way out of Cleveland over the summer after the two combined to reach three straight NBA Finals and win one title.

We will also see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play together again. They of course teamed up to win a lot of games with the Oklahoma City Thunder before Durant signed with the Warriors. Westbrook will also be reunited with Victor Oladipo, who was traded from OKC to the Pacers over the summer.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's All-Star debut

Wizards fans will of course be focused on Bradley Beal, who is making his first All-Star appearance. He is Washington's lone representative, as John Wall is still recovering from left knee surgery.

Beal may not get many minutes on a stacked roster of guys who have been in the game before. If that happens, it's probably for the best. Beal is currently fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. He needs the rest if he can get it.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

Quick Links

Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

Bradley Beal eliminated in first round of three-point contest, Donovan Mitchell wins dunk contest

It was a short night for Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the 2018 All-Star three-point contest on Saturday, as he was eliminated in the first round.

Wearing the Wizards' new 'The District' white alternate jersey, Beal shot a 15 and fell short of the top three spots to qualify for the second round. Suns guard Devin Booker won the contest with a 28 score in the final, beating out Klay Thompson of the Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Clippers.

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Beal's was undone by a slow start. He missed all five shots on the first rack and made just one on the second. He began to heat up at the third rack, but by then couldn't recover.

Here is Beal's full round:

This was Beal's second showing in the three-point contest. He finished second back in 2014 and this year said he was motivated to avenge that loss. He should have plenty more opportunities to participate in the future if he chooses.

The NBA's All-Star Saturday night began with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie winning the skills competition. He beat Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen in the final round.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest. He edged Larry Nance, Jr. of the Cavaliers in the finals.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT