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Wizards weighing their options with Markieff Morris set to miss start of regular season

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Wizards weighing their options with Markieff Morris set to miss start of regular season

Last season, as the Wizards did things as a franchise they hadn't accomplished since the 1970s, they enjoyed near perfect health with their starting lineup. This year, with still weeks to go before the season begins, that will not be the case.

Starting power forward Markieff Morris is set for a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks following the sports hernia surgery he had on Friday. That means he will miss somewhere between two weeks of the regular season or a month. Either way, that's a longer absence than any Wizards starter had last season.

The Wizards will have to adjust and the good thing is that they have time on their side. Head coach Scott Brooks doesn't have to adjust on the fly in the middle of the season. He can spend all of training camp and the preseason tinkering with his lineups to prepare for life without Morris, one of the team's most underrated players on the court and a unifying personality off of it.

"It's not the ideal situation to have one of your starting players out for an extended period of time due to surgery, but that's part of the game. You have to have that next-man-up mentality, which we have," Brooks said.

The timing of Morris' surgery is unfortunate, but there were a lot of factors in play. Morris didn't start feeling discomfort until about a month ago and in recent weeks he has been dealing with the birth of his first child and a legal case in Phoenix. The Wizards had to work around all of those things to get him under the knife.


Brooks remains confident the Wizards can make do without Morris because he likes the options left on his roster.

"We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly [Oubre] in there. We can throw Jason [Smith] in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There's a lot of players that we can throw into the mix," Brooks said.

Based on how Brooks described it, don't be surprised if Otto Porter also gets an extended look at power forward. The Wizards found success last season with small-ball lineups playing Porter and Oubre together and that could be the play with Morris out.

"Otto definitely has the ability to play four. It's such a smaller league. In the 80s or 90s, Otto at the four probably wouldn't be the decision. But now with all the shooting fours in the league, I think he can play that position," Brooks said.

Porter, 24, is fine with that scenario. 

"I've played a lot of minutes at the position with Keef. It's a position I've played before and I think I can definitely step up and fulfill that role until he gets back. But we have guys here. Mike Scott, he can step in as a veteran guy that can come in and play the four with me also. We can go small. Coach Brooks is going to definitely evaluated the situation and put us in the best situation moving forward," Porter said.


The question then becomes how many minutes the Wizards can rely on Porter early in the season, knowing they don't want to rush Morris back and knowing how important Porter is to their chances further down the road. He is one of their best outside shooters, rebounds well and is a versatile defender.

Under the direction of a new training staff, the Wizards closely monitored the workload of each player from games to practices to shootarounds last season. They want to keep Porter fresh and will sacrifice when needed to do so.

Getting by without Morris won't be easy on several fronts. He is valuable as a basketball player, but also as an enforcer on the court. Starting center Marcin Gortat thinks that's what the Wizards will miss about Morris as much as anything.

"He is a tough guy. We all love when he gets those technical fouls because he's pushing people, hitting people and talking to the refs. Sometimes you need that. We're going to miss that. We're definitely going to miss that," Gortat said.

Morris was not with the Wizards at media day on Monday and it's not clear when he join the team. He has a long road back, but the Wizards feel good about their options to replace him while he recovers.



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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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