The review: Two games in, the Mystics sport a 1-1 record following 64-61 win over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. Obviously, that is ahead of last seasons six-win pace. Averaging 27 turnovers is as well. Despite losing the ball a whopping (but not franchise-record) 32 times and blowing nearly all of a 16-point second lead, Washington survived behind 49 points combined from Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie. We didnt particularly play well but we were able to come out with the win, said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 19 points. We have a lot of things to work on and we will practice and come out better. Playing the woeful Shock winless this season after three victories last year helped, but the competition is about to go up several notches.The preview: The Mystics finish their season-opening a three-game homestand against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-0). Led by former Connecticut star Maya Moore, the Lynx have won their opening games by an average of 15 points. The turnovers: The first time they touched the ball against the Shock, the Mystics coughed up possession. There was no containment for the faulty control as it spread throughout the roster each of the 10 players that received playing time had at least two. On Saturday, there were 16 in each half, at least seven in each quarter. There were bad passes and dropped throws. Dribblers lost their handle in traffic and the open court. In some cases, credit the Shocks smart use full court pressure. In other cases, pure head scratchers.Its good to win, however I am not pleased with the types of turnover or the number of turnovers, said Wizards coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, already frustrated after the team committed 23 turnovers in the season opening loss. We definitely have to make better decisions with the basketball. The turnovers were silly, I dont know any other way to put it, and we have to continue to work on that.The return: After missing the opener with a sore knee, Ajavon attacked the basket relentlessly from her wing position and sparked the Mystics early offense in the process. She took 10 free throws in the first half, sinking eight en route to 15 points before halftime. On the defensive end, Ajavon tacked on four steals.It was very nice to have Matee back, Lacey said. She provides a lot of energy and shes tough and thats what Ive asked of the team, she has stepped up and shown a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.The point guards: Usually the ball handling duties fall to this position, but the Mystics are still searching for a clear solution. One of the many newcomers on the retooled roster,Dominqiue Canty received the start against the Shock. Less than two minutes in, the 13-year veteranhad already committed three turnovers. Shefinished with five, matching Ajavon and Langhornes unwanted team-high total. Second-year floor leader Jasmine Thomas tacked on three turnovers in 13 minutes. Including Natasha Lacy, the Mystics' point guards finished with five assists with 10 turnovers.The third quarter: Lacey needs to bottle her halftime speeches or at least find a way to spread out thesubsequent good play throughout the second half. In both games, the Mystics held their opponent to less than 10 points in the third, finishing with a combined 35-15 advantage. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored the Mystics 42-23.The Lynx: Washington cannot afford to give away possessions against a Minnesota team which scores a a league-high 90.2 points per game and tops the WNBA in field goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting. Moore averages 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and has knocked down 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Seimone Augustus tops the Lynx with 19 points per game.
The Washington Wizards’ attempt at upgrading their defense by acquiring veteran forward Trevor Ariza in exchange for key reserves Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers fell through. Various reports on how the three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies fell apart includes contradicting details.
The subsequent noise and chaos created confusion over what transpired. As of Friday night all we knew for sure was the no trade was ever reported to the league for approval. Here’s what NBC Sports Washington has learned as of early Saturday morning from league sources.
Quick recap: The Wizards were in talks to add Ariza, who played two seasons with Washington (2012-2014), along with a pair of second-round picks coming from Memphis. Oubre would land with the Grizzlies while the Suns would receive Rivers, Memphis guard Wayne Selden and player with the last name Brooks.
Trade news popped moments after the Wizards’ 125-118 loss at Brooklyn. Washington fell to 11-18 after a fourth consecutive loss. Another lost moment soon followed.
Everything blew up because the Suns believed they were acquiring Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, a second-year player, while the Grizzlies claim the trade involved journeyman MarShon Brooks. Deals are torpedoed at the last minute from time to time. That happened here except reports leaked publicly with the details, including the Brooks confusion, all of which led to a wild night on social media.
- The Wizards entered into discussions about Ariza over the last 2-3 days. By that point, the Suns and Grizzlies were deep into conversations about a potential move with Memphis concerning Dillon Brooks. The two sides talked at least a half-dozen times over 7-10 days including at least one directl chat with owners of both teams.
With Dillon Brooks currently sidelined by a knee injury, the Suns requested the guard’s physical from the Grizzlies. Enough information and dialogue were exchanged during the process between all three teams that there was clear understanding of the players involved, at least for the Suns and Wizards. It’s possible what all witnessed was a bad case of nerves by the Grizzlies at the buzzer.
