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The Wizards are hosting the Spurs on Wednesday night, and these days that sentence isn't nearly as scary as it used to be.
Tim Duncan is an assistant coach rather than a player, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are retired and Kawhi Leonard is a full two teams removed from his time playing for Gregg Popovich.
San Antonio is reeling at the moment, dropping six straight games. If they lose in DC, it would be the longest losing streak the franchise has had since 1996-97, the season before they drafted Duncan. But that doesn't mean they won't represent a significant challenge. The Spurs are well-coached, fundamentally sound and are probably due for a win to get back on track.
The Wizards play the Spurs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.
They rank fifth in offensive efficiency and 26th in defense, which is surprising given their tendency to take too many mid-range jumpers and stifling batch of guards. On both ends of the floor, the Spurs are going to test the Wizards' fundamentals. That might yield fine results on offense for Washington, but the defensive end could be an ugly scene.
Here are two stars to watch on the San Antonio side that the Wizards will have to be wary of if they're going to secure their fourth win of the year.
Murray's numbers won't bounce off your screen, but he's a bonafide stud Bradley Beal might have to deal with throughout the night. He made the NBA's All-Defensive First-Team two seasons ago as a 21-year-old but missed last season due to a knee injury.
His defensive acumen and athleticism are still with him, and he might just be the best perimeter defender in the NBA not named Marcus Smart or Kawhi Leonard. If Beal is going to keep up the same level of production we've seen over the last week, he'll have to get there while dealing with an immense amount of ball pressure.
Offensively, Murray isn't much of a threat from the outside but he makes up for it with his explosiveness toward the rim. The Wizards defense has struggled with breakdowns created off of dribble penetration, so there's a good chance Popovich looks to create open looks off of Murray's drives.
Moe Wagner won't be able to take as many charges against this big man. Aldridge, who's averaging 18.3 points on 52 percent shooting, does most of his damage in the mid-post area. Aldridge has more shot attempts from between the free-throw line area and the three-point line (62) than he does at the rim (41).
He has a multitude of moves and counters, but he doesn't get to the line much for a player who primarily plays inside the arc. For the Wizards to contain him, they'll have to play smart but remain physical with him on his catches. Don't let him get to his spot without working for it.
Thomas Bryant and Wagner are more equipped to defend your traditional bully-ball big men like Joel Embiid or Andre Drummond. Guarding a player like Aldridge requires poise and self-control, which are not words typically used to describe the Wizards' interior defense.
Between Murray's dribble penetration and elite perimeter defense and Aldridge's refined face-up game, the Spurs represent a major problem for the Wizards at this stage of the season. Washington's offense is for real, as they rank third in the NBA in efficiency, but the defense is the main reason they're 3-8.
This game could go one of two ways. The Wizards can communicate more effectively on defense, defend with more connectivity and let their offense take care of the rest in a solid win, or they could continue to struggle and a fundamentally-sound team like the Spurs will blow the doors off of them in front of their home crowd.
Tune in to NBC Sports Washington on Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST for all your Wizards coverage before tip-off at 7 p.m.
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The last time Nationals fans saw Stephen Strasburg, he was standing on a stage in Washington D.C. being forced into a group hug by several teammates.
Now a free agent after opting out of the remaining four years of the extension he signed in 2016, Strasburg has put himself in a position to sign with any team he pleases ahead of next season.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s headed out of the District. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported Monday that he thinks Strasburg could ink a deal with Washington before the Winter Meetings begin Dec. 8.
This would be a far cry from the trend demonstrated over the last two offseasons, when the biggest names waited until Spring Training to sign mega-deals—some even waiting well into the season.
"A lot of teams want Cole. A lot of teams want Rendon. I think these two guys may move faster because they're not going to have to manufacture markets for them,” Feinsand said on MLB Network. “These guys are in demand. It's going to be a matter of who's willing to give them the most money, but I don't think these two players are going to be the ones who are going into deep February [unsigned]."
The Nationals certainly have the payroll flexibility to sign such a deal after Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman’s significant salaries all came off the books. Signing Strasburg early would also suit Washington well, giving it the chance to modify its approach to addressing other needs accordingly while most of the other free agents are still on the market.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
- Don't hold your breath: Nats unlikely to sign these guys
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