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Biggest difference in series? Marcin Gortat has the answer

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Biggest difference in series? Marcin Gortat has the answer

A lot of credit will be spread around about the Wizards regarding how this transformation happened as they went from a 46-win team struggling to find an identity to a juggernaut that advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after sweeping the Toronto Raptors.

Paul Pierce's leadership, John Wall's floor game, Marcin Gortat shooting 74%, Bradley Beal's ruthless aggression as a scorer or Otto Porter's emergence all are viable answers.

But for Gortat, there's a more obvious one that had a trickle-down effect with the roster: "I'll particularly mention one guy. Drew Gooden. ... He was the guy that was swinging the ball a lot from side-to-side, going set screens. Because of his skills, his opportunity to stretch the floor for us, he creates a lot of space for me on the roll, or for Bradley and John attacking the basket. At that point, we just started playing together, having fun, it doesn't matter who is going to score as long as we're winning."

Gooden started the first game of the regular season at the Miami Heat, scoring 18 points in a loss. Gooden was filling in for Nene, who was suspended by the league for the opener. Quickly, Gooden fell out of coach Randy Wittman's rotation but anticipated he'd find a way to work him back in.

He went through strenuous individual workouts and was prepared even before Kris Humphries, who was garnering most of the playing time as the backup power forward to Nene, was sidelined with a groin injury for 17 games. 

Gooden, a relative newcomer to long-range shooting, had never made a three-pointer in the postseason until the Toronto series. In a 95-93 loss to the Raptors on Feb. 11, Gooden was thrust in to the rotation with 10 points and 12 rebounds to combat Patrick Patterson. Patterson, who'd torched the Wizards previously, only had two points and missed 7 of 8 shots.

Patterson had his moments in the playoff series, but his impact was mostly neutralized in the last two games when he shot 5-for-13.

"The situation for this series was for me to go out there and play, especially this series with a guy like Patrick Patterson out there being a stretch four," Gooden said. "That's my game. I evolved into that player right now. I've solidified I can play that role and coach Wittman went with me."

RELATED: [Morning tip: 5 reasons why Wizards won series with Raptors]

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising. 

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G-Leaguer Jordan McRae who dropped 54 points could be a roster addition for Wizards

G-Leaguer Jordan McRae who dropped 54 points could be a roster addition for Wizards

Time is nearly up for the Washington Wizards to replace Ron Baker on the active roster.

Jordan McRae made his strongest push yet for the gig.

McRae, one of the Wizards’ two-way contract players, scored 54 points for Capital City Friday night in the Go-Go’s 118-107 win over the Main Red Claws. That’s the most points scored by any G-League player this season.

Makes sense this wing guard holds the distinction. McRae leads the league in scoring with 29.5 points per game.

Finding such opportunities with Washington this season has not come as easy. McRae, a 27-year-old with prior NBA experience, scored only four points in 35 minutes over eight games for the 19-26 Wizards this season.

While shuttling back and forth between the two levels since Baker’s release on Jan. 7, the 6-foot-5 guard’s lone appearance came in the final minutes of a 17-point win over Philadelphia on Jan. 9.

For now, McRae and Devin Robinson, Washington’s other two-way contract player, offer in-case-of-emergency depth. Robinson traveled with the Wizards to London for Thursday’s win over the New York Knicks but did not play.

Someone else will join the roster soon.

League rules mandate a minimum of 14 players. Teams have two weeks to reach that number should they drop below. Washington, which kept its 15th slot open all season, did upon releasing Baker.

The Wizards could and likely will fill the void by signing a free agent to a 10-day contract. Another body would not hurt.

John Wall (heel surgery) is out for the season. Uncertain recovery timelines exist for forward Markieff Morris (neck) and center Dwight Howard (back surgery).

McRae is not an option for the 10-day scenario, but he has shown a readiness with the scorching Go-Go. Capital City has won seven of its last eight games.

“He’s done a great job staying with his development on and off the court,” Go-Go coach Jarell Christian said of McRae. “He’s our leader. For him to continue to play the right way, everyone else just falls in line.”

McRae’s scoring surge comes after he sat out last season with a shoulder injury.

“It was the first time in my life being injured. Being out for a whole year, it was tough for me,” McRae said. “Being with these guys every day, going back and forth with the Wizards, it’s tiring, but its fun. It’s my job.”

Christian offered advice on the key for McRae should the Wizards eventually turn McRae’s contract from a two-way to an NBA deal and set him loose on the court.

“I think it’s just about his mentality. When he's thrown into a game on the next level, still being able to function without getting the ball every possession. Being a floor spacer and continue to play defense,” Christian said. “He’s taken initiatives in some games and become the best defender on the team. I think every team wants somebody who wants to take that initiative and become a lockdown defender.”

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