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Dudley talks surgery, passing on free agency

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Dudley talks surgery, passing on free agency

Jared Dudley spoke Thursday about his back surgery for a herniated disc, why he passed on free agency and his interest in the Wizards during an interview on ESPN's The Lowe Post podcast. 

Washington acquired the versatile forward in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month. The Wizards envision Dudley helping out to replace Paul Pierce and serve as a stretch-4 type forward. The team announced this week that he would miss 3-4 months following the surgery.

The highlights from Dudley's conversation with Zach Lowe:

  • Dudley said he initially suffered the injury in "late January, but played throughout it." Cortizone shots throughout the season helped manage the pain as the Bucks battled for a playoff berth and seeding. He played in 72 regular season games and six during the postseason.
  • He began a rehab plan following the season before coming up with a plan for surgery. The decision to have surgery now was done in part to minimize how much time he would miss this coming season. "I'll be back right before the season. I might miss a couple of games here or there," Dudley said. "As you know, the basketball season is a long, long season. So, I'll be there when it counts." He noted the pain prior to surgery was not significant compared to others with the same issue.

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  • Dudley surprised the NBA community when he opted into his $4.25 million option with the Bucks rather than exercise his early termination option and seek a multi-year contract in free agency. He waited until the final hours before the start of free agency before making his decision. "Hey, I'm not going to lie to you. I wanted to opt out," Dudey admitted. "The whole thing was to opt out. At the same time, you never want to opt-out you want to have a deal in place or at least have a backup plan. For me, I'm never going to be anyone's first or second choice. I'm your fourth, fifth, six option, Your glue guy. Everyone wants the sexy choice. Me and my agent, we went around to different places. We had people interested...But also, I was doing rehab on my back. I knew it was hurting. It improved. It improve so much, but I knew down the road I possibly could have surgery. I didn't know. For me, I didn't want to risk opting out, going (into free agency) and possibly not getting the deal I wanted." Dudley mentioned Cleveland's J.R. Smith as an example of the opt-out downside. Smith remain a free agent.
  • If he entered free agency, Dudley said the Wizards were among the teams he wanted to join along with possibly returning to the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks were not showing interest in retaining Dudley via free agency in part, as Dudley notes, because Milwaukee was preparing to make bigger splashes (they re-signed Khris Middleton and gave Greg Monroe a max contract) and have rising young talent at his spot. "They didn't see me for the long run," he said.

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So the Wizards have gotten back in the playoff race and here's why

So the Wizards have gotten back in the playoff race and here's why

During the Wizards' recent 10-game surge, in which they have won seven games and vaulted back into the playoff race, there have been many reasons for their near-overnight transformation. The most dramatic change between now and the previous 36 games of this season, however, may be on the defensive end.

The Wizards, for much of this season, have been dreadful on defense. They are 23rd in the league in defensive rating (111.1) and have allowed the second-most points per game (115.8) of any team. The latter has them on pace to allow more points than any Wizards or Bullets team has since 1970.

But lately, they have flipped the narrative. In their last 10 games going back to Dec. 29, the Wizards are fourth in the NBA in defensive rating (106.4). 

On Monday, they held the Pistons to only 87 points, a season-low for a Washington opponent. That included a 34-point first half for Detroit, the fewest the Wizards have given up in a half this season.

The previous season-low for points scored in one half against the Wizards was set in their last game when the Knicks scored 37 in the second half on Thursday. That means the Wizards gave up only 71 points across four quarters, the equivalent of a full game.

The Knicks and Pistons are 23rd and 25th in scoring this season, respectively, but that remains an impressive stretch for the Wizards' defense. They are locking up opponents and coming away with victories.

"Our defense, overall, has just been better," forward Jeff Green said after the 101-87 win over the Pistons. "We’ve been communicating and not allowing teams to get a lot of offensive rebounds, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. We’ve been on the same page defensively."

Against the Pistons, the Wizards allowed only two offensive rebounds, tying the fewest they've surrendered this season. It helped the Pistons were missing Andre Drummond, but that remains no small feat for the Wizards, who give up more offensive boards (11.7/g) than any team.

Like Green, head coach Scott Brooks mentioned the rebounds after Monday's win. 

"We give ourselves a chance to win every night if we can win the rebounding game," he said.

Indeed, the Wizards are a perfect 11-0 this season when they win the rebounding margin. In games they either lose the rebounding margin or tie, they are 9-26.

As the Wizards have shown all season, rebounding is a crucial part of defense. Forcing an opponent to miss a shot is only part of the battle. The stop is completed once the defensive rebound is reeled in.

Defense and rebounding have been major problems for the Wizards this season and both deal with effort. Because of that, Brooks and his players have often lamented a lack of want-to in the Wizards' lowest moments.

Recently, the effort has been there. It probably has something to do with the desperation of losing three key players - John Wall, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard - to injuries. With what's left on their roster, they don't have the luxury of starting slow or losing focus in games. The margin for error is thin.

But the Wizards' improvement on defense can also be credited to a midseason roster makeover done by their front office. They changed the team's defensive DNA with guys like Trevor Ariza, Chasson Randle, and Sam Dekker. In these past 10 games, all three have posted defensive ratings under 105. They have infused the Wizards' rotation with a blue-collar approach to team defense.

Ariza, of course, deserves most of the credit. He has built a 15-year career off hard-nosed perimeter defense. 

This week, Brooks explained how Ariza's discipline has been integral in the Wizards' recent turnaround.

"Trevor definitely helps," Brooks said. "He's not going to get a stop every time, but he's going to give you great effort. He's not going to gamble a lot. He's not going to take the immature chances that might lead to a steal and a dunk in transition, but most likely it's not. He doesn't take those gambles."

Defense and the Wizards have not been synonymous for most of this season. But over the past 10 games, they have played with a new identity and it might be the key to saving their season.

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Rockets will finally trade Carmelo Anthony to Bulls, where they plan to cut him, per reports

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Rockets will finally trade Carmelo Anthony to Bulls, where they plan to cut him, per reports

The Houston Rockets will trade Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Anthony, a six-time All-NBA selection and 10-time All-Star, has not played for the Rockets since Nov. 8. Discontent between the two-sides in his first season with the team prevented Anthony from being a piece in a championship contending team. 

However, his tenure on the Bulls will be short lived. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago will move on from one of the best scorers from the 2000s. Wojnarowski also later reported that the Bulls will cut Anthony.

Upon him getting cut by the Bulls, Anthony will become a free agent (again) if he clears waivers. Chicago at 11-38 is a team that appears to be tanking for the 2019 NBA Draft and look to be moving assets to prepare for a push this summer.

Before the Rockets refusal to play Anthony, he averaged 13.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting and 32.8 percent from deep in 10 games.

If Anthony is willing to take a pay cut, another playoff team could be looking to bolster their depth.

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