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With controls in place, John Wall is more efficient

With controls in place, John Wall is more efficient

The minutes restrictions and resting of John Wall early in the season to protect his knees may not be over, but the grip likely loosens provided he doesn't have any unusual soreness or setbacks after playing in his first back-to-back games with the Wizards.

Wall logged 24 minutes in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and 31 in a win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday and Thursday. And despite those restrictions, he averaged 25 points, 8.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in those two games.

"I don't like to miss games, and I feel like I could have played earlier on. It was just a part of what the doctor's plan was and taking my time," said Wall, who has appeared in nine of the Wizards' 11 games after surgeries to both knees May 5. "It would've been better if we could have won both games."

The Wizards (3-8) dropped winnable road games against the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls when Wall sat in the second game of back-to-backs. 

The more significant procedure occured with Wall's left knee that had bone spurs. It took longer to heal than the right one which had loose particles removed. 

"As long as my knee don't swell up and it's no pain, that's the only key," Wall said of what could get in the way of him being able to play in tonight's game vs. the Miami Heat. "I'm doing a great job of doing my treatments, making sure I use ice and getting massages."

In his seventh NBA season, Wall is averaging a career-low 32.6 minutes. The only other time he was in this range came in 2012-13 season when he was out with a stress reaction in his left knee -- an overuse injury -- that cost him 33 games of action.

First-year coach Scott Brooks has been cautious with how much he leans on Wall early, and he has lightened the practice load for everyone so they can stay fresh in an 82-game season. 

Despite the limitations, Wall is averaging career-highs in points (22.9) and field-goal shooting (45.9%).

[RELATED: Bradley Beal's return helps key Wizards win over Knicks]

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What Wizards learned in the bubble about their offseason needs

What Wizards learned in the bubble about their offseason needs

The Wizards got a better idea of what to go shopping for this offseason based on their eight games in the bubble. Here is what they learned...

Bryant is capable of good defense

It wasn't perfect, he had some ups and downs, but Thomas Bryant showed more defensively during the Wizards' eight games in Orlando than he had previously in his Wizards career. He even earned some really high praise from head coach Scott Brooks following their loss to Joel Embiid and the Sixers, which Brooks called the best defensive game he has ever seen Bryant play. 

Bryant finished with some encouraging numbers. He averaged 2.0 blocks per game and held his match-ups to 45% from the field, down from his 48.7% season clip. Embiid went just 3-for-11 against Bryant, for example. Bryant's 14.9 contested shots per game were up considerably from his season average (10.3/g) and would rank fourth in the NBA if held over a full season (Robin Lopez, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Ayton). 

Now the question is how much Bryant can be asked to solve the team's desperate and years-long need for rim protection. He had a good stretch, but can he do that over a full season? The Wizards would probably be smart to still look for help in that area. They may be able to find it in the draft with James Wiseman of Memphis, if they have some lottery luck, or Onyeka Okongwu of USC if they don't move up.

Brown can play some PG, but how much?

Troy Brown Jr. had an odd trajectory in Orlando where he started out really well and then struggled late. He thrived early on as a playmaker on the wing and did enough to earn some time exclusively at point guard. But while playing point guard, his production dropped off.

All in all, it was a strong showing for Brown in the bubble. He averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He just didn't score efficiently, as evidenced by his ugly 37.9 field goal percentage. He shot 25.4 percent in the final two games while starting at point.

Brown, though, arguably did enough to earn some time on the ball next season. Exactly how much of that responsibility the Wizards can offer is unclear. John Wall will be back as the starting point guard and they have Ish Smith also returning. At the very least, maybe the Wizards can skip past the need for a third point guard and count Brown among their options. He could back up Wall and Smith and if Wall needs to sit for rest, like for back-to-backs, Brown can move into the top-two point guard rotation and maybe even start there.

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Robinson may solve a problem at back-up SG

Jerome Robinson had the best stretch of his career while playing in Orlando in what was his first extended offering of playing time. He averaged 14.8 points while shooting 36.7 percent from three on 6.1 attempts. The numbers may not show it, but he also had some encouraging moments on defense when he was asked to take on some tough defensive assignments, like Devin Booker of the Suns.

Robinson displayed enough to be given a good look this fall as Bradley Beal's primary back-up at the shooting guard spot. Brooks even mentioned using Robinson at the three so they can find him more minutes.

The question is whether Robinson can establish consistency while playing in a back-up role. It won't be easy to pull off with fewer minutes and shots to work with.

Wagner and Schofield are question marks

It might be a bit unfair to magnify the seeding games too much given there were only eight of them, but two guys in particular didn't play very well. That would be Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield. Wagner averaged 5.1 points in 16.0 minutes and shot just 36.8 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from three. Schofield was held to 2.7 points in 12.6 minutes and shot 29.4 percent, though he did knock down a decent 35.7 percent from long range.

Wagner has more of a track record to fall back on, and Schofield should be cut some slack given it was his first season and he spent much of it in the G-League. But the Wizards will have to examine players like them on their roster - Anzejs Pasecniks, Jerian Grant, Jarrod Uthoff and Jonathan Williams III included - and determine whether they have roles on the team next season. Wagner right now looks like the No. 2 center behind Bryant, but if the Wizards do add a rim protector, or a center in the draft, Wagner could be bumped down the depth chart.

They need more help

There were many positives to pull from the Wizards' 11 total games in Orlando (including the exhibition), many of which were mentioned above. But it also told the Wizards that if you remove Beal, Wall and Davis Bertans from the team, the drop-off is significant. They competed in some games, but only managed one win and it came against a Celtics team that was missing their top seven scorers.

The Wizards need to take a long look at the supporting cast they have developed and determine whether these guys can be relied upon next year in important roles. Just because a guy is showing promise doesn't mean his spot on the roster couldn't be upgraded. Maybe some players work better as trade assets rather than building blocks.

Forward remains an area of need. Next season, there is currently an opening in the starting lineup alongside Rui Hachimura and Bryant in the frontcourt. Maybe it is filled by Brown or Isaac Bonga, but the Wizards will have some options to add to that mix.

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Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

Kevin Durant posts cryptic, oddly timed tweet after Nets lose to Trail Blazers

The Nets, playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and most of their key rotation players, lost to Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers Thursday night, clinching a play-in opportunity for Portland as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Lillard had 42 points and was masterful from deep. At one point, he even pulled up from the logo just beyond half-court and drilled a three. 

While Lillard was the story of the game, Durant drew some attention on social media afterward by tweeting a picture of himself dunking in Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later" music video.

Durant's been out all year recovering from Achilles surgery, but for some reason Nets fans are still holding out hope that he might return, so one of the leading theories for the motivation behind the tweet is that Durant would return for the playoffs. The Nets hold the seventh seed in the East and are set to face the defending champion Raptors in the first round.

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He would have to enter the bubble and quarantine for 10 days before presumably playing in his first game in over a year with little to no ramp-up. If Durant entered the bubble today, he'd be able to return by the time the Nets play the Raptors in Game 5 of the first round. Seems unlikely.

Another theory is that because the Blazers beat the Nets, there's a good chance the Lakers will have a tougher road to the NBA Finals. Given we have no reason to believe he's interested in the Lakers winning a title or that he'd actually be happy after his team loses probably busts this one as well. 

Could it be that Durant was excited about being in a popular music video and tweeted a still of himself coincidentally 30-or-so minutes after his team wrapped up its regular season? Probably, but when has that ever stopped the Twitter detectives from going nuts online?

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