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Brooks: Wizards' tentative defense late costs them at least 3 wins

Brooks: Wizards' tentative defense late costs them at least 3 wins

NEW YORK -- The discussion that Scott Brooks had with his team before Sunday's practice session, following another late-game collapse, wasn't just about what took place in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

He showed them the evidence of how they were lax against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second game of the season and vs. the Oklahoma City a few days ago. 

They lost all three and easily could be 9-9 instead of 6-12 based off those alone. 


"We've shown all three of those clips," Brooks said.

"Memphis, up three. Oklahoma City, up three. San Antonio, up one. The thing I liked about us, we competed and put ourselves in that position. But the thing that we talked about today was we have to be able to lock in before the referee gives the ball to their player. All three times, we weren't ready as we need to be. It's happened three times. ... We have to correct it and get better going forward."

In Memphis, Marc Gasol drained a three-pointer to force overtime. Mike Conley is allowed to get the ball and take his time and Vince Carter, after delivering the inbounds, is the physical one as he screens to create the switch pins down John Wall and Marcin Gortat.

By the time Gortat realizes it's a play call for Gasol to knock down a three he sheds Carter but it's too late. Porter could've bodied up Carter the moment he makes the inbound. Wall could've gotten away from Carter the moment he started to push his way inside the arc since only a three in this situation is a threat.

Gortat could've immediately gone to Gasol since the 7-1 center's first made shot in the first quarter was a three:

In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook launched a wide-open three to get the game into the extra session.

The initial move is Markieff Morris providing support to Beal when Westbrook makes the catch. Then both get confused on who is responsible for whom. The Thunder need three to tie so there's no need to bite a jab step or any offensive move into the paint. Steven Adams, defended by Morris, is a non-threat.

His only role in this play is to screen so shading towards him isn't prudent. Wall blows up his screen to free Anthony Morrow off the ball. But Beal and Morris appear to hesitate as to who would jump out on Westbrook as he retreats to the arc with the ball. Worst-case scenario, both run at him and he has to give up the ball and the Thunder get an easy deuce. So what? 

In San Antonio, Danny Green got a clean look from three to retake the lead to win in regulation. As usual with the Spurs, the weakside of the floor is where the action that beats you happens. Their best player Kawhi Leonard drives baseline to create an open shot for Patty Mills, but Wall properly closes that down to force another pass.

The moment the ball goes in the paint on Leonard's drive, Morris abandons Green who ends up with what's tantamount to a practice shot. When only four of five players are connected, that's not good enough. 

In all of these examples, the opponent was able to do exactly what they wanted to do and get the quality shot. All three were three-pointers. All three went virutally contested.

"We talked about being physical," Brooks said. "We're reacting after their initial action. There's opportunities. The game allows you to get physical. Touch somebody. We have to be able to do that. We will. We're going to continue to talk about that."

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.


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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.