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Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics


Wizards look to rebound against Garnett, Celtics

Anderson Varejao's game is typically more subtle than highlight generating. The center's value stems more from rebounding and heady play than direct point producing. Perhaps also being lumped in with that "LeBron James has no talent around him" era has kept the Cavaliers primary big man in the underrated category.

Oh, those around the league know what Varejao brings to the court. Yet his lack of perennial All-Star street cred made his 23 rebounds and role in Cleveland's dominating effort on the glass against Washington in the season opener something of a stunner.

Nobody overlooks Kevin Garnett. The future Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics stalwart is the next interior presence the Wizards must contend with, starting Saturday night in Washington's home opener and again Wednesday in Boston.

"KG, he's a league MVP, a champion, brings a lot of experience," Wizards center Emeka Okafor said. "He knows how to play the game. With him, you just have to keep your eye on him, limit his effectiveness."

Regardless of the next opponent, the Wizards know they cannot have a repeat of their board work, especially the first three quarters, of the94-84 loss at Cleveland.

"Obviously, we’ve got to rebound the ball better than we did in Cleveland - and we’ve got to make sure that happens," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said following Friday's practice.

Being on the wrong end of a 54-39 rebounding total against Cleveland not only allowed the Cavs to score a truckload of second-chance points, it also prevented the Wizards from getting out on the fast break. Without John Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin, Washington struggled to score in half court sets.

"We’ve got to have good pace of the game. I thought our pace was up and down in Cleveland," Wittman said. "When it was up, we were pretty good. When we walked the ball up and played five on five, it was a little hard, especially with the injuries we have. We’ve got to make sure we keep pace of the game, take care of the ball and rebound."

The frontcourt should receive a boost Saturday with Seraphin's expected return. The third-year center, out since Oct. 13 after injuring his calf during a preseason game, practiced for a second straight day on Friday.

Last season's Celtics ranked last in rebounding and Garnett averaged under seven boards in four games against Washington. Don't count on Wittman emphasizing those stats.

Garnett kicked off his 18th season by yanking down 12 boards in Boston's season opening loss at Miami. For the most part in this case, age is just a number.

"As you get older in this league, you learn how to be just more effective," said the 30-year-old Okafor, who has battled against Garnett many times over his nine-year career. "I was watching Tim Duncan last night. He's 36, 37 and he's just getting it in. Just shows if you know what you're doing you can do it."

One area about Garnett that Wittman might emphasize to his bevy of young players? That the 14-time All-Star is still cranking out strong campaigns despite all the wear and tear that comes with playing aggressively in the trenches.

"He’s been a pretty lucky guy from an injury standpoint, to withstand the years he’s played, the way he plays," Wittman said of Garnett. "That’s one thing people don’t realize. He plays as hard as anybody and to not have serious injuries, because of the way he plays through whatever it is, 17 years, is remarkable.

"But that’s a testament to him. He’s a guy that, this is a 12-month a year job for him and he takes care of his body. Takes care of himself. Always has. One of those guys, you never see him in trouble or hear stories about him off the floor and that’s just who is and why he’s had the success he’s had."

Well, you do hear some on-court stories about Garnett, frequently mentioned in the context of the league's "dirtiest player."

Said Okafor, "Whatever he does it works."

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."


The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.


For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.




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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."


In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.


Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."