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Can a free agent convince Wizards to open roster spot?


Can a free agent convince Wizards to open roster spot?

As of today, there appears to be no apparent change to the Wizards' roster going into training camp at the end of this month, slated to open on the campus of Towson University in Baltimore County. 

That doesn't mean they're averse to changing course. The Wizards have 15 guaranteed contracts, the maximum allowed when the regular season begins Oct. 28 at the Orlando Magic, plus two players joining them on non-guaranteed deals for camp (Toure' Murry and Jaleel Roberts). The Wizards can bring in as many as three more, and if so they'll be on non-guaranteed deals, too.

While they're leaving open the possibility of clearing a roster spot, and even eating the salary of a guaranteed deal to sign a free agent, Roberts, Murry or someone will have to make a compelling case at camp for that to happen. 

This is partly why Murry, who signed a pair of 10-day contracts late last season until injury derailed him with the Wizards, is back in the fold. Coach Randy Wittman likes his grit.

Roberts is the first player from UNC-Asheville to get an NBA training camp invite and likely was headed overseas. He played some for the Wizards at Las Vegas summer league, but it was his performance at Tim Grgurich's private camp later in Las Vegas that convinced them that he was worth another look, CSNmidatlantic.com was told by several persons with knowledge of his situation.

Roberts is more realistically auditioning for 2016-17 when a glut of roster spots open. If he can make a good impression now and get a head start with the organization, even if he's eventually waived he could be better positioned long-term. The Wizards don't have any size in the low post other than Marcin Gortat who'll be under contract after this season.

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

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


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.