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Don Newman steps into lead role from Wizards' bench

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Don Newman steps into lead role from Wizards' bench

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Don Newman is in a difficult position, having to take over the head coaching duties for the Wizards while Randy Wittman is on leave for two games because of the death of his older brother. He has to find a way to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that routed them by 24 points earlier this season, on their home floor.

"The thing I'm thinking about is coming out here and doing what we want to do. We want to fly around with our defense," Newman said. "The offense, we want to move the ball and get the best shots we can."

When the Thunder (36-13) toyed with the Wizards (21-24) on Nov. 10, they didn't even need Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to be at a peak level. They combined to shoot 11 of 25. Durant pulled a muscle and didn't even play in the second half. Westbrook had a triple-double (22-11-11) in just 28 minutes.

The hammer was dropped by the role players like Dion Waiters (25 points) and Serge Ibaka (23 points). Now they're playing this game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where they're 22-5.

"They shoot the ball and when they miss they go get it," Newman said. "I feel our guys are up to the test. They understand we got to get back. We got to go at them."

That's what the Wizards did in Saturday's comeback 123-122 win at the Houston Rockets. They trailed by six points late but overcame 40 points from James Harden and a spirited crowd at Toyota Center. That came after a players-only meeting called by Jared Dudley on Thursday. 

"When you're on the road and you get a win it's always good. That feeds it. I think our guys have fed on that," Newman said. "They're feeling good about themselves and they should."

That loss to the Thunder dropped the Wizards to 3-4, the first time they dipped below .500. They've had trouble getting back above it ever since.

"You can't look back at that. You got to understand it. Now you have another chance at it," Newman said. "I think we're going to do well."

A win would make the Wizards 1-1 vs. the Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Rockets.

MORE WIZARDS: Rockets interim coach rips referees after loss to Wizards

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!