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Bummer for Wizards that West isn't best this season

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Bummer for Wizards that West isn't best this season

Everyone understood the NBA's conference imbalance. Even if at times the best team called the Eastern Conference home, for years the Western Conference was collectively much, much better. 

That's not the case in 2015-16, which makes the Washington Wizards' no-playoff situation a bit more painful.

With back-to-back wins over Charlotte and Brooklyn, Washington improved its record to 40-41 with one game left. There's something to be said for at least finishing the season with a .500, non-losing record, though such goals are rather low bar especially for a team that reached the playoff each of the last two seasons. Hopes of another postseason appearance officially ended with Friday's loss at Detroit, but were on life-support for some time.

Yet if the Wizards played out West, Wednesday's home game with the Atlanta Hawks would have playoff implications.

Entering the final two days of the regular season, the Rockets and Jazz are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. At 40-41, Washington has the same record as Houston and Utah.

Just to play out this fantasy a bit more, the Rockets own the tiebreaker over the Jazz, but a three-way scenario is trickier. Washington split two games each with Houston and Utah. 

All play their final regular season game Wednesday with the Wizards' matchup against the Hawks the hardest while the Rockets and Jazz are set to face non-playoff teams. Houston hosts Sacramento and Utah plays at the Los Angeles Lakers in Kobe Bryant's final NBA game.

Since you're wondering, if the NBA seeded teams 1-16 for the postseason, Washington, Houston and Utah would be one game back of the Chicago for the final slot. Considering the Bulls host the lowly 76ers Wednesday, that's almost like saying Derrick Rose and crew would have already clinched a playoff berth. Instead like the Wizards, their season ends Wednesday.

Granted, there really isn't an "if" here since the scenario never existed. None of this really matters, except that some dismissed Washington's last two playoff appearances which resulted in reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals because the West is best.

No offense to the Wizards, Rockets and Jazz, but any of the three are just chum in the water in a first-round matchup against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Squeaking into the postseason wouldn't change the possibility of notable changes throughout the organization. 

Making the eighth seed isn't the greatest of accomplishments considering the preseason hopes of perhaps competing for a conference title. 

Still, participating in the playoffs beats watching them. If the Wizards were in the Western Conference, hope would still be alive. Weird, huh.

RELATED: Morning tip: Wizards haven't ruled out Satoransky for 2016-17 season

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

 

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