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Film study: How Wizards' 2 best players get everyone else open

Film study: How Wizards' 2 best players get everyone else open

A stat sheet doesn't tell you who is the better or best players on the floor. How the game is played, and recongition given by opponents, say it all. When Stephen Curry isn't trusted to guard fellow point guard Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter, it tells you what coach Steve Kerr thinks of his guy's defense. 

When Irving isn't trusted to defend Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, also a point guard, and is hidden against the offensively challenged Tony Allen, that tells you what Cavs coach Ty Lue truly thinks of his guy's defense.

When defenses commit 2-3 defenders to John Wall and Bradley Beal, they all know who the two best players are for the Wizards. They still combined for 40 points in a 107-102 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, and even though Otto Porter and Markieff Morris combined for 50 points that doesn't change anything.

The worst-case scenario came to fruition for the Bucks: They took away the strong suits for Wall (dribble penetration) and Beal (three-point shooting) but the duo still scored and combined for 21 assists while the role players in Porter and Morris shot 20-for-29 from the field, including 6-for-11 from three-point range, to go with 17 rebounds.

All of it is a product of what the defense was willing to give up. Sometimes the philosphy in a given game, particularly when teams see each other often, is to mix it up. An opponent will see a little bit of everything and not the same coverage time after time.

"I think last night was probably the worst it's been," Beal, who shot just 5-for-14, said of the coverages by Milwaukee. "Every time I caught the ball I had two guys on me. It's different but it's a sign of respect, too."

If the role players being left open are able to make shots, the better players (Wall and Beal) eventually will get theirs. And they did. Beal was able to score 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Wall had five points and four assists in the final 12 minutes:

 

If Morris doesn't bother to set this pindown and just walks to the front of the rim, he still gets the bucket. The Bucks treat him as if he were invisible. They clogged the paint on Wall, took away Beal's open look from three and all that's required is the right read being made by Marcin Gortat and Morris making himself available. Gortat's dive is shorcut by the help and Morris is deeper than all five defenders. 

Beal simply catching this ball attracts the eyes of every defender. Morris makes the correct the read as he slips baseline behind Malcolm Brogdon. It's another example of why moving off the ball and not just being stationary can catch the defense on its heels. But it's not movement here for the sake of movement. It's timing and spacing.

Porter is left unattended on this push by Wall. See where the defense is set. They've packed the paint to keep Wall from the rim. John Henson recognizes too late as he sinks too deep on Gortat. If Porter opted to make the extra pass, Gortat had a dive to the basket, too. 

The screen roll between Wall and Gortat is stonewalled. Wall can't get into the paint because he's double-teamed. Gortat can't get to the rim because Tony Snell leaves Morris to stop him. But Gortat looks over the top on catch and finds Morris behind the deepest defender for the finish. 

The ball is kept from Beal in this floppy set. But while the initial rotations are good from Milwaukee as it kept the ball from going to the weakside, Morris is able to pass out of the double-team. Jabari Parker opts to go for the steal on Gortat -- this is where gambling for steals is a liability that compromises teammates -- over playing position defense. He whiffs, and that opens up the ball reversal to Beal as he's closed out by Snell. The extra pass to his right to Porter results in his fifth three-pointer of the game for a two-possesion lead with 49 seconds left. Henson's close out is too late. 

RELATED: Porter finds bottom of net as Wizards' next scoring option

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks returns from All-Star break with positive news on Dwight Howard's rehab

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards coach Scott Brooks returns from All-Star break with positive news on Dwight Howard's rehab

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks returned from the All-Star break to the team's practice facility on an icy evening in Washington with something he hadn't provided in months: an update on Dwight Howard.

The Wizards center, who has been recovering from back surgery since Nov. 30, is due to arrive in D.C. soon to continue his rehab. Since the procedure, he has been working out in Atlanta, slowly building strength and flexibility.

Howard is now ready to take the next step in that rehab. He is set to begin on-court work and would have done so on Wednesday if it weren't for a flight cancellation due to the weather.

"Hopefully he'll be back tomorrow and get back on the court," Brooks said. "It's exciting to have him back."

Howard, 33, still has a long way to go. As Brooks explained, Howard isn't ready for much more than light shooting work. He hasn't been cleared for contact or even 1-on-1 drills. 

Brooks gave no sense of a timeline for Howard to return to game action.

