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Grant, Portis fall back while Oubre is on upswing with Wizards


Grant, Portis fall back while Oubre is on upswing with Wizards

Kelly Oubre is starting to earn playing time with the Wizards after not being in the mix when the season began. The player he was traded for on draft night, Jerian Grant, is starting to swoon after sizzling early with the New York Knicks.

It goes to show that there will be spikes, dips and mostly flatliners throughout a rookie season for most draft picks. How long did it take for Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves to find consistency? He's in his second season and has the benefit of being on a bad team that doesn't have any realistic playoff expectations. And because of that, he can start, make mistakes and not get benched.

Oubre, a No. 15 pick, had four points on 2 of 3 shooting in Saturday's 108-99 win vs. the Orlando Magic. His season-high is 11. 

Grant, who was drafted 19th by the Wizards, sent to the Atlanta Hawks for Oubre and later dealt to the Knicks, rose quickly. Grant shot 14-for-26 in his first four games. Now that teams are playing him to put the ball on the floor and drive, taking away his path to the basket and he's struggling at 8-for-32 shooting in his last six games.

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“It’s just called welcome to the NBA. People watch us play, the same way we watch them play,” coach Derek Fisher said, according to the New York Post. “Some guys have made adjustments to how they’re defending him. He’ll learn how to still do what he does best in terms of getting penetration. Becoming a part of this league — and certainly sustaining it — allows you to embrace your weaknesses, the things you don’t do so well.

“For Jerian, he’s going to have to embrace the opportunity that teams are presenting. If they’re going under screens, you’re going to have to learn to shoot from behind those screens, make teams pay for their adjustment by making an adjustment yourself.’’

This is why when a rookie starts off hot or cold, jumping to conclusions at such an early stage is premature. Bobby Portis, bypassed by the Wizards and taken 22nd by the Chicago Bulls, went from averaging a double-double in the preseason to getting on the court just twice now that the games count. He has 12 total points, 10 of them coming in garbage time of a 25-point blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

What does all of this mean? At this point, not a whole lot. 

But the Wizards (4-4) showed why they made a deal for Oubre even though it came in a 24-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. At 6-7 and exceptional athleticism, he was one of the multiple bodies they put on the floor to defend Kevin Durant and it came in the first half when the game remained competitive. 

In the East, that's where his value resides because the best player is LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers who attacks from the wing. Neither Grant nor Portis have the defensive potential of Oubre, who also made his first two three-point shots against the Thunder.

Oubre started the fourth quarter of Saturday's game with Orlando with a 79-76 lead. To play him in a situation like that, with the Wizards desperate to end a three-game losing streak, means coach Randy Wittman sees something. 

He could move up in the rotation and continue to get steady time, or he could fall back when Alan Anderson returns from left ankle surgery. But this is a major step in the right direction for Oubre.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.


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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.