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Breaking down Wizards' defensive excellence in win vs. Bucks

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Breaking down Wizards' defensive excellence in win vs. Bucks

Defensively, the Wizards look like a different team than the one that was shredded in three consecutive losses by an average of 20 points a game. Tuesday's domination of the Milwaukee Bucks is further proof that the fast-pace offense they're running shouldn't have a negative impact on their defense. In fact, if done correctly, they'll be able to get easier baskets and put them in transition with John Wall.

It's not just the starters and stars but role players off the bench who are reading and reacting the right way now that coach Randy Wittman has moved to simplify coverages. The rules of thumb: Get beat baseline and it's on the bigs; get beat in the middle of the floor and it's on the perimeter players.

 

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Greivis Vasquez inbounds the ball to Greg Monroe, who puts the ball on the floor against Gortat just inside the three-point arc. As he gets into the low post, Jared Dudley (from behind) and Garrett Temple (over top) make him pick up his dribble. Dudley's man, Johnny O'Bryant is on the weak side under the basket and there's no real passing angle. Plus Ramon Sessions is lingering in the paint to pick it off. The ball instead goes out to Khris Middleton, who Temple was originally covering. Middleton gets to the baseline but Marcin Gortat is there to seal off his dribble penetration while Temple is there to make an interior pass back to Monroe difficult. Dudley comes off O'Bryant again to cut off Monroe's angle to the basket. While Monroe gets the ball back, Dudley is in position to tie him up for a jump ball. The Wizards took away three-quarters of the floor on this possession, rendering Vasquez and Jerryd Bayless on the perimeter irrelevant.  

 

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Otto Porter picks up Bayless bringing up the ball. Gortat, who his covering Monroe, anticipates a back screen from Middleton, curls around it and gets back to Monroe on the low block. The Bucks fail to force a switch as a result where they could've gotten Temple on Monroe. Temple's trail technique here is perfect as he follows Middleton across the lane and avoids a flare screen from Giannis Antetokounmpo to take away a potential skip pass to the weak side of the floor for a corner three. Gortat shows on Michael Carter-Williams in the pick-and-roll. Porter comes off the nail to help stop Monroe rolling to the basket. Monroe gets the ball back but it's 18 feet away facing up Gortat. Porter shifts back to Bayless on the arc but maintaining his spot on the nail. Monroe sets a screen on Porter to free Bayless but Gortat steps up. Temple goes 2-for-1 on this coverage. He dives in on Bayless and Monroe, who don't have the best spacing, to clog the middle to assist Gortat's coverage. Bayless kicks the ball out to Middleton for a contested three as Temple has a hand in his face to force the shot long. This results in a three-pointer for Wall on the other end.

 

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Antetokounmpo gets the rebound and brings the ball up the floor. John Wall is the first man to pick him up so the Bucks' 6-10 guard/forward starts to immediately back him down for a high-percentage shot. Recognizing that there's no help behind Wall, Nene leaves John Henson who is not in the play and immediately goes over to double-team him because Antetokounmpo has a six-inch height advantage. That forces him to give up the ball to Vasquez as Nene gets back to Henson, who is being shaded by Dudley. Notice that Dudley also has O'Bryant behind him so he's not committed fully to either player and wisely so. He holds up a potential entry pass to Henson just long enough for Nene to get back on his man. With Nene fully recovered on his man, Vasquez goes back to Antetokounmpo who catches the ball at the three-point arc. He goes to the mid-post again with his dribble to back down Wall and Nene returns from the backside for support. Ramon Sessions shows and then darts back up to to cover Vasquez, realizing that Nene and Wall have the ball contained. This forces the ball out of Antetokounmpo's hands again as he dribbles back out to the arc and slings the ball to Middleton on the weak side spotting up on the arc. Gary Neal almost falls asleep watching the ball, but he recovers to contest the three-point shot that was long. This was good help defense all around. And when the shot goes up, Nene boxes out the closest man to him (O'Bryant) for the rebound while Dudley switches to seal Henson from the rim. This is vintage Nene. He recognizes Wall's predicament and makes the right decision before Milwaukee can take full advantage.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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