Washington Wizards

Tomas Satoransky remembers Wizards fondly, relishes every chance to face them

Tomas Satoransky remembers Wizards fondly, relishes every chance to face them

When asked about the nature of Tomas Satoransky's departure from the Wizards last offseason, Washington head coach Scott Brooks was frank, yet gracious.

"He got a great contract," Brooks said before the Bulls bounced the Wizards 115-106 Wednesday evening. "He came [to Washington D.C.] and we knew his long-term goal was to be a starting point guard in the league. We don't have John [Wall] yet this year — or maybe not at all this year — but John's our point guard, so he was never going to be able to fulfill that part of his goal.

"But Tomas, he was great. He's tough, he's competitive, he plays hard, he's not about the stat sheet, he's about making the right plays."

Funny, because every time the Bulls face the Wizards, Satoransky's row of the box score winds up awfully full. In Washington on Dec. 18, Satoransky tallied 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists on 7-for-11 shooting (2-for-3 from 3). In Chicago on Jan. 15: 18 points, five assists, 5-for-9 and seven trips to the charity stripe without a miss. Both ended in Bulls' wins.

Brooks is right: Stat-sheet stuffing isn't in Satoransky's character. Still, it's hard to think those two outings were purely coincidental. Satoransky spent the first three years of his NBA career with the Wizards before signing on with the Bulls on a three year, $30 million pact last summer, and he is open about his appreciation for D.C. and the connections he made there. No one would fault him for these games mattering a little more.

"It's like extra energy, you know, seeing them [the Wizards] out there," Satoransky said. "Obviously, playing in D.C. it's even more, it just brings the memories, and I see a lot of people that I met over there. But it's something to spice it up a little bit, a little extra motivation."

Anyone who's watched a game of Bulls basketball this season knows the boost an energized Satoransky can give this team. In this one, that was deepest felt in the second half, when the Bulls turned seven Wizards turnovers into 16 points and pulled away to pick up a much-needed victory.

"Today I felt a little bit of extra energy, especially in that second half. I know everybody was a little down cause the schedule is kinda brutal, but I actually felt pretty fresh," Satoransky said. "We locked in defensively. That's when our easiest points come in.

"And I think we executed pretty well, especially in that fourth quarter. Something that we have to work on during the whole season and we've been having problems there but I think we were well organized today and we were in our spots. We were able to make the right plays in the right moments."

The Bulls won the second half by a margin of 60-46, outshooting the Wizards 48.8% to 40.5% and hitting 10 3-pointers to the visitors' five. Satoransky had 12 of his 18 points in the final two periods. The win moves the Bulls to 2-6 in the month of January — a necessary pickup, especially with the dog days fully setting in.

And though Satoransky is nothing but laudatory about D.C. and the Wizards organization, he brought the nasty to them midway through the second, before the rout was even on:

"I saw the lane, and I saw my guy coming, Ian Mahimni, saw the chance to dunk on him," Satoransky said with a smile after the game. 

The Bulls face the Wizards twice more this season, once on Feb. 11, then again on Feb. 23. Satoransky undoubtedly has his calendar marked.

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Scott Brooks 'loves' Zach LaVine, still deciding on All-Star reserve vote

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USA Today

Scott Brooks 'loves' Zach LaVine, still deciding on All-Star reserve vote

In a game between the Bulls and Wizards that will see Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal butt heads — and in Chicago, no less — it was inevitable that February's All-Star game would be a point of discussion.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks certainly saw it coming. He's always thinking a step ahead.

"I love Zach," Brooks said when pressed on the subject of LaVine's all-star case. "Tomorrow night, I'm gonna play someone in Toronto and I'm gonna say the same thing."

The Wizards face the Raptors and fellow all-star hopefuls Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry on Friday.

"I'm voting for you, Zach," Brooks finished — jokingly, of course.

But Brooks did offer some genuine insight into the thought process he'll employ in his voting. Coaches, remember, select each conference's seven reserves for the game after the fans (50 percent), media (25 percent) and players (25 percent) combine to choose the starters.

"I don't," Brooks said when asked if he subscribes to the belief that players on losing teams should be excluded from all-star consideration. "It plays a little bit of a role, but a lot of times players get put in situations that's not their fault. Whether it's injuries, the organization is in a rebuild or there's just many things.

"So I don't ever look at that, cause it's unfair. It's not the players' fault. Sometimes you get caught up in a situation that's not your fault. If you're one of the best 12 players in the conference, you should be voted in as one of the all-stars."

