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Drug test doesn't define Redskins' Trent Williams

Drug test doesn't define Redskins' Trent Williams

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The latest in a long line of Washington Redskins knuckleheads.

That was Trent Williams a year ago, after he was suspended for four games by the NFL for testing positive multiple times for marijuana. He was a first-round pick gone bad, fitting right in the tradition of a franchise that's seen far too much off-the-field misbehavior in recent years.

But Williams did something a lot of miscreants don't do. He owned up to his mistake, didn't hide in a shell of denial or blame his problems on others. The third-year left tackle did not want to be remembered as a dope-head, and he set his sights on having his name associated with nicer words.

Pro Bowl left tackle, for example.

``I bust my butt all offseason with that on my mind, and it fueled my fire a lot of days,'' Williams said. ``And to be able to come out and perform with the best in the league and be noted as a Pro Bowl guy, it'd just mean that all my hard work, it just wasn't (whistling) in the wind. That accolade would just kind of let people know how far I've come and how far I'm matured and the type of player I've become. That's what I really want to be known for.

``I don't want to be known for the guy who failed multiple drug tests. That is me, in a sense. It did happen. I embrace that wholeheartedly. That happened, but I have an opportunity to change it, and that's what I want to do.''

Coach Mike Shanahan last week said that Williams is having a Pro Bowl season, although coaches naturally push any player who's doing well. If Williams is going to make it, he'll probably need disproportionate support from the coaches and players in the voting because his reputation hasn't been rehabilitated fully among some fans.

``Obviously they haven't really heard my name with a positive sense in the years before this,'' he said.

It works in Williams' favor that the Redskins (8-6) are winning and lead the NFL in yards rushing, and that he benefits from fame-by-association as the player who protects the blind side of uber-popular quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Also, everyone loves a player who plays hurt, and Williams has been doing just that since Thanksgiving Day, when he collided with teammate Kory Lichtensteiger early in the win over the Dallas Cowboys. The injury is often cited as a ``deep thigh bruise'' in the left leg, but that tells only part of the story.

Williams said the impact with Lichtensteiger left a pool of blood ``about five or six inches long, three or four inches wide'' coagulating between layers of muscles.

``They couldn't drain it. It was too deep,'' Williams said. ``So there was nothing I could do but play through the pain.''

Williams estimated that he's been playing at about 70 percent effectiveness from a physical standpoint in the three games since. He said a similar injury his rookie year would have landed him on injured reserve because he wouldn't have been able to compensate by playing smarter.

``It slows me down, definitely,'' Williams said. ``I have to rely more on my coaching and technique, other than just trying to use athletic ability to go out and maul guys.''

Williams' athleticism has never been in question. It's why he was Shanahan's first draft pick as Redskins coach, taken No. 4 overall out of Oklahoma in 2009.

``The question was work ethic,'' Shanahan said. ``When's he going to get to the next level? I've seen that maturity since he's been here, learning how to be a pro, learning how to be accountable, learning how to lead, different things that you're hoping your guys are going to do.''

Teammates saw a new Trent Williams during the offseason program and at training camp, then rewarded him by electing him to be a team captain on offense. Outsiders might have wondered about the symbolism of such a move, coming so soon after the suspension, but the players saw someone who had moved on from his troubles.

``Trent's stepped up his level of commitment to the team,'' Lichtensteiger said. ``To be elected captain after an incident like that says a lot about how we feel about him as a player, as a leader on this team. It's been a really good year for him, both on the field and off the field in the locker room.''

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

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