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Gortat comes up big for Wizards in tough matchup vs. Towns, Wolves

Gortat comes up big for Wizards in tough matchup vs. Towns, Wolves

Marcin Gortat was presented with a tough assignment on Friday night, to step into the ring with one of the NBA's best young players, a 7-foot anomaly of skill and size named Karl-Anthony Towns who has been lighting up the league from both above the rim and behind the three-point line. He shoots well from long range, he dribbles past people, he blocks shots and the consensus is that Towns will be competing for MVP awards for many years to come.

Before Friday's game at the Verizon Center, head coach Scott Brooks said the Wizards would start the game with Gortat on him. Brooks said that "hopefully we can contain him."

By Towns' usual standards, they did. The former No. 1 overall pick scored 18 points, but shot just 7-for-17 from the field. Gortat responded to the challenge on defense and did his best to keep up with Towns, who is as mobile a big man as you will find in the game of basketball.

"March did a good job of knowing where he was in transition and getting out to him on the perimeter, just making it difficult for him," guard Bradley Beal said. "[Towns] is somebody that loves to go 1-on-1 and doesn't like to pass much. March did a good job of containing him."

Gortat had three blocks to go along with 19 points and 10 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season. One of his blocks was an emphatic slam on Towns two minutes into the first quarter. Towns drove to his right, only to see Gortat swat the ball out of bounds.

The 19 points deserve their own acclaim, though. The Timberwolves feature two rim protectors down low in Towns and Gorgui Dieng. Despite that, Gortat was able to shoot 9-for-9 from the field. That's the most attempts for a perfect shooting night from a Wizards player since Ben Wallace went 9-for-9 himself in April of 1999.

That's a solid night, though guard John Wall wasn't quite impressed.

When told of the stat, Wall joked: "Did he shoot any shots outside the paint?" 

Wall had more jokes about the veteran center when discussing his game:

“When he’s dunking the ball and finishing around the paint, he makes us a better team. We try to tell him to stay away from the free-throw line and jump shots. I don’t call him the 'Polish Machine' unless he’s dunking like he was today, so he got the nickname back.”

All kidding aside, Wall and Gortat made a lethal combination in the Wizards' win. That included an alley-oop off a screen in the final minute to help seal the victory.

That connection was something Towns himself noted afterwards. As a young player on a team coming into his own, he admires their ability to consistently execute those types of plays.

"Gortat is a good player, I think he's able to finish with both hands, so it becomes a factor. They've also been playing with each other for a while, that chemistry you can see on the court as Wall is going to the basket, Gortat knows when to stop rolling or start rolling... We're building that chemistry too here for the Timberwolves, so when we have that type of chemistry we can do special things too.” 

You know you had a good night when a player as talented as Towns admits he saw something to strive for.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Timberwolves]

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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.


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Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

The Washington Wizards and Mystics join in on Nike’s NBA and WNBA Game Growers program. The Game Growers program is meant to provide eighth grade girls with the skills and assets they need in order to grow their participation in sports in their communities. 

With this new program, the Wizards and Mystics can contribute to expanding the game of basketball for young DMV girls. Along with that, the Washington Mystics just won the WNBA Championships, this is perfect timing for them to introduce the sport to the next generation.

Today, the Game Growers Program officially was put into action, on a YouTube video stream. The video stream had Las Vegas Aces forward A’Ja Wilson, actress Sky Katz, the Director of Operations for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association Terri Jackson featuring in it. They discussed the advantages of being an athlete beyond going professional and encourage girls to apply.

In order for the future basketball stars to get in on the action, they must apply to GameGrowers.com by submitting their ideas on how to grow the game of basketball in their communities. The application opened today and will close on November 15, 2019. The winners will be made public in December 2019. 

By January 2020 two girls will join alongside the Wizards and Mystics in going to Training Camp at Nike’s World Headquarters in Washington County, Oregon. This event won’t only be run by Nike and professional basketball players, but will also have GENYOUth (a youth empowerment organization) tag along as well. At the Training Camp, the girls will have an opportunity to polish up their ideas with Nike and NBA and WNBA teams. 

If lucky, some Game Growers teams will be chosen to exhibit their ideas at the 2020 WNBA Draft, which will be in New York City this April.