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Arkansas hopes slumping Wade can pick up scoring

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Arkansas hopes slumping Wade can pick up scoring

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Mardracus Wade would love nothing more than to return to his role as a scoring threat for an Arkansas team in desperate need of exactly that.

Last season's top 3-point shooter in the Southeastern Conference first must find his shooting touch and a way to simply get back on the court for the Razorbacks (10-5, 1-1 SEC) when they host Auburn (8-7, 2-0) Wednesday night.

Wade, who connected on nearly half of his 3-point shots last season, has struggled so far in his second year under coach Mike Anderson. The junior is averaging 7.4 points per game and is shooting just 32.5 percent (13 of 40) on 3-pointers, a season after a breakout effort in which he averaged 10.8 points per game.

Anderson singled him out last week for not grabbing a rebound in 27 minutes of action in a loss at Texas A&M. Then, against Vanderbilt, he didn't start for the first time this season and didn't even play in the second half.

``I think he's just got to start performing, that's all,'' Anderson said. ``Bring some better practices that can take him into the game. I think basketball is a game of confidence. You've got to play with confidence.''

Following the win over the Commodores, Wade - who led Arkansas with an average of 28.8 minutes per game last season - took to Twitter to express his frustration with the lack of playing time.

``This is crazy ... Can't believe that,'' the Memphis native tweeted.

Wade deleted the post shortly afterward based on the advice of a friend, and he was clear this week that he knows he holds the key to his future. He's also confident he can regain last season's form, sooner rather than later.

``I've got to stay in the gym and continue to work and try to get better and just come out there and produce,'' Wade said. ``I know I will because I'm that type of player. I work hard. I don't get down too much on myself.

``I'm like a gym rat. I'm always going to be in here to get better and help my team out any way I can.''

Wade's sudden drop in production this season isn't nearly as pronounced as his rise last season, when he burst onto the SEC scene after averaging just 4 points per game as a freshman. The Razorbacks were in dire need of a breakout season from someone after sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke transferred to Butler.

Wade obliged, hitting 70 of 147 (47.6 percent) 3-pointers. He benefited from more touches after an early knee injury cost leading scorer Marshawn Powell all but the first two games of the season.

Powell, who has returned this season and is second on Arkansas in scoring with an average of 14.3 points per game, has been as surprised as anyone by Wade's shooting woes. The forward has noticed Wade's reluctance to shoot at times, saying he ``does a lot more pump-faking than he needs to.'' Powell isn't sure if his return has affected Wade's role.

``I mean, I'm telling him during the game, `Just shoot the ball; let the ball go,''' Powell said. ``If you miss it, you miss it. If you make it, we need it. ... Hopefully, he'll bring it.''

Arkansas needs Wade to emerge as a third scoring option to go along with Powell and leading scorer BJ Young. Through Arkansas' first two SEC games, no one other than Young or Powell is averaging more than 5 points per game.

``It can't continue,'' Powell said. ``You're not going to get any W's if that continues.''

Wade has been far from the only one to struggle from the outside this season for the Razorbacks, who are 11th in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (31.5). The shooting guard, however, might just be the key if Arkansas hopes to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

``We've got to have a third scorer and a fourth scorer,'' Anderson said. ``Our team has been built a lot on balance, so we've got to have some guys to really step up. ... That scoring has got to come from other people.''

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The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

The next Damian Lillard will be drafted this June, Ja Morant

On Tuesday night, Portland guard Damian Lillard broke #NBATwitter with his 37-foot, series-clinching buzzer-beater against Oklahoma City. 

It's not the first time we've seen him do that, but it's by far the biggest impact his play has had on the NBA world to this point.

Fair or not, Lillard's image has always been the overlooked underdog.  Even after being named All-NBA First Team last season, it's rare you hear his name mentioned among the NBA's most popular players. 

That attitude is what fuels the Portland Trail Blazers though. It's what the entire roster uses as motivation every game. It's a mindset every team in the NBA should be emulating too, and it starts with their star. 

