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Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

Film study: How Wizards diffused Celtics sparkplug Isaiah Thomas

The 20-point fourth quarter for Isaiah Thomas never came on Tuesday, unlike the Jan. 11 comeback win for the Boston Celtics over the Wizards. Then, they showed Thomas the same coverages. 

This time, they gave Thomas different looks and were successful in exploiting the 5-foot-9 point guard's weaknesses at both ends.

Thomas had 25 points and 13 assists, which looks great if he's on your fantasy team, but those terms were dictated by Washington. All stat lines aren't created equal. Thomas' impact paled in comparison to Bradley Beal's 31 points and five assists, or John Wall's 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's 123-108 domination.

The Wizards (25-20) stuck to coach Scott Brooks' gameplan to near perfection. 

[RELATED: Morris raises level to meet Scott Brooks' demands]

On the defensive end:

Ball pressure. Kelly Oubre wouldn't let Thomas breathe as he splits screens and gets help from Otto Porter to stop the momentum. When Thomas gets the ball back after an awkward pass out to relieve the pressure, Oubre tries to deny the return and harrasses Thomas every step of the way until he settles for deep jumper that wasn't in rhythm. 

Find Thomas in half-court at all times. If it's between closing out him or Marcus Smart on the perimeter, that's an easy decision. Let Smart shoot.

Make Thomas finish over size. Sometimes he'll succeed but many times he won't.

Another example of the same concept. Marcin Gortat has to switch with Oubre, who takes Al Horford. The Wizards pack the paint successfully to prevent dribble penetration and Gortat keeps his 6-11 frame in front and contests the jumper which falls short. 

Find Thomas in transition and either run him off the three-point line or contest at all cost (he shot 1-for-6 from the arc).

Be physical with him on screen, dribble-handoff and dribble-pitch action. Gortat steps out to slow him from turning the corner and Oubre's 7-2 wingspan prevents Thomas from exploding to the rim. Instead, he gets too deep with no where to go among the trees, stumbles and turns it over. 

On the offensive end:

Isolate and make his defense a liability. The moment the second half began, the Wizards went at Thomas with Beal, who at 6-5 is too big, too strong and too athletic. Over a guy his own size, this is a difficult shot for Beal. He has an unobstructed view on this one. He takes the handoff and Gortat twists the screen. Although Horford's containment initally works and Gortat gets the pass back, the spacing is created to allow Beal to isolate. Beal holds his ground for the return pass and Gortat cuts to the weakside of the floor, which forces Horford to either double-team immediately tor follow the big into the paint. Horford leaves. Beal goes to work.

Run him through multiple screens. Thomas isn't physical and is easy to knock off balance with contact. He has to fight through this pindown from Wall then a screen from Gortat and has no chance to recover to Beal. Horford is playing so soft in coverage, he's giving him a mid-range practice shot.

Don't let him hide. Oubre isn't the offensive threat at the level of Beal, but the Wizards made Thomas defend him, too. Oubre is 6-7 and comes off this curl cut for a runner in the lane that misses. But it was a quality look that broke down Boston's defense which allowed Trey Burke to slip in for the putback. 

This looked similar to what the Wizards did in 2015, when they were supremely confident they'd figured out how to deal with troublesome matchups with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver in the playoffs. This is just one regular-season game, and certainly Boston will make adjustments when they meet for a final time March 20 at TD Garden to determine the season series.These concepts regarding Thomas, however, still should apply.

[RELATED: Wizards walk the walk vs. Celtics: Is it a rivalry now?]

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Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

As the NBA regular season approaches, the Washington Wizards seek to finalize their roster.

The Wizards announced on Wednesday that they have waived Phil Booth, Justin Anderson and Jemerrio Jones. The team also signed 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks and small forward Jalen Jones, the team announced.

Pasecniks and Jones were signed to Exhibit 10 contracts, meaning that if they are waived, they will have the opportunity to play for the Go-Go, the Wizards' G-League affiliate. Booth was on an Exhibit 10 deal, so he will report to the Go-Go after being waived.

Pasecniks, a 7-foot center from Latvia, was the 25th overall selection from the 2017 draft. The Orlando Magic drafted him and moved him to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for draft picks. The 76ers renounced his rights in June.

Pasecniks played on the Wizards summer league team, averaging 4.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. Jalen Jones has averaged 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc in 32 games over two seasons with three teams.


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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.