"I don't know how that long is going to be before he can participate in a game, but that is not our concern right now. Our concern is to get him some good work every day and let those days pile up on one another and see where it takes us," Brooks said.

Signed as a free agent by the Wizards last summer, Howard has appeared in only nine games due to the injury. It was first revealed on media day, the day before Wizards training camp began. He missed their entire preseason before making his debut on Nov. 2. He last played on Nov. 18 in a loss to the Blazers.

News that Howard would need back surgery came two weeks later. The procedure was to relieve a herniated disc.

He was given a timeline of two-to-three months before he would be re-evaluated. Jan. 30 marked two months since the surgery and soon after that milestone, the Wizards sent a trainer to Atlanta to check on him.

The Wizards have 24 games remaining on their schedule. If Howard can play any number of those, it should help the team. His biggest strength is rebounding and the Wizards have been among the worst teams in the league on the glass this season.

There are also salary implications to a Howard return. He has a player option for next season worth $5.6 million. If he can come back and play well, the odds of him opting out to test free agency would seemingly go up. Such a move would give the Wizards more financial flexibility this off-season.

As Brooks said, we could be a long way away from Howard's return. But Wednesday was a good sign that he's getting closer, even if he wasn't physically with the team yet.

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New dad Tomas Satoransky returns from All-Star break ready to guide new-look Wizards down closing stretch

New dad Tomas Satoransky returns from All-Star break ready to guide new-look Wizards down closing stretch

WASHINGTON -- Integrating new additions comes with the territory for point guards. Tomas Satoransky is living the adjustment life on, and most excitedly, off the court. 

The Washington Wizards reunited Wednesday following the weeklong NBA All-Star break. The practice session was the Wizards’ first since a pair of trades on Feb. 6 added Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wes Johnson to the roster. Playing four games in six days left no time for formal practices. More group work comes Thursday before the playoff push continues Friday at Charlotte.

“We’re glad for that,” Satoransky said of the practices. “When we made those trades we were in game rhythm. It’s obviously tough to practice (during the season). I think our offense is definitely going to be better.”

The 27-year-old Czech Republic native’s world became infinitely better during that busy game stretch. Becoming a first-time father has that effect.

Satoransky missed the final two games before the break to be with his wife, Anna, as she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Sofia. 

Always a natural smiler, Satoransky practically floated when asked about the life-altering event coming during the season’s lone extended break.

“It was great timing,” Satoransky said. “I could spend all the time with my family. Words can’t describe the feeling. It was huge for me. Very emotional.”

We can, therefore, imagine Satoransky’s thoughts were perhaps a touch divided on the first day back at work, though he ended the previous quote with, “Looking forward to getting back to work and finishing the season strong.” 

The Wizards (24-34) need collective resolve from all their key figures over the final 24 games. Washington sits in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and three games back of the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff berth.

“Everything is still open,” Satoransky said of the playoff chase. "Like everyone says, we have to take it game by game. We still feel like we have a chance. We have good potential with this group.”

This group might as well be considered a new team. Six of Washington’s top seven scorers from last season are no longer with the team or, in the case of John Wall, out with a season-ending injury. More than half of the players in the current rotation were not on the team six weeks into the season. Portis, Parker and Johnson play their fifth game with their new team Friday.

“I’m kind of used to this,” Satoransky said of the changes. “Observing new players, trying to help them get in our system. That’s kind of what a point guard has to do.”

Another change looms. Center Dwight Howard is expected to rejoin the team Thursday for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Nov. 30. The eight-time All-Star did his rehab work in Atlanta. Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard, whose return to Washington was delayed a day because of snowy conditions in the area, would begin with non-contact work before the medical staff established new timelines.

For now, that means a heavy-dose of small-ball. Brooks primarily kept only one traditional big man – Portis or Thomas Bryant – on the court with a combination of Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Parker at forward. Satoransky believes the versatility with these pieces – including two-time All-Star guard Bradley Beal – offers upside.

“I feel like we have a defensive minded group,” Satoransky said. “We can switch everything and make it tough on the opposite team. I think we got better at that.”

If the Wizards are lucky, a trait not often associated with the team during this most frustrating season, no additional modifications are required beyond Howard’s potential return. 

“There’s a lot of things that happened this season. Hopefully, this is it,” Satoransky joked.

Even if new or unforeseen events lead to additional tweaks, who better to handle than a point guard floating on air.

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