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Bench almost brings Wizards back


Bench almost brings Wizards back

For those that read numerous season previews about the John Wall and Nene-less Washington Wizards, what a shame. As it turns, watching the entirety of Tuesday's 94-84 season opening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers neatly summed up the pros and cons of the current roster.

Even with rookie guard Bradley Beal, the starting lineup lacks consistent scoring and offensive playmakers.

Even without three key players, the Wizards showed a deep reservoir of resolve in a near magical fourth quarter comeback, a carryover from last season's closing six-game winning streak.

Sans Nene and Kevin Seraphin, the primary frontcourt rotation is vertically challenged. Against a relentless Anderson Varejao and the Cavs, that led to a decisive beat down on the boards and never-ending supply of second-chance points for the home team.

The overall depth on the team is evident, especially when the reserves enter. Against Cleveland, quantity could not beat quality, i.e Varejao and Kyrie Irving, though the fourth quarter lineup of Jordan Crawford, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, Jannero Pargo and Earl Barron (yes, I said Earl Barron) nearly did.

Trailing by as many as 16 points and 74-62 entering the fourth, Washington's bench opened the final 12 minutes with a 14-0 run, highlighted by Barron's interior activity and capped by Pargo's go-ahead 3-pointer. After some counterpunch scoring on both ends, the Cavs closed the game on a 14-4 run, tallying the final eight points including three consecutive dunks by Tristan Thompson.  

Player stats: We likely witnessed the lowest individual point total for a Wizards top scorer in any game this season. Crawford paced the locals with 11 points. Emeka Okafor added 10. That's it, that's the list of Washington double-digit scorers. Seven players scored at least seven points including Trevor Ariza and Webster with nine each. Beal scored eight points in his first official NBA action. Playing the entire fourth quarter, Barron led Washington with eight rebounds and the 7-foot journeyman added eight points...With no Wall on the other side, Irving picked his spots in terms of where to shoot from and when to impose his will, leading all scorers with 29 points. However, it was Varejao's career-high night -- 23 rebounds and 9 assists -- that hampered the Wizards throughout. His rebounding total included 12 off the offensive glass and Cleveland finished with a 54-39 overall rebounding advantage.

Key game stat: Both teams finished with 18 offensive rebounds, but the Cavs put their extra opportunities to good use, finishing with a 24-7 second-chance point edge.

Beal vs. Waiters: If you're scoring at home, this one goes to Cleveland's rookie wing guard, who finished with 17 points and three steals. Aggressive on both ends, Waiters found scoring success by running the court and penetrating past the Wizards defense. The noted defender also helped stifle Beal, who did not score from the field after the first quarter and missed his final five shots. Beal flashed his deep range and textbook jumper on two early 3's, but also had his pocket picked by Waiters near half court, leading to an easy two by the former Syracuse sixth-man. Without Wall and Nene, opposing teams are game planning for the Wizards touted rookie. Including the closing stretch of the preseason, the defenses are winning the battle right now against the 19-year-old. The key word there is "now."

Struggling starters: The group of Okafor, Beal, A.J. Price and the two Trevor's, Ariza and Booker finished a combined 13 of 48 (27.1 percent) from the field. That's some serious clanking. Booker appeared lost with the Wizards largely in halfcourt offense mode during the first half while Price missed 11 of 13 shots including seven of nine from beyond the arc. In this lineup, only Beal is a natural scorer, but he's currently best helped when others are creating opportunities and then kicking the ball outside. That's simply not an element this group offers. Should Wittman start tweaking his rotation before Washington's next game, one could imagine him putting another shooter (Webster) or more size (Vesely) on the court from the start.

Next up: The Wizards open a home-and-home set on Saturday with the Celtics, also first night losers. Against defending NBA champion Miami, Boston fell 120-107, meaning Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and company will enter the Verizon Center as unhappy campers. That and superior edge in talent means Washington faces a potential 0-3 start to the new season.

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Capital City Go-Go to hold open tryouts in search of local talent in D.C. area


Capital City Go-Go to hold open tryouts in search of local talent in D.C. area

The inaugural season of the Washington Wizards' G-League franchise, the Capital City Go-Go, will bring a lot of new experiences for the D.C. area and that includes the process of open tryouts as they seek the best players in the community to fill out their final roster spots.

