Wizards

Britt looking like his old self despite sore knees

Britt looking like his old self despite sore knees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Kenny Britt knows both his knees will not be 100 percent until sometime after the season ends when he's not practicing daily and playing games.

He is feeling better now and looking like the big physical receiver who was off to one of the NFL's best starts for Tennessee in 2011 before tearing his right ACL and needing a total of three operations on both knees through June.

``Sometimes there's good days, sometimes there's bad days,'' Britt said. ``But I'm confident that I can finish out this season.''

Britt had his best game this season catching eight passes for 143 yards in last week's loss to Indianapolis, and the New Jersey native's timing is good with the Titans (4-9) preparing to host the Jets (6-7) on Monday night.

``He made some tough catches,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said of his receiver. ``There were some great balls dropped in there. Guys were all over him, he made some great catches. The one was a PI on them, and he still caught it before the half. He's a big target, there are a lot of things he can do.''

It's taken Britt quite a while to get to this point.

He tore his ACL on Sept. 25, 2011, in a win over Denver, and that set up his first surgery to repair that knee. In May, Britt needed a second surgery on the knee to clean up the knee. By late June, he needed a second arthroscopic surgery to clean up his left knee, which had been swelling and bothering him.

Still, Britt worked his way back and was ready by the start of the season when he had to sit out the season opener suspended for his eighth run-in with police, a July 20th arrest for driving under the influence at the Fort Campbell post on the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

Since then, Britt has not missed a game and been a regular in practice trying to get back into a groove catching passes even with his left knee still swelling at times and his right knee also bothering him at times. Getting back to the receiver that had a career-high 225 yards receiving with three TDs against Philadelphia on Oct. 24, 2010, has been easier said than done.

Britt found himself practicing only to watch himself on tape and see himself running such sloppy routes that he didn't even look like a pro receiver. Catching slant passes were the hardest.

``Trying to find the ball coming out of the quarterback's hands and catching it with my eyes first and then catching it with my hands,'' Britt said. ``That was just really hard to locate the ball coming out of my breaks because it came out so fast and it was on me so fast.''

His struggles showed on the field where Britt had six games with three or fewer passes. He had three TD receptions, and his longest catch was a 37-yarder against Pittsburgh on Oct. 11.

So the 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver spent more time with assistant coach Dave Ragone and worked more catching balls off the Juggs machine. Then he said his legs finally started feeling better the past couple weeks.

Then something clicked for Britt in Indianapolis. He averaged 17.9 yards per catch with a long reception of 46 yards and looked like the player who had 271 yards receiving through the first two weeks of the 2011 season. This is why the Titans drafted him in the first round out of Rutgers in 2009, and he led the team in yards receiving each of his first two seasons.

``The road to recovery that he's been going through has been hard, mentally and physically for him, in a lot of areas,'' coach Mike Munchak said. ``To finally have a game that picks him back up where he left off back in Week 2 last year after our first two games where he had about 150 a game. I think that's a good thing for him.''

The way Britt played may mean Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie matches up with him. The receiver has been studying Cromartie on film and hopes to be prepared for the way the defensive back presses and puts his hands on an opponent. Playing well is a must against the Jets with so many relatives back in Bayonne, N.J. watching.

``We got some friends that'll definitely wear the Jets' jerseys but everybody's just rooting (for) me,'' Britt said. ``I see it in Twitter and I see it in text messages. Everybody's rooting on me to get this W out here on Monday night.''

Notes: LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) did not practice Friday and is at risk of missing a third straight game. Munchak said the linebacker can tolerate light activity but still has symptoms when he tries to push himself. DE Scott Solomon (knee) and receiver Damian Williams (hamstring) also did not practice. ... Chris Johnson returned to practice after resting a sore ankle Thursday. DT Jurrell Casey (knee) was limited.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

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Mac McClung is here to save Georgetown's season when the Hoyas need it most

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Mac McClung is here to save Georgetown's season when the Hoyas need it most

WASHINGTON - Short-handed and amid turmoil within the Georgetown program, Mac McClung has proven to be the savior of the Hoyas season. 

As soon as things went south for Georgetown, with three players facing legal problems and the starting point guard announcing his intent to transfer, McClung has risen to the occasion. The sophomore guard has emerged as the team’s leader and face of the team with a daunting half of the season remaining. He’s the must-see attraction and now it’s more than just for his impressive dunking abilities. 

Saturday against long-standing rival Syracuse he delivered again. On top of a lethal pull-up buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half, he led all scorers with 26 points on 7-16 shooting. It was his third straight contest with 19 points or more – the first such stretch of his young career. 

The three games are also the first since the accusations against now-former Georgetown players were made public. First, it was losing James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc, earlier this week they added Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner to that list. 

There's no question McClung has taken it upon himself to lead this team and his play has risen with it. Averaging 26 points in the three games when the team has needed him most, he has propelled Georgetown to three of their four biggest wins of the season. 

But this isn’t the first display that Mac McClung is different than just your average elite scorer. Within 12 games of his stay at the Hilltop, the Hoyas had broken from their tradition of freshman not speaking to the media. Last season he became the first to do so since 1981.

Quickly it was evident that McClung was more than the dunking sensation that rose his recruiting profile. He’s a bonafide scorer in the collegiate game and the rest of his play is just as electric as his dunks. 

This year he’s the leader Georgetown most certainly needs, now down to nine scholarship players. His first comment after his stellar performance in one of the biggest rivalries in the sport was shouting out the Hoyas’ men’s soccer team competing in the College Cup. 

The buzz around the 6-foot-2 guard is different too. Every time the ball hits his hands the crowd draws their breath in anticipation of what’s about to occur. It’s as if a change in the air would cause one to miss his greatness. 

There’s no missing what is in store for McClung in his Georgetown career. There are two and a half years remaining in his eligibility. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim gave him a glowing endorsement and believes he will flourish with a new point guard who'll allow McClung to play the two spot in the line-up. 

But for now, it is McClung saving Georgetown’s season. The Hoyas are at 7-3 and ranked No. 44 in KenPom as of this writing. No one saw this three-game run coming for the Hoyas. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to stop any time soon. 

“That’s what happens when you face challenges, you either break apart or come together and I think we’ve came together,” McClung said.

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