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Brad Stevens admires 'cool stuff' Wizards are doing under Scott Brooks

Brad Stevens admires 'cool stuff' Wizards are doing under Scott Brooks

NEW ORLEANS -- Who would ever think that a young, innovative coach like Brad Stevens has lifted ideas from teams such as the Wizards, even under previous coach Randy Wittman, to build the Boston Celtics into the second-best team in the East?

According to Stevens, who'll coach the East All-Stars in Sunday's game, that's exactly the case. And it probably explains why the Celtics are so easily adaptable to any situation and can get high-percentage looks consistently from after-timeout plays.

The Celitcs are 37-20 at the All-Star break. The Wizards sit at 34-21 for third place under first-year coach Scott Brooks, and that includes a 2-1 sereies lead over their rival. He's had better success than coach Randy Wittman who went 0-4 as the Wizards' coach in a 41-41 season a year ago. 

"Scott is a great coach. Does a lot of little tweaks and cool stuff. I felt that way about Randy, too," said Stevens. "I stole a lot from Randy when he was coaching. A lot. Credit to Scott and his staff and credit to those players. They're having a great run. They've handled us twice. We weren't competitive in two of the three games we played against them."

The reverence for Stevens in the Wizards' locker room is real because every time they thought they had the Celtics figured out, they did not. Stevens drew up a set that resulted in an uncontested layup for Jae Crowder with four seconds left in what would be a 119-117 win in Washington on Jan. 16, 2016. It was a play the Wizards, who were meticulous in their game-planning under Wittman, had never seen. 

The ball was inbounded over the to of Kelly Oubre, where Stevens knew there wouldn't be weakside help or rotation. It was one of those soul-crushing, midseason defeats that could've been a turning point that became a stumbling block for the Wizards.

A year later, however, this is how the Wizards are catching opponents off-guard with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. The guards have used their size to their advantage on inbounds and after-timeout plays, getting entry passes into the low or mid post for easy baskets. 

Those aren't play calls. Those are just reads that allow the inbounder, usually Otto Porter or an adept passer such as Markieff Morris, to exploit mismatches where they present themselves. 

"I think the biggest thing you can be as consistent in what you do every single night. I think that (other) stuff gets overrated," Stevens said. "They are on an incredible roll of consistent play."

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Scott Brooks, Bradley Beal rip officiating after loss to Clippers

Scott Brooks, Bradley Beal rip officiating after loss to Clippers

WASHINGTON -- Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and guard Bradley Beal have a general policy when it comes to answering questions about officiating. Usually, they avoid details because they don't want to be fined by the league. Often, they say plenty with what they leave unsaid.

Sunday night was not one of those times. After the Wizards' 135-119 loss to the Clippers, both the coach and player broke character, rolled their sleeves up and gave the refs a good old fashioned takedown.

Brooks went first and initially said (sarcastically) the officials got all the calls right in the game. After that, he said what he was really thinking.

"When they grab you and hold you and the rules are saying you've got to call a foul, that's a foul. We don't get that. [Bradley Beal] doesn't get that and it's frustrating," Brooks said.

"The rule is you can't grab a guy with two hands. It's not my rule, it's not their rule; it's the NBA rule. If they're not going to call those more, what are we going to do? We're gonna get frustrated, we're gonna get [technicals] and that's not fair. That's not fun for the coaches, that's not fun for the players, that's not fun for everybody."

Beal, who 20 points and five assists but shot 5-for-18 from the field, didn't hold back, either. And he even explained why he felt he had to speak up this time as opposed to other games when he has been more tight-lipped.

"Honestly, [my frustration] is out the roof. It really is. It's really unfair and unacceptable that they allow a lot of stuff to go on with me out there and I do not calls. Period. It's just unacceptable," he said.

"They fine us for saying something. When we do say something on the floor it's 'oh, I didn't see it' or 'it wasn't my call.' I'm just so tired of hearing that. There's three guys out here. I know nobody's perfect, but the blatant ones have to be called and they're not being called. That s--- ain't fair."

Brooks got a technical for arguing a first-half play he thought should have been a charge taken by Moe Wagner. Davis Bertans and Ish Smith, two of the Wizards' more mild-mannered players, also got T'd up.

Brooks thought Smith getting a technical embodied the evening perfectly.

"When Ish [Smith] gets a [technical foul], I know something's going on. That guys is the nicest guy on the planet. He gets a technical by just telling a referee to call it the same on the other end," Brooks said.

Beal was not assessed a technical, though he said he was appreciative of Smith and Bertans sticking up for him. He also said he feels like the lack of respect from referees has been worse this year and suggested the Wizards aren't getting the respect other teams like the Clippers do because of their 7-15 record.