Other reports offer similar details, but Memphis general manager Chris Wallace countered the notion of Dillon Brooks’ involvement from the start, according to ESPN.
- As for what comes next, its conceivable talks are revived. Wojnarowksi reported Saturday morning that the Wizards and Suns "were exploring whether a deal could be made between the two teams that included Ariza, Oubre and Rivers" with the Grizzlies perhaps still involved.
Washington and Phoenix are still talking tonight -- trying to find a way to negotiate a new trade centered on Trevor Ariza, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 15, 2018
Players signed as free agents during the offseason, including Ariza, could not be traded until Saturday regardless. Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix in July.
- That the deal fell through opens the door for other teams interested in Ariza. The Los Angeles Lakers were thought to be among the teams in the mix before Phoenix agreed to the three-way trade. Even if Washington hopes to find a new path, other teams now know the price and could counter with their own offers.
Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers and Rockets were among the teams now “pushing the Suns” for a trade involving Ariza, who reportedly desires a trade to his native Los Angeles.
- Washington’s interest in Ariza comes on multiple fronts. The 6-foot-8 forward, who would start alongside Otto Porter, is one of the better 3-and-D players in the league, though his shooting numbers were off with the Suns this season. In 26 games this season, Ariza shot a solid 36 percent on 3-pointers, but only 37.0 percent overall while averaging 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.
Don't panic over Ariza’s shooting numbers for now. The 5-25 Suns are perhaps the lone team in the league without a true point guard. In Washington Ariza would once again play with Wall, a five-time All-Star and one of the league's top passers. Factor in the presence of Bradley Beal and Porter and Ariza would find himself open on the perimeter often.
The Wizards rank 29th in points allowed this season with 117.2 points per game. Ariza, 33, proved formidable on the perimeter during the last four seasons with the Rockets. Houston, a Western Conference finalist in 2018 with Ariza, has fallen to 13-14 this season in part because of their defensive shortcomings.
- Washington would reduce its luxury tax payment for the second time in the last week. Salaries for Rivers, another expiring contract, and Oubre combined for approximately $860,000 less than Ariza’s $15 million deal. That works out to around $2.1 million savings. Washington previously saved around $4.7 million by trading Jason Smith. The Wizards would have remained $5 million over the luxury tax in this failed scenario.
The trade would not shed major long-term salary, however. The Wizards are currently over the projected 2019-20 salary cap with only five players under contract. The Ariza deal would help the team keep playoff hopes alive this season and save some money in the process.
- Lastly, the Wizards are expected to practice Saturday. We’ll see what happens.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
This is getting a little silly.
Alex Ovechkin, at age 33, matched the longest point-scoring streak of his career and recorded his second hat trick in a row. What else is there to say?
The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout in Raleigh on Friday night. They rallied from 4-1 down to beat a Metropolitan Division rival and have now won 12 of their past 15 games. They’re rolling.
But all you can talk about after these games is Ovechkin, who now has 28 goals in 31 games to lead the NHL. He’ll cool off eventually. But there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. Ovechkin has a five-goal lead over Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. He is seventh overall in points with 42.
Ovechkin is the 18th different player since 1943-44 to score at least 28 goals in his team's first 31 games, and third to do so since 1993-94. The others: Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 (28 goals) and 1996-97 (30 goals) and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 (29 goals).
Only 14 players have recorded consecutive hat tricks multiple times. Ovechkin is now one of them. He leads all active players with 22 hat tricks and just tied Teemu Selanne for 11th all time.
Ovechkin would tie Bengt Gustafsson for fifth-longest point streak in team history if he has a point in Saturday’s game against Buffalo. The numbers almost become numbing.
He’s leading the way for a team five points clear of second-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are also seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. But Ovechkin isn’t the only reason.
On a night where Braden Holtby struggled, including the gaffe behind the net trying a clear that led to Carolina tying the game at 13:48 of the third period in a 5-4 game, others produced. Tom Wilson scored again. His goal at 12:37 of the second period started the comeback from 4-1 down.
Give the fourth line credit. The trio of Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin is a factor almost every night. They played their fourth game together in a row and Boyd tipped home the goal that cut the deficit to 4-3. In this stretch Dowd has five assists, including three against the Hurricanes. Boyd has five points (three goals, two assists) and Jaskin is the physical moral compass of the line. He has a goal and an assist. Overall, Dowd has 10 points in his past 10 games (three goals, seven assists).
John Carlson also had three assists, including the primary on Boyd’s goal and then Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 9:49 of the third period. He’s up to 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) and well on his way to passing last year’s career-best 68. He is again quietly tied with Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot for most points by a defenseman this season.
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