If you're an organization in the middle of a rebuild, you should be looking no further than Ja Morant if you want this same organizational mindset going forward.

Ja Morant is the next Dame Lillard.

Ja Morant is going to be a star. 

The Wizards are one of those teams, and with the NBA Draft Lottery coming May 14, if the ping pong balls land in their favor, Morant needs to be their pick at No. 2 in the NBA Draft.

Don't worry about any other point guards on the roster and what that means. Don't pass on Morant.

Obviously, No. 1 would mean Zion Williamson, and anything past No. 2 means both are probably off the board, so we'll stick with that No. 2 pick in this case.

Both Lillard and Morant come from small schools in Weber State and Murray State, respectively. Both were under-recruited with Lillard being just a two-star and Morant not even being ranked by recruiting services ESPN, 247Sports, or Rivals.

Lillard was the better three-point shooter coming out of college, but Morant still has range, and can jump out of the gym.

Neither has a ton of size (Lillard 6-2, 185 lbs., and Morant 6-3, 175), but both aren't scared of the spotlight, and step on the court ready to eat the other team alive.

In a star-driven league based so much around player's brands and recognizability, there's something to be said for the guys that have the talent, but haven't been given the stage to show it yet. You get that combination of "chip on their shoulder" mentality with the star potential and work ethic biggy backing it. 

One of the best movie lines ever spoken was in Remember the Titans when Julius tells Gerry "attitude reflects leadership", and it's a mantra any successful team, business, volunteer group, club, or literally any collection of people should follow. 

If you want the right attitude in your locker room, you want leaders that can create it. 

Morant and Lillard share that same leadership, and the results are there to prove it. 

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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: A difficult season for Scott brooks nets a positive grade

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: A difficult season for Scott brooks nets a positive grade

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Scott Brooks, head coach

Year with team: 3rd

Grade: B

Season review: There is no question that from a basketball perspective, the 2018-19 season was among the most challenging of Scott Brooks' career. Even for a man who coached a 23-win team in 2008-09, and the mercurial Russell Westbrook, it would be hard to top all that went on for Washington this year.

Brooks had to navigate around a serious injury for John Wall for the second straight year. Dwight Howard missed all but nine games. The Wizards made five trades and suited up a franchise-record 25 players. 

They often played rotations mostly comprised of guys on expiring contracts. And there were in-practice spats between him and players that were made public.

Brooks, along with his players, were not able to keep the ship afloat. They sank to 32-50 by the end of the season and along the way it cost Ernie Grunfeld, the man who hired him, his job. That set the tone for what could be a tumultuous offseason, one that offers no certainty Brooks will be back with the Wizards for a fourth season.

There was some good and some bad with Brooks' job performance in Year 3. He oversaw the continued development of Bradley Beal, who has a chance to make All-NBA when the honors are announced next month. Thomas Bryant had a breakout season after Brooks promoted him to the starting lineup. 

Despite a revolving door of a roster and the absence of Wall, the Wizards continued to feature an above-average offense. They finished the season 10th in points and 14th in offensive rating.

But on the other end of the floor, the team continued to trend in the wrong direction, this year bottoming out as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA and in franchise history. They were 29th in defensive rating and 28th in points allowed. They gave up about 11 more points per game than they did the year before, 116.9 compared to 106. 

And when it comes to the success of some players, it was fair to question if those leaps could have been made earlier. 

Troy Brown Jr., their 2019 first round pick, didn't earn consistent minutes until late February, when the season was essentially long lost. That was despite him showing flashes of promise in his first few months as a rookie. And at times, it appeared Brooks was choosing to play lesser players like Ron Baker or Gary Payton II over him.

All in all, though, it's hard not to grade Brooks on a forgiving scale due to all that went wrong that was out of his control. A head coach could have only done so much to overcome the obstacles the Wizards were presented by injury luck and the front office.

Now the question is whether Brooks will be back for another year and, if he is, whether there will be changes to his staff. Until the Wizards hire a new general manager, it is tough to predict.

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