To be fair, the numbers didn't exactly back up those claims on Sunday. The Wizards had 30 free throw attempts, three more than L.A. did. And Beal led all players with nine. He made all nine of them. Beal is also ninth in the NBA in free throw attempts at 7.2 per game, up from his average last season of 5.5.

This was, though, clearly something that had built over a series of games. And the Wizards are averaging the fifth-fewest free throw attempts per game this season at just 20.4 per contest. The Clippers, for comparison, are fourth in the NBA at 26.2.

But when the Wizards are in a close game with a team like the Clippers, who have way more talent than they do, it is hard for them to accept when they feel the referees aren't giving them a fair chance.

And for Brooks, it was particularly bad for Beal, whom he says "gets held all the time." And it's bad for rookie Rui Hachimura, who made all seven of his free throw attempts but should have had more if you ask his head coach.

"He attacks and he gets zero free throws. I understand nobody knows him, but we know him. That doesn't mean anything. You should be able to get to the free throw line with the way he attacks," Brooks said.

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Wizards show they can punch back against the NBA's elite in loss to Clippers

Wizards show they can punch back against the NBA's elite in loss to Clippers

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Los Angeles Clippers 135-119 on Sunday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said before Sunday's game he was interested to see how his team would respond against the Clippers, just one week after they were pummeled by 25 points in a game that L.A. dropped 150 in total. Though the Wizards didn't get the win, they fared a lot better the second time around.

Maybe it wasn't enough for a moral victory, which players and coaches openly detest. But it was at the least an indication the Wizards can punch back and give one of the best teams in the NBA a legitimate fight.

The loss, though, was the Wizards' fifth in their last six games. They are 7-15 on the year.

2. Too much time has passed for Ian Mahinmi to justify his contract and fans will never let it down, and justifiably so. But through two games this season, it's clear that he can help this team, at least in the short-term with Thomas Bryant out.

That's because Mahinmi plays defense and the Wizards as a team do not. Well, they play defense, they just aren't very good at it.

Mahinmi is probably at-worst one of the Wizards two or three best defenders. Maybe Isaac Bonga is better than him. Bradley Beal, if that was his sole focus, could be better as well. But Mahinmi is all about defense and his commitment stands out on this year's Wizards, who are mostly comprised of offensive-minded players.

Mahinmi did a solid job on Joel Embiid in the Wizards' win over the Sixers last week and on Sunday had some standout moments, including a pair of blocks in the first half, one on Montrezl Harrell and another on Moe Harkless. The Harkless one saw Mahinmi close from the other side of the rim, the type of play no one else on the team could probably make.

Mahinmi had nine points and six rebounds in 18 minutes on 4-for-4 shooting from the field.

3. In case you haven't heard yet, Davis Bertans can shoot. The Latvian Laser lit it up again with 25 points in 28 minutes, including six threes.

What stood out the most about Bertans in this game, though, was his match-ups. He spent a good amount of time guarding Kawhi Leonard and, in the second half, Leonard guarded him on the other end.

Perhaps Brooks thought Bertans' size would give Leonard problems, but it didn't work. Leonard still got 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Bertans wasn't an ideal choice to guard Leonard, but then again no one really is. Not just on the Wizards, like, no one in the league can stop him consistently.

As for the flip-side of the Bertans-Leonard dual, Leonard wasn't on him all night. He got switched to guard him in the second quarter after Bertans' hot start. 

4. Speaking of defensive assignments, Beal (20 points, five assists) spent much of his night on Moe Harkless and not Leonard or Paul George (27 points, six assists, six rebounds). Harkless is a solid player, but because of his defense. He is the least threatening player in the Clippers' starting lineup on the offensive end.

It was probably more about saving Beal's energy than anything. He was playing his third game in four nights and is such an important part of the Wizards' offense, that it makes sense to focus on that end of the floor.

But given Beal's potential as a two-way player, and how often Brooks praises him for that, it seemed like this was a good opportunity to put that on display. Maybe if it were the playoffs, things would be different and he would be on Leonard or George.

5. Troy Brown Jr. has been inconsistent this season, one night looking the part as a first round pick and other nights looking lost and without confidence. But Sunday was his best game of the season so far.

Brown had it going early off the bench and was making plays on both ends of the floor. He was disruptive with deflections on defense and could not miss on offense.

Brown ended up with a season-high 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He also added five rebounds and four assists. He even shot 2-for-4 from three.

On nights like Sunday, when Brown has it going and knows it, it's easy to see how different he plays when his confidence builds. He is more assertive attacking the rim and plays defense with energy and aggression.

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