Wizards

HOF Thomas joins Bills in building playground

HOF Thomas joins Bills in building playground

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (AP) Thurman Thomas can still carry a load. And the Buffalo Bills' Hall of Fame running back showed he's pretty handy with a shovel, too.

Knee-deep in mulch, Thomas joined numerous Bills players and team staff - including CEO Russ Brandon - by braving the rain and mud to help build a playground for preschoolers outside of Buffalo.

``I've filled a lot of wheelbarrows, and put a couple of animals together. I've carried mulch and cement and everything,'' Thomas said with rain dripping off his Bills cap. ``I'm a hard-working man.''

And it was no contest for Thomas when asked how this grunt-work compared to shedding tackles during his 14-year career, which ended in 2001.

``Oh, definitely, working like this. It's nonstop. At least on the field you get to take a break,'' he said. ``Out here it's continuous work. But it's good work. You're helping out the community.''

The Bills used their off-day in the midst of a bye week to give back in building the playground in conjunction with the NFL-United Way Hometown Huddle and Play 60 programs. It's part of a league-wide initiative designed to promote health and fitness in youngsters.

On Tuesday, it was the Bills getting a workout, with about 25 players on hand. Many arrived before 10 a.m. and worked through the afternoon to complete the project.

``To see the joy on so many people's faces, that's what it's all about,'' Brandon said, scraping mud off his running shoes. ``And it's pouring.''

The Bills (3-4) will practice on Wednesday, before taking a four-day break. They return next week to prepare for a game at Houston on Nov. 4.

``It's pretty amazing,'' said Mary Iwanenko, an administrator for Baker Victory Services, which provides special educational and therapeutic services for children. ``The Bills organization is all about supporting the community and being involved.''

Thomas' involvement wasn't a surprise to Iwanenko. She's a childhood friend of Thomas' wife, Patti, and has known him since he arrived in Buffalo in 1988.

``He's out there working up a sweat,'' Iwanenko said. ``It's awesome to see him get his hands dirty.''

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

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Wizards notebook: Backing Bradley Beal; Downhill for Decker

Back to back Beal?

Losing rarely leads to awards. The Wizards lost Monday in Indianapolis, 109-101. They also rallied from 25 points down to pull within one at 98-97 with 4:45 remaining. The comeback against the Pacers occurred with no John Wall (ankle) from the start and sans Otto Porter (knee contusion) after the opening seven minutes.

Lineups included a player making his Washington debut, combinations rarely used and a scoring Kelly Oubre, who shined for the locals with 23 points in one of his more controlled performances.

They also included the newly minted Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Bradley Beal’s work Monday puts him in line for a repeat performance especially from those that consider leadership in the equation. Beal finished with 30 points, 19 coming in the second half as he played the final 24 minutes. He wasn’t peak efficiency (10 of 27 field goals, four turnovers), but the All-Star battled when crawling into a hole made sense. Beal had two of his three steals in the fourth quarter and finished 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

Quick reminder: The Wizards lost for a second consecutive game heading into Wednesday’s clash with the Celtics. 

Pacers center Myles Turner dominated inside with 26 points, 12 rebounds and five emphatic blocks. Ex-Wizard Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points. All five Indiana starters, none named Victor Oladipo, scored in double figures. 

Like many of Washington's opponents, Indiana knocked down shots from deep (10 of 20 from beyond the arc). The Pacers, tops in scoring defense, held the Wizards to 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) from the field in the fourth. 

Tired legs and minds hurt the cause late, but the shorthanded Wizards fought back. This isn’t amateur hour so simply trying doesn’t deserve praise. That the Wizards struggled in that area for chunks of this season makes such performances worth noting, as does the team following Beal’s lead. Keep this up, but pick up wins -- three games this week against the Celtics, at Nets, vs. Lakers -- and perhaps Beal earns another award.

Dekker hustle

It’s also downhill from here for the newest Wizard. Seriously, Sam Dekker, what’s the encore after the team goes on a 19-0 run after you enter for the first time in a Washington uniform?

The 6-foot-9 forward only finished with two points. We don’t take plus-minus seriously most games so that plus-20 is more oddity than reality of the situation. Still, we received a sneak peek at what Dekker could offer going forward once he learns the system, his teammates and gets back into game shape. This marked his first game action since suffering an ankle injury Nov. 5.