There will be an opportunity for the best basketball players in the region to showcase their talent in front of Go-Go executives. They don't know if there will be one or two tryouts, when or where they will be held, but the expectation is sometime in September. 

Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu is hoping for a big turnout.

"I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how many people and what kind of talent we can have coming out to those local tryouts. Once we got those dates, we’ll get them out to the community and hopefully we get a ton of guys coming out here to represent their area," he said.

"Whoever comes out, we’ll love it. The more the merrier. It might make our job harder to choose, but I’m okay with that. It’s an expansion team. We’re looking to put this team together and if we have 200 guys come out, that would be great. It just gives us more of an opportunity and a bigger pool to look through. I’m okay with a lot of guys coming out."

Tryouts are commonplace in the G-League, but the Go-Go expect to have an advantage based on their location. The D.C. area is a hotbed for basketball talent and over the years has produced many NBA players and Division 1 college stars.

Mensah-Bonsu can attest to that, having spent many years in the area. He was a star at George Washington University, was with the Wizards in training camp during his professional playing days and has since stuck around to make the city his home.

"The DMV area has a wealth of basketball talent," he said.

Go-Go head coach Jarell Christian is relatively new to the area, but he expects the tryouts to be productive for a G-League talent search. He has held open tryouts before when he was a member of the G-League staff in Oklahoma City. But this isn't Oklahoma City.

"The talent level in Oklahoma City is different than here in D.C., so I think we’ll be able to find some really good players, locally in those tryouts," Christian said.

Christian said that those who want to sign up will likely need to get in contact with members of the front office, either by themselves or with the help of an agent. He mentioned Mensah-Bonsu and also Scott Schroeder, their assistant GM.

Christian and the coaching staff will run them through drills and scrimmages to evaluate which players to keep. Once they see the basketball skills, they will put them through background checks and get testimonials, just like any other job.

"We just want to get a feel for what the players can do. Also, we’ve gotta get to know them and their character. If we do like a player, we’ve gotta make sure we call their references and they check out as being people that we want in our organization at the end of the day," Christian said.

The G-League allows each team to invite up to five players from their tryouts to participate in preseason training camp.

There are several stipulations when it comes to who can try out. Players have to be at least 18 years old and international prospects are often not allowed. The tryouts also generally require a registration fee. More information on the requirements for the Go-Go tryouts will be released once the dates are set.

Open tryouts for other teams around the G-League have produced some unique success stories. Guys who have gone on to make the NBA include Jonathan Simmons and David Nwaba. Perhaps the Go-Go will find the next diamond in the rough.

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Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

The city of Washington, where he grew up near and was a star in college at Georgetown University, isn't the only factor that makes joining the Wizards familiar for Jeff Green. He is also reuniting with his former coach, Scott Brooks, who now leads the Wizards.

Long ago, Brooks was cutting his teeth on the sidelines while Green was finding his way on the court. When Green was a rookie on the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, Brooks was a 42-year-old assistant coach. The team moved to Oklahoma City the following year and by late November of 2008, Brooks was the head coach after P.J. Carlesimo was fired.

Brooks helped oversee Green's first four seasons as an NBA player and Green remembers those days well.

"He looked way better than he does now," Green joked.

Brooks, now 53, has a knack for taking playful shots at those he works with, whether that be players, fellow coaches or the media. Green is clearly on that level and feels comfortable ribbing his head coach, knowing he can both dish it out and take it.

All jokes aside, Green is still appreciative of the tutelage he received from Brooks back in the day.

"Scotty was my No. 1 guy, he’s always been, but when I first stepped foot on an NBA floor, he was there for me. He was a coach with Seattle when I first got into the league," Green said.

The NBA has taken Brooks and Green to very different places in the seven years since they split ways. Green left for the Celtics and has since played for the Grizzlies, Clippers, Magic and most recently the Cavaliers. Brooks stuck around with OKC through the 2014-15 season before he was let go. After taking a year off, he joined the Wizards.

Much has changed in Brooks and Green's lives. They have lost and gained jobs. Their families have grown. Now, they are back on the same team and Green is excited about it.

"We’ve been close and tight ever since. We never lost contact. So, I’m looking forward to being coached by him again. I know he’s going to put us all in great positions to succeed. We just have to do our part on the floor," Green said.

Green spoke with Brooks on the phone before deciding to sign with the Wizards as a free agent in July. His presence was one of the many reasons he felt Washington was a good fit.

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