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Markieff Morris close to returning to Wizards, but at what capacity?

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Markieff Morris close to returning to Wizards, but at what capacity?

Already off to a 4-2 start, the Wizards are about to get even stronger.

Starting power forward Markieff Morris, who has been sidelined since late September, is on track to be activated Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

That would allow him to serve his one-game suspension due to last weekend's fight against the Warriors and make his season debut on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Morris, 28, had surgery to repair a sports hernia and his abdominal wall on Sept. 22. Friday against the Cavaliers would be exactly six weeks since the surgery. Morris was prescribed a six-to-eight week recovery timeline, which could end up right on the money.

In the past several weeks Morris has worked his way up from 1-on-1 non-contact drills all the way to 5-on-5 scrimmages, a step he took on Tuesday at Capital One Arena.

As long as he checks out fine at Wednesday morning's shootaround, he should be good to go.

"Legs are a little heavy, but I feel ready to play," he said.

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Head coach Scott Brooks said he expects to play Morris anywhere from 12 to 16 minutes in his first game. The Wizards plan to take their time with Morris, knowing it will likely take him several weeks to reach midseason form.

Morris himself knows it will take time.

"You have to actually play in games to be in game shape, not just running around in 5-on-5 in practice. You need to actually be in the game atmosphere," he said. "You can do anything you want; run marathons or whatever. It's not going to get you ready to play unless you are really out there."

Morris coming back but not at full capacity begs the question of what the Wizards will do with Kelly Oubre, Jr., who has filled in admirably for Morris. Oubre has started five of the Wizards' six games in Morris' place and has thrived, averaging 11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks. 

Oubre will continue to play heavy minutes in a sixth-man role, whether he starts some games in the short-term or not.

"Right now [Morris] is our starter. We don't have a starting power forward controversy," Brooks said. 

"I would love to keep starting," Oubre said. "But at the end of the day, I want to do what is best for my team."

Brooks added that it will depend on how many minutes the Wizards decide Morris can play from the beginning, but long-term Morris remains the starter regardless of Oubre's play so far.

Brooks anticipates Oubre and Morris playing some together as the season moves on. Last season the Wizards experimented with Morris at the five in small-ball lineups and liked what they saw.

Morris will be happy to play in those lineups and noted he was a center in college and high school. Morris, Oubre and others will have to adapt to adjusted roles, but Brooks doesn't foresee any issues.

"We're a good enough team that we know sacrificing is going to be important," Brooks said of roles changing. "If we don't, then we don't have the right mindset."

If Morris does indeed return on Friday, the Wizards will be at full-strength just in time to host the Cavs, who won the Eastern Conference last season. On whether Morris is looking forward to playing LeBron James in his return, he quipped: "It doesn't matter who it is. He's just another man."

RELATED: WIZARDS' HOT START, BY THE NUMBERS

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

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2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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