Dekker, who added two steals, runs the court with ease and offers energy from the forward position. It’s conceivable he falls outside the rotation most nights when all are available. Then again, if the former University of Wisconsin keeps running the court, his play might eventually badger head coach Scott Brooks into finding him minutes.

 Where art thou Okaro White?

Word came Monday morning that Wall would not face Indiana. Seeing as he acknowledged giving it a go in Saturday’s loss at Cleveland was probably a mistake considering his overall physical condition, cool. 

Around the same time, we found out that rookie swingman Troy Brown Jr. and forward Okaro White would remain with the Capital City Go-Go. The G-League squad plays in Arizona Tuesday.

That meant the Wizards would only have 10 active players in Indiana, a group including Sam Dekker, who only officially joined the team over the weekend. Reminder: Dwight Howard remains sidelined and the 15th roster spot sits empty. 

Perfect world Washington might not use more than nine players in a game so no whoop. As observers of this team know, there’s no such thing as a perfect world this season.

Sure enough, foul trouble struck Tomas Satoransky and Markieff Morris early, as did Porter’s injury. Other than Dekker’s 10 minutes and seven from Ian Mahinmi, Washington effectively used a seven-man rotation.

Nobody would dare suggest having Brown, White or either of their two-way players (Devin Robinson, Jordan McRae) available changes Monday’s result. Brooks might have bypassed all especially the kids. The G-League exists to offer players like Brown and Robinson a place to get in on-court work. It’s also how a team supplements its roster when needed. 

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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Pacers despite Bradley Beal's big night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Indiana Pacers 109-101 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Another loss: The Wizards just can't seem to put together a full, 48-minute performance, a collective effort good enough to beat a team that isn't among the worst in basketball. On Monday, they saw a Pacers team that despite missing Victor Oladipo is still very good, and they fell short of what could have been an epic comeback.

The Wizards stormed back from down 25 points, only to collapse in the final minute and get outscored 11-4 to close the game. The final result was another loss, their second straight. They are 11-16 on the year with the Boston Celtics up next on Wednesday.

The defeat spoiled another big night from Bradley Beal. He had 30 points, the fourth straight game he's dropped 27 or more. 

2. Otto went down: The Wizards found themselves in a tough situation on Monday with only nine available players after Otto Porter Jr. left in the first half with a right knee contusion. John Wall and Dwight Howard were already out, meaning the Wizards were down three starters. Markieff Morris then got into early foul trouble, giving head coach Scott Brooks a real dilemma.

Though Porter's injury doesn't seem serious, the Wizards can ill-afford losing anyone right now. It's worth a reminder that, as bad as the Wizards have started this season, they have done so with few injuries to blame.

3. Oubre came through: Not long after Porter went down, Kelly Oubre Jr. stepped in to fill the void. He had one of his best games of the season with 23 points, five rebounds, three steals, and a block.

Oubre shot poorly against the Cavs on Saturday, but overall he has been playing very well lately. This was the fourth straight game he's reached double figures and the third time in that stretch he's scored 19 or more.

In addition to scoring, Oubre did a lot of the things Brooks wants him to do. He drew an offensive foul, brought down two offensive rebounds and forced a few turnovers. Oubre's best attribute is his length and his ability to cause havoc defensively, especially off the ball. He came into this game sixth in the NBA in total deflections and second in deflections per 36 minutes.

4. Dekker debuted: The lack of options for Brooks detailed above and the lopsided score at least brought one positive and that was the debut of Dekker, who checked in with just under four minutes to go in the third quarter. 

Dekker actually played fairly well considering the circumstances and happened to help key a nice little run for the Wizards. Washington closed the third quarter on a 13-0 run once he came in. On one play during that stretch, Dekker got a steal and then finished with a dunk on the other end.

The run with Dekker on the floor extended to 19-0 in the fourth quarter and kept the Wizards within striking distance the rest of the game. Maybe Dekker was the missing piece all along.

5. Turner is good: For the second straight game, the Wizards had no answer for an opposing big man. Last game it was Tristan Thompson, this time it was Myles Turner. 

Turner had a huge first half on the defensive end and found his scoring groove in the second half. He had a monster stat-line of 26 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.

The strategy for opposing teams at the moment appears to be to attack the Wizards in the middle, knowing they are just trying to make do with Thomas Bryant and a collection of small-ball fives. Teams may keep doing that until the Wizards stop them.

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