Though the exact game will be affected by his suspension for Friday night's fight against the Warriors, Markieff Morris' return to the Wizards could happen any day now, as the power forward is 5 1/2 weeks removed from the sports hernia surgery he had on Sept. 22.
His initial recovery timeline was six to eight weeks and it's looking more and more like Morris will hit the front end of that timetable. Head coach Scott Brooks indicated to reporters on the Wizards road trip this weekend that Morris will return soon, perhaps by the end of the week.
People within the Wizards organization caution that Morris may take several weeks to reach midseason form due to the nature of his injury and the timing of his return. In terms of game action, he is nearly a month behind everyone else.
Still, getting Morris back on the court will be a boon for the Wizards. Last season he was a key cog on a Washington team that won 49 games, their most as a franchise since 1978-79, and reached the second round of the playoffs. He complements the rest of their starting lineup well on both ends of the floor and is their best answer defensively to stretch-fours.
The Wizards stand 4-2 as they return home from the West Coast and probably feel they should be at least 5-1, considering one of those losses was to the lottery-bound Lakers. They remain in good shape, however, despite the absence of Morris for what will be at least seven games by the time he steps on the court.
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Kelly Oubre, Jr. deserves a good deal of credit for the Wizards compensating for Morris' loss. He wasn't the first choice to start, Jason Smith was, but once Smith went down with a shoulder injury in the season opener, Oubre was the replacement and Brooks has kept him there ever since.
Through six games, Oubre is averaging 11.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three, looking like a more refined offensive player than he was just a few months ago. His 117 offensive rating and 103 defensive rating suggest he's been one of the Wizards' best players on both ends of the floor.
Oubre is averaging 35.2 minutes while providing that level of production. At times Brooks, has had no choice but to ride Oubre with Smith hurt and Ian Mahinmi's sprained left ankle adding another injury to their frontcourt, but Oubre has held his own.
Mike Scott has also had his moments. He's averaging 8.0 points in 19.7 minutes on 46.3 percent from the field. In Sunday's win over the Kings, he scored 11 straight points for the Wizards and in his last two games has 27 total points in 39 minutes on 10-for-16 shooting.
Morris is not going to be able to carry a full load of minutes right from the start, meaning Oubre could continue to play an increased role in the interim. Regardless, he will be the sixth man with the starting lineup fully healthy.
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How Brooks utilizes Smith and Scott will likely be a work in progress. Scott is new to the Wizards' bench, as are guards Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. Morris rejoining the team will produce a domino effect in the rotation as Brooks discovers which lineups he likes and doesn't like while working with a full lot of players.
The Wizards' 4-2 record has coincided with most stats reflecting them favorably. But Morris can help them in specific areas of need. They rank in the bottom half of the NBA in rebounding and their three-point numbers could use improvement. They are a pedestrian 15th in three-pointers made and 16th in attempts. Morris can help spread the floor with a respectable outside shot. Plus, Smith will help those numbers as he gets healthier.
The Wizards' primary starting lineup this season with Oubre alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat holds a 23.6 net rating, best among NBA five-man lineups with at least 50 minutes logged this season. Swapping in Morris shouldn't disrupt that success and pushing Oubre to the bench will only help the second unit.
With Morris' return getting closer and closer, the Wizards have to feel good about how they have operated during his absence and the potential of their roster once he is back in the fold.
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