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Wizards looking for value in free agency

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Wizards looking for value in free agency

Chunks of the D.C. area may be without electricity for several days, but there is no stopping the start of NBA free agency, which powers up on July 1. Teams can begin negotiating with players after midnight on Sunday and start formally signing deals on July 11.

Having already put their available dollars to use by acquiring the pricy pair of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the Wizards are not expected to be a major factor in free agency. However, the team does have roster spots to fill and areas that need addressing.

With 10 players under contract plus rookie Bradley Beal, four slots remain. Tomas Satoransky, the Czech Republic product and Washingtons second-round pick, is expected to remain overseas at least for the upcoming season though he may join the team for the upcoming Las Vegas summer league. As for how much the Wizards have to spend, read the smart number crunchers at RealGM.

Hoopsworld.com has a detailed list of the available free agents in what is considered just a so-so class headlined by point guards Deron Williams and Steve Nash, neither of whom is play for the Wizards.

Roger Mason and Mo Evans, both assisting Sam Cassell as coaches for the Wizards summer league entry, could return next season. Even with the addition of Beal, the Wizards need more perimeter help and Mason shot 38 percent (59 for 154) from beyond the arc last season. Evans proved valuable as a mentor, though his potential on-court role is murkier with Ariza on the roster.

Swingman Cartier Martin, also a free agent, connected on 39 percent of his 3-point attempts in 17 games for Washington last season. Despite the recent additions, the Wizards still lack a frontcourt presence capable of consistently knocking down open looks from distance.

Another area worth addressing is the backup point guard role behind John Wall. Shelvin Mack remains, but the Wizards second unit would be enhanced with an established floor general directing traffic.

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John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

John Wall isn't listening to Drake's trash talk and isn't listening to his music either

The friendly feud between Wizards guard John Wall and Raptors superfan Drake nearly tilted to Washington over the weekend as the rap star apparently floated the idea of showing up for Game 3 in D.C. 

Drake, in fact, was going to bring with him a prop to show just how confident he was after his team went up up 2-0.

"I told him to be here for Game 3. He told me he was going to be here," Wall said. "He didn't show up. He told me we was getting swept and he said he had the broom for us."

Wall and Drake exchanged trash-talk throughout the first two games held up in Toronto as Drake sat courtside. Their back-and-forth was caught on camera and went viral.

Wall now has the upperhand with the Wizards having won two straight games as the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday.

"I wanted him to know that they wasn't going to sweep us," Wall said. "We did what we were supposed to do. We came home and took home court, won two games."

Wall continued to say that him and Drake "are just having fun." He has referred to Drake as a friend in the past and Drake is a fan of the University of Kentucky, where Wall starred during the 2009-10 season.

But that friendship is currently on hold. Wall, in fact, says isn't listening to any of Drake's songs during the series and that includes 'Nice For What,' Drake's latest single. The song is being played everywhere, but Wall is avoiding it. 

"I can't?" Wall said when told he can't get away from 'Nice For What.' "I always have my headphones on."

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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