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Film study: Why are Trey Burke, Jason Smith playing better for Wizards?

Film study: Why are Trey Burke, Jason Smith playing better for Wizards?

The improved play of the Wizards can be directly traced to the output they're now getting from a second unit that had been at best invisible all season. Kelly Oubre's value already has been accounted for, though he hasn't played well since a Dec. 16 concussion. 

The backup point guard, Trey Burke, has become more aggressive offensively and is looking to shoot more and Jason Smith is knocking down his open looks on screen-and-rolls and benefitting from defenses leaving him uncovered. 

But this is about much more than making or missing shots. Players go through hot streaks all the time. Coach Scott Brooks has used them in different ways and with different combinations to get better results. 

So let's compare what Burke and Smith looked like earlier in the season (discombobulated) to what they're looking like in December, when the Wizards went 10-5 to get to 16-16 entering 2017:


Early in the season, Burke was watching Oubre run screen-and-roll with Markieff Morris. Having him stand on the weakside waiting for a pass from Oubre whose strength isn't creating for others off the dribble isn't going to work for anyone. 

Running a screen-roll with Andrew Nicholson makes this easy to defend. The defense isn't going to worry about Nicholson rolling and finishing at the rim. It forces Burke into a difficult spot and he makes an impossible pass at Morris' ankles for a turnover.  And the spacing isn't good, either.

Smith doesn't seem really involved in this screen-roll with Burke. They force the switch but Burke doesn't attack Bismack Biyombo. Smith doesn't roll to the rim (not his strength) and doesn't spot up as if he's expecting the pass for an open shot. He's just lost in space and he's completely out of position to hit the offensive glass. Burke steps back and takes a low-percentage look rather than making Biyombo, who is really good at defending small players, actually defend him.

How much different does the Burke-Smith screen-roll action look here when they run it crisp and with confidence? And Smith finding the soft spot in the coverage looking to shoot.

Now let's look at how they're being used diffreently now. The most obvious observation is the personnel grouping, using John Wall and the likes of Otto Porter and running Burke of screens with Marrcin Gortat. Less floor time with Marcus Thornton who shoots first:

Porter is being used as the screener as he sets multiple ones on the strong side for Marcus Thornton. It's a good action because he's the best offensive player on the floor with the second unit and will draw the help and attention as the Nets anticipate he's going to get the shot somehow. When Porter cuts, it forces Justin Hamilton to hesitate just a bit while his man, Smith, shifts to get the pass or an open 18-footer. 

Smith dribble pitches to Burke and does with his screen what bigs such as Cody Zeller and Al Horford tend to do which is behind over to get an additional bump on the trailer (Spencer Dinwiddie) to make recovery impossible. By the letter of the rule, that's an illegal screen but Wizards' players have been victimized by it repeeatedly and it goes uncalled. 

Burke goes off the ball and gets it back as he runs a two-man game with Smith, gets the switch with Brook Lopez defending him. Burke uses a hesitation move, gets to the baseline and then uses the rim to get separation for the reverse. This is how Burke plays best. 

Burke can spot up in transition while Wall pushes, draws the defense which is always going to load up on him, to get space for a corner three. 

A simple screen-and-roll option with Gortat gets Burke a favorable swtich. He has to be decisive in how to attack and drives hard at Lopez's feet to create separation and is able to pull up and get off the shot before the contest.

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‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

Capital City Go-Go

‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

The Washington Wizards G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, held their second open local player tryouts at the Entertainment and Sports Arena Saturday morning in Southeast D.C.

Over 100 hopefuls filed into the arena with plans to impress Go-Go General Manager, Pop Mensah-Bonsu, head coach Ryan Richman, and his staff. 

Although each player in attendance has a unique path that’s led them here, they all shared one simple, yet intricate goal:

One shot in the G League. 

Adam Stanford, a prospect from California, traveled on a red eye to make the tryout on a less-than-ideal amount of sleep.

“My plane left at midnight from LAX, I had a two-hour layover in Denver, made it to Reagan National at five, checked into my hotel at six, took an hour nap and then Ubered here for tryouts,”  he said. 

“If I made this team it’d be big. Not just for me but for everyone who knows what I’ve been through from college to now.” 

Stanford is a 6-foot-4 wing from Campbellsville University, where he averaged 7 points, 5 rebounds, and was an academic All-American. 

Even with his positive outlook on the process, and an impressive showing Saturday morning, Stanford’s name wasn’t called for a follow-up workout later in the afternoon. 

The harsh reality that your chances are extremely slim to make a G League roster from an open tryout can be a tough pill to swallow, but as a guy who’s been on the opposite end of the chopping block, Mensah-Bonsu had an immense amount of respect for those who showed up to compete Saturday.

“Personally it’s tough because I never wanted to be that guy to read out the numbers of those who did make the team, and skip over those who didn’t,” Mensah-Bonsu said, “it’s heartbreaking. We always anticipate what the DMV has to offer in terms of the wealth of talent in this area.

"I was pleasantly surprised because we ended up selecting 15 guys to stick around for the afternoon portion, but going into this we were only planning to pick five.” 

Those who made the cut won’t be announced until a later date, which leaves the larger point of how those who were passed on respond?

The all-time leading scorer in Peach Sun Belt Conference history, Detrek Browning, was in attendance Saturday and put on a show. His combination of quickness, deep range shooting ability, and a knack for loose balls/putbacks captured the attention of every media member in attendance. 

However, his name wasn’t called for the next round of tryouts. 

Still, in a state of shock, he delivered words of encouragement not just for his self, but others to turn to after a similar letdown. 

“I for sure thought I was going to get a place here, but you just gotta focus and move on,” Browning said. “I quit my job in June to focus on basketball and it’s been paying off. I’ve seen my game increase exponentially.

“I did my best and that’s what matters,” he added. “I appreciate them not picking me up, it’s just going to make me work even harder.”




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Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Most MVP award winners thank coaches, parents and anyone who helped them become great. Elena Delle Donne is not most people.

The Washington Mystic's superstar forward had a lot to be thankful for after receiving the second MVP honors of her career, creating a long list on Twitter. Some injury-preventing accessory manufacturers made their way high up on her list.

Delle Donne became the first woman player to shoot 50/40/90 splits over the course of an entire WNBA season this year, but she was perhaps more grateful for the apparrel that allowed her to stay on the court: her knee brace and face mask. 

The Delaware native often deflects praise onto her teammates and coaches when receiving accolades, but when EDD's knee is being held together by her bulky brace and her nose is feeling protected after a fracture earlier in the season, they definitely deserve the thanks. 

She had a gruesome knee scare in a Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs last season, and even missed some early season games this year in recovery. Still, Delle Donne wouldn't let her knee keep her out of action, as her 31 regular season starts were the most games she's played since 2015. It's been evident she's had an edge all season to help her Washington Mystics get back to the Finals, and this time finish the job. 

Delle Donne's face mask has also been somewhat of a fashion trend in recent weeks with star athletes around the District. Wizards all-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal along with Redskins runing back Derrius Guice, all wore the face masks in solidarity when they came to support the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Despite Delle Donne's nose having been fully recovered, she's kept the face mask on during games for style and reassurance. Considering these ailments, it's impressive Delle Donne's shooting touch not only hasn't been affected, but instead has improved. 

After a Game 2 win over the Las Vegas Aces, Delle Donne and Co. have the opportunity to make their season mantra come true and #RunItBack to a second straight WNBA Finals appearance.