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John Wall says Russell Westbrook is most like Kobe Bryant in today's game in one way

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John Wall says Russell Westbrook is most like Kobe Bryant in today's game in one way

The most common answers from Wizards players and coaches this week when asked to recall Kobe Bryant's career in light of his double jersey retirement dealt with two things: wonderment over Bryant having two jersey numbers raised to the rafters and admiration of his effort and attitude on the court.

Head coach Scott Brooks played and coached against Bryant. The one game he opposed him on the court was in 1998 when Brooks was on the Cavs and Bryant was a 19-year-old bench player for the Lakers.

"Playing against him, I didn't think he was going to be a very good player," Brooks joked. "You knew he had special talent. He had the physical characteristics and the desire to be great. His competitives is unmatched."

As a coach, Brooks was amazed when trying to develop defensive strategies to stop Bryant. Through experience and studying film, Bryant had seen everything before.


Brooks coached against Bryant when he was No. 24 and by then he was the most astute player in the game.

"To be able to do what he did, for 20 years and it was almost identical from No. 8 to No. 24 is just incredible to me," Brooks said. "Somebody said he could be a Hall of Famer in each one, which is pretty cool."

Indeed, the statistical split between jersey No. 8 and No. 24 is almost dead-on. He played 10 seasons with each number. In No. 8, he won three titles and scored 16,866 points. In No. 24, he won two championships and scored 16,777 points.

Wizards star John Wall has done plenty to separate his No. 2 jersey from others in Wizards/Bullets franchise history as a four-time All-Star with several team records. But he can't imagine being able to recreate what Bryant did in his two uniforms.

"Once in a lifetime," Wall said.


Would Wall be interested in giving it a shot, changing his number to emulate Bryant and go for a double jersey retirement someday?

"That's if I can win two championships. I have to try to win one in this one first, then try the other one," he said.

Wall played against Bryant more times than Brooks and what stands out to him most is how fierce a competitor he was. Bryant was cordial off the court, before and after games. But once the ball tipped, he was ruthless.

"Every time he stepped on the court, he was dominant every day. He didn't care who it was against, whether it was practice or a game, or shootaround or 1-on-1. He just had that killer mindset. I haven't seen anybody with that type of killer instinct," Wall said.

No one compares to Bryant in that category, but there is one guy who stands out as the closest in today's game.

"The person that plays that type of dog I probably would say Russell [Westbrook]. He just goes all out. He doesn't care, it doesn't matter. No friends, no nothing. That's the closest guy I would say to having that Kobe mentality," Wall said.

Wall can be included in that mix of contemporary players who have the old school mindset of their opponents as enemies. But, as he said himself, no one quite compares to Kobe.


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Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

Wizards hope meeting between superstar backcourt can jumpstart Bradley Beal's playoff production

With an 0-2 deficit in their first-round playoff series against the Raptors, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks called for a meeting with his two All-Star guards once his team returned to Washington. Brooks met with John Wall and Bradley Beal, hoping to solve an issue that plagued them particularly in Game 2, a blowout loss.

Brooks is intent on getting more out of Beal offensively and since Wall is the quarterback of their offense, it made sense to have him present. After Beal scored nine points and shot just 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from three, it is clear to Brooks that the Wizards need more to climb back in this series.

"We need to have Brad play well. It's no secret that you need your best players to step up and play well," Brooks said.

Both Brooks and Wall, who each spoke after Thursday's practice, said Beal needs to be more assertive in the offense. Beal averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors through four regular season games and Wall did not play in any of them. In theory, things should be easier for him now with another star player drawing attention.

That has not been the case, however. Beal is averaging 14.0 points through two games while shooting just 39.3 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. 

Even if his shot isn't falling, the Wizards want Beal to force the issue.

"I feel like I tell him at times that he needs to be more aggressive. Be more aggressive and look for your shot," Wall said. "He even says it that he has to be more aggressive himself. Even if he's missing or making shots. That's how he's been all season. We need that same type of player, to be aggressive and get at least 20 shots or more per game. That's when our team is probably at our best."

Beal has been limited to 14 shots per game by the Raptors when he averaged 18.1 during the regular season. Wall said he and Beal often talk within games about how Beal would like to be set up and the meeting with Brooks involved some of that dialogue.

While Beal's struggles stand out, the same could be said for Otto Porter, the Wizards' third-leading scorer. Porter was held to 12 points in Game 2 and did not attempt a single three-pointer. For a guy who finished third in the NBA in three-point percentage (44.1), that is difficult to justify.

Like Beal, the Wizards need Porter to impose his will a bit more and according to Brooks, the right lower leg strain he suffered late in the regular season is not to blame.

"He's 100 percent healthy," Brooks said. "It's always been a little bit of a problem. We want Otto to be more aggressive. We gotta run some more plays for him and the defense has done a good job on him. We need him to play well."

Like Beal, Porter had success against Toronto in the regular season. He averaged 18.5 points on 59.2 percent shooting, including a 24-point game on March 2. 

The Wizards need Beal and Porter to step up, knowing the series could hinge on if they do.





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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.




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