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All-Star break a challenge for Mahinmi as he searches for rhythm

All-Star break a challenge for Mahinmi as he searches for rhythm

Most players need the NBA All-Star break to rest after grinding through four-plus months of the regular season. For Ian Mahinmi, the time off isn't exactly necessary. He's missed 50 of the Wizards' 54 games thus far this season due to injury and could use the reps.

"I think I had enough rest in the first part of the season," Mahinmi joked after practice on Wednesday.

The Wizards have one more game before the All-Star break, on Thursday against the Indiana Pacers. That offers Mahinmi just one more chance to play with his teammates as he continues to search for rhythm and chemistry, before taking another week off.

Because of that, Mahinmi does not plan to take much time off during the break like his teammates. He will instead work out at the Verizon Center with assistant coaches and trainers.

In the final game before the All-Star break, Mahinmi expects to still play around 12-16 minutes. He has logged 12, 13 and 15 minutes, respectively, in his three games back since undergoing platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment on both knees in December. 

"The minutes restriction is a little tough as far as for me finding the rhythm, but it's been very good. My body is responding very well to the first few games. We're building on it," he said.

[RELATED: Ian Mahinmi's return to form will lighten Marcin Gortat's workload]

Mahinmi, 30, joined the Wizards in free agency with a four-year, $64 million deal last July. But his tenure has so far been hampered significantly by injuries, beginning with a torn left meniscus that required surgery on Oct. 15. Mahinmi returned for one game against the San Antonio Spurs, on Nov. 26 before going back down with right knee tendinitis. He was then prescribed the PRP treatment by Dr. James Andrews.

It has been a rocky start to Mahinmi's Wizards career and he still has a lot of catching up to do. It's one thing to study head coach Scott Brooks' system, it's another to actually play within it on the court.

"At this point it's kind of tough because guys get into a rhythm. Guys are used to playing with each other. For me, at this point it's really trying to fit in without changing much of what the guys are doing. We've been playing well," he said.

Mahinmi hopes to increase his minutes soon after the All-Star break, so he can get up to speed quickly.

"I want to just be one of those glue guys, come in and let the time take care of business for me. We will get to know each other on the court and we will eventually get very familiar with one another," Mahinmi said.

[RELATED: Bradley Beal's All-Star hopes still alive]

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Wizards tasked with limiting the Towns and Wiggins show in Minnesota

Wizards tasked with limiting the Towns and Wiggins show in Minnesota

The last time the Wizards and Timberwolves met, six Minnesota players reached double figures, Washington scored just 16 points in the third quarter and the Timberwolves won by 22—all without Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor due to suspension.

Towns will suit up this time, however, when the Wizards travel to Minnesota looking to snap their three-game winning streak. The Timberwolves have won two straight, most recently beating the San Antonio Spurs 129-114 in game Towns and forward Andrew Wiggins combined for 58 points.

With all due respect to Robert Covington (11.8 PPG), Jeff Teague (13.9 PPG, 6.3 APG) and rookie Jarrett Culver, Towns and Wiggins have been the driving forces behind the Minnesota offense, which ranks fifth in the NBA with 117.2 points per game.

That duo will enter Friday night as the biggest stars to watch on the Timberwolves.

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Wizards lucked out Nov. 2, when Towns missed the first of two games after getting involved in an altercation with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid three nights prior. Yet Minnesota still outscored Washington 56-24 in the paint, led by Covington and Gorgui Deng.

Those problems will likely continue Friday. Towns is averaging 25.8 PPG and 12 RPG while keeping defenders honest with a 40.7 shooting percentage from behind the 3-point line. The two-time All-Star has played up to his resume so far this season, but one area he’s taken strides in is his passing.

Towns has assisted on 21.8% of points scored while he’s been on the floor this season, easily his career high. The emergence of Wiggins as a legitimate scoring threat has helped boost that figure, but Towns has been looking to pass much more this season than in years past.

Andrew Wiggins

The former No. 1 overall pick has always been able to score in bunches, but he’s turned his game up to another level this season. Wiggins has dropped at least 30 points in four of his last five games, shooting well from behind the arc but doing most of his damage in the lane and from midrange.

Wiggins’ contributions have opened up the rest of the offense to focus more on their individual assignments. Teague and Culver don’t need to score in high volumes and can instead be the ball distributors that they are. Covington can work out of the post more frequently and spot up from three when he has the opportunities.

It’s turned the Timberwolves’ offense into a well-oiled machine that runs like it’s fresh out of the factory. Under head coach Ryan Saunders, the Timberwolves are playing as well as they have ever have with Towns in tow. If Wiggins and Towns find a rhythm early, this game could be over before it even gets started.

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Bradley Beal sought advice from Ray Allen on leading the Wizards rebuild

Bradley Beal sought advice from Ray Allen on leading the Wizards rebuild

Bradley Beal was in line to be the next NBA superstar to change teams.

His contract was up after next season and if he declined the Wizards' offer on an extension, it'd be time for Washington to ship him elsewhere. But then Beal agreed to a two-year, $72 million deal to remain in DC, giving the Wizards more time to build a contender around him and John Wall. 

The decision shocked plenty of NBA talking heads. The player empowerment era that began when LeBron James formed a Big Three in Miami built up to an unprecedented amount of movement during this summer's free agency period. What was Beal thinking potentially wasting his prime on a lottery team?

As a guest on the Woj Pod with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beal opened up on his decision-making process and how he went to future Hall of Famer Ray Allen for advice. 

"I talked to Ray Allen during the summer," Beal said. "He was in Milwaukee and Seattle and those years were rugged you know, they weren't always great but he was one of the best players and he was always making sure those teams were in the playoffs or making some type of noise.

"He was like, 'Ultimately it's your decision. The only person that can make Brad happy is Brad, and you have to what's best for you,'" Beal said. 

Allen spent a little over six seasons with the Bucks to start his career and then over four seasons with the Supersonics. He was a seven-time All-Star, went All-NBA twice, but made the playoffs just four times over that 10-year span. 

It wasn't until Allen's age-32 season with the Celtics where Allen finally won a championship. It's not the career path many superstars are interested in nowadays, but Beal seems ready to make the most of the hand he's been dealt in Washington. 

"It was kind of a no-brainer, just duke it out and make it work," Beal said. "My leadership has to grow, it's kind of growing every day, but I feel like I have a natural knack for it.

"You can't think about, 'Is the grass greener on the other side? Are we not going to be as good here?' You can't necessarily think in those terms because you can always play 'Devil's Advocate' on the other side, so for me, it's just sticking to your guns."

Wall is most likely out for the remainder of the season and the Wizards are off to a less-than-inspiring 2-7 start this season, but Beal is ready for the challenge.

With Rui Hachimura finding his own and Tommy Sheppard making shrewd moves along the margins in the front office, Wizards fans can feel good about the direction of their franchise now that Beal is locked up for the next three seasons. 

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