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Morning tip: Wizards' hiring of Brooks follows familiar pattern


Morning tip: Wizards' hiring of Brooks follows familiar pattern

The one area in which the Wizards have been consistent in these last few years, as they've arranged their pieces to have cap space to make a major run at a prized free agent such as Kevin Durant, is decisiveness. That couldn't be more evident in coming to terms with Scott Brooks on a five-year deal worth $35 million.

Rewind to last summer when Paul Pierce opted out and left after one season for the L.A. Clippers. The Wizards shifted to Otto Porter as their starter at small forward after having traded up for Kelly Oubre a month earlier for long-term depth there and then brought in veterans Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley to fortify the position within days of free agency opening.

Rewind two years ago, when Trevor Ariza was a free agent. He wanted more years (four) than the Wizards were offering (two) at roughly $10 million per season. They let him walk and quickly pivoted just hours later to replace him with Paul Pierce

Rewind three years ago, when I reported the Wizards would give John Wall, who'd yet to make an All-Star Game, a max extension. Wall is regarded as a legitimate max player now but it seemed absurd to some at the time. After the Wizards settled their free-agent needs in the first three days of July -- Martell Webster, Eric Maynor and Garrett Temple -- they came to terms with Wall on a designated player, five-year deal two weeks after opening the negotiating window. Soon after Al Harrington was bought out of his deal with the Orlando Magic, the Wizards pounced to sign him, too.

Not all of those moves panned out but none handicapped the Wizards long-term except for Webster when his back and hip betrayed him one year into his deal. At least that was at a manageable $5.5 million. Maynor was an unmitigated disaster but he luckily only cost only $2.1 million as he was the first backup point guard to accept the offer on the table when C.J. Watson and Beno Udrih hesitated. Harrington was at the tail end of his career as his right knee was damage by staph infection and while he had a few moments he didn't play much. He cost the vet minimum of $1.4 million.

The Wizards will be criticized for rushing into things too quickly, but when a franchise hadn't made the postseason in six years prior to the 2013-14 season quality veterans weren't exactly running to sign up and play. Calculated risks were OK as long as that salary was off the books by the summer of 2016 when Durant is unrestricted and plenty of other quality talents such as Nic Batum and Al Horford are on the market.

With Brooks, it's not viewed internally as a similar gamble -- or a gamble at all. He's a known quantity who has won 62% of his games, been to the conference finals three times, the NBA Finals once, won an NBA title as a player and comes highly regarded for his ability to connect with today's players. In his last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, minus Durant for 55 games, Serge Ibaka 17 games and Russell Westbrook 15 games, they still won 45 (and James Harden was long gone). 

President Ernie Grunfeld had a vision with how he wanted the locker room culture to shift and a defensive identity to return. There's no comparison between Brooks' demeanor and personality and Wittman's. It's like contrasting Stephen Curry's jump shot to Tony Allen's. Both are jumpers but the delivery and results aren't the same.

Brooks had received interest by way of phone calls from Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, CSNmidatlantic.com was told Thursday night. The Wizards felt compelled to act quickly before their biggest threat in the Rockets, who are in a first-round playoff series and unable to meet with Brooks yet, could scoop up the coach who won an NBA title with them as a player in 1993-94.

Tom Thibodeau, who joined Minnesota's staff earlier this week, was the No. 1 coaching free agent this offseason with Brooks solidly entrenched at No. 2. At least, that's how most around the league saw it. For the Wizards based on how they perceived the job fit, Brooks was the top coach and was paid accordingly (and that dollar figure has zero to do with the salary cap). Brooks has gotten his teams deeper in the postseason and more consistently than Thibodeau, who has a sub-.500 playoff record, and won 54% of them. 

The next step after the Wizards retool the rest of the coaching staff (Brooks will assemble his own staff) is to determine everyone's role. While Brooks isn't the type to rule with the iron fist, make no mistake that the Wizards should have at least one assistant to counteract Brooks' good-cop posture. 

Wall admitted there was far too much bickering in their 41-41 letdown of a season when there was a clear dividing line between players in the locker room. About two veteran players who can create a healthy fear and tension to keep things in line would establish a good support system for such an assistant, and it wouldn't hurt if Grunfeld is definitive from the beginning that if there's a repeat of the nonsense that polluted the 2015-16 season that all 15 jobs in the locker room are at stake. 

There's a new voice in town in Brooks and he has job security. If the same problems persist, there's no blaming this coach.

MORE WIZARDS: Durant aside, this is how Scott Brooks' hiring makes sense

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He made just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking down shots from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

The Wizards have now lost seven straight posteason games on the road.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case. Perhaps there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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