That sentiment will resonate with supporters of LaVine and Beal. The Bulls (14-27) and Wizards (13-26) are both well on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, but both have put together compelling all-star cases — statistically speaking, anyway.

Brooks won't be able to vote for Beal, himself, but made his position on his candidacy known.

"Oh, no doubt," Brooks said when asked if Beal is an all-star in his own eyes. "Everybody knows."

And as for LaVine (in all seriousness)?

"I mean, Zach is right there. Zach is gonna be right there as being an all-star. He puts up all-star numbers," Brooks said. "He's definitely in the mix, I don't know where I'm going with it, but he's definitely in the mix."

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All-Star hopefuls Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal face off as Bulls host Wizards

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USA Today

All-Star hopefuls Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal face off as Bulls host Wizards

Wizards’ last five games (3-2)

  • Jan. 12 — L vs. Jazz: 127-116

  • Jan. 10 — W vs. Hawks: 111-101

  • Jan. 8 — L at Magic: 123-89

  • Jan. 6 — W vs. Celtics: 99-94

  • Jan. 4 — W vs. Nuggets: 128-114

Storyline(s) to watch

The Wizards (13-26) remain one of the more random, yet entertaining groups in the league. They still own a high-powered offense, rated ninth in the NBA, a sluggish defense, rated dead last by almost a full point per 100 possessions, but from the ever-excellent Bradley Beal to the insurgent Davis Bertans, to the resurgent Isaiah Thomas, they’re apt to shock anyone on a nightly basis. Just over a week ago, they logged successive victories over the Nuggets and Celtics without Beal; tonight, they trot into Chicago on two days rest, good news for a team that’s at its best running and gunning.

In the Wiz is a good test for a Bulls (14-27) defense, slipping. Since Dec. 30 — a stretch that’s seen the Bulls drop seven of eight games — their defensive rating of 115.6 ranks 26th in the NBA, and their season-long rating has slid from third to ninth. The competition ramped up, Wendell Carter Jr. went down and, inevitably, the fissures are beginning to show. We’re likely not in for a ride as wild as these teams’ last meetup on Dec. 18, when the Bulls erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit and stole an overtime win in D.C., but a victory of any variety would be welcome for the Bulls.

Player to watch: Bradley Beal

If your ‘Zach LaVine All-Star watch’ radar is on high alert, Beal is a guy to track every night, but especially in a head-to-head matchup. 

Beal is one game returned from a leg injury that caused him to miss five of the Wizards’ first six contests of the month, and in that game — an 11-point loss to the Jazz — he scored 25 points on 11-for-25 shooting (0-for-7 from 3). LaVine’s torrid tear since the start of December was somewhat quelled by an 8-for-21 shooting night against Detroit on Saturday, but he bounced back in Boston to the tune of 30 points on 9-for-18 (3-for-6 from deep), albeit in defeat. 

When these two squared off back in December, neither had particularly impressive scoring outings — Beal netting 22 points on 4-for-19 and LaVine 24 on 6-for-23 — but LaVine won the stretch run with a personal 8-2 run to cap a miraculous Bulls comeback in regulation. He also, remember, dished out the game-winning assist in OT to Wendell Carter Jr., one of LaVine’s five dimes on the night. 

In terms of the All-Star discussion, Beal’s dizzying 27.7 points per game mark for the season (fifth in the NBA) and two prior All-Star berths probably give him an edge over LaVine for the time being, especially with each of their teams mired well under .500. With both likely to float amongst the reserve pool for coaches and media to sift through, anything is possible come February, but as for tonight, two of the best scoring guards in the league duking it out remains great theater, regardless.

Matchup to watch: Lauri Markkanen vs. Wizards froncourt

The aforementioned Dec. 18 matchup saw Lauri Markkanen posit his second-best performance of the season. In the win, he scored 31 points on 19 shots, snared nine rebounds and canned five of 10 3-point attempts, shouldering the offensive load for much of the game with LaVine enduring an off-night. 

On a related note: Amidst a litany of putrid defensive numbers for the Wizards this season, issues on the interior stand out. Washington allows opponents 52.1 points in the paint per game (27th in the NBA), blocks only 4.2 shots per contest (26th) and collects just 42.5 rebounds per game (29th). Their established frontcourt rotation of Ian Mahimni, Davis Bertans and Anzejs Paseczniks is as porous as they come.

Even with Thomas Bryant back in a limited capacity for the Wiz, the shorthanded Bulls should be able to take advantage. It will be especially important for Markkanen to do so — his regression to this point this season has become eyebrow-raising. Draining his open ones, running the floor and assertively attacking closeouts will be his recipe for success, as on most nights.

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