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Winless Wizards need someone to step up


Winless Wizards need someone to step up

When Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld selected Bradley Beal with the third pick of the 2012 NBA draft it was with the idea that the 19-year-old rookie would complement third-year guard John Wall, not replace him.

Grunfeld had similar aspirations for A.J. Price when he signed him as a free agent.

And when Grunfeld traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza over the summer he did so with the intent of adding some muscle and scoring touch to a frontcourt anchored by Nene.

That all changed when Nene, who averaged 13.7 points last season, showed up for training camp with plantar fasciitis and Wall, who averaged 16.3 points, was found to have a stress injury to his right knee.

“We have a deep roster right now,” Grunfeld said at the time Wall’s injury was announced. “We have a lot of players in a lot of different positions.

“It’s not going to be about one player taking over what John has done. It’s about a whole team effort. I think we’re deep, we have players to pick up the slack and it’s not going to be up to just one player. It’s going to be a team effort until we get John back.”

With Nene and Wall watching from the bench, Beal, Price Okafor and Ariza have been everyday starters asked to shoulder a load that has ultimately proven too heavy to bear.

Through seven games the Wizards are the only team in the NBA without a victory, a streak they will try to end on Friday when the Utah Jazz visit Verizon Center.

The following numbers tell a quick story of the Wizards problems this season:

  •  They rank 27th in the NBA in points per game [88.1]
  • They rank 30th in points in the paint [29.4] compared to sixth last season [43]
  • They rank 29th with a point differential of 7.86
  • They rank 28th in field goal percentage [40.7] and 23rd from 3-point range [30.9]
  • They rank 20th in rebounding and have been outrebounded by an average of 44-41

But if you look closely at their individual stats, it’s hard to place a lot of blame on anyone in particular.

Beal, Price, Okafor and Ariza had not worn a Wizards jersey before this season and all four have started every game so far.

Beal, who averaged 14.8 points and 2.2 assists at the University of Florida, is leading the Wizards with 11.6 points per game, a number most fans would have been satisfied with if Wall was putting up between 20 and 25 a night.

Price is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game, which is 6.2 points more than he averaged last season with Indiana.

Meanwhile, Okafor and Ariza have seen a dip in production. Okafor is averaging 8.4 points and six rebounds a game, slightly below the 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds he averaged last season in New Orleans. And Ariza is averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds this season, well off the 10.8 and 5.2 rebounds he averaged last season

Wizards coach Randy Wittman could probably live with those numbers if Wall and Nene were in the lineup. Without them he is trying to keep the Wizards’ slow start in perspective in a season that began with playoff aspirations.

“We gotta keep fighting,” Wittman said after Wednesday night’s loss in Dallas. “We fought tonight. There have been very few nights where we haven’t. There are things we have to do better and be more consistent at. …  It’s a learning process.”





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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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