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Homecoming workout for legacy Wizard Jerian Grant

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Homecoming workout for legacy Wizard Jerian Grant

Jerian Grant's tour of NBA cities already includes five stops. The latest is easily the most familiar of all and quite possibly where the point guard ultimately ends up during the NBA Draft.

The DeMatha product, Notre Dame star and son of former Bullet/Wizard Harvey Grant participated in the Wizards' first workout session ahead of the June 25th draft. Grant, who co-headlined the session with Utah's Delon Wright, another fifth-year senior point guard, previously worked out for the Pacers, Rockets, Thunder and Suns. Therefore, a fifth opportunity directly in front of an NBA team didn't faze the mature Grant in the least. Neither did the setting. Neither did his father's presence alongside coach Randy Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld.

"I'm home," said Grant, who was raised in the area and spent time on the Verizon Courts growing up. "I walked through these locker rooms and the practice gyms. It brings back memories."

West Virginia guard Juwan Staten, UMass center Cady Lalanne, Stanford center Stefan Nastic and D.C. native Darian Hooker (NYIT) also participated in Monday's workout held on the Verizon Center practice court. 

The Wizards own the 19th and 49 overall picks in the 2015 Draft. Grant and Wright, selected first and second team All-Americans respectively by the Associated Press, are both projected as first round selections.

The Washington Bullets selected University of Oklahoma forward Harvey Grant 12th overall in the 1988 draft. The tweener forward spent his first five NBA seasons in Washington, averaging at least 18 points per game over the final three. Traded to Portland in 1993 for center Kevin Duckworth, Grant returned to the organization as part of the Rod Strickland-Rasheed Wallace deal in 1996. He spent two more seasons in Washington, including the organization's first year as the Wizards.

Jerian Grant is one of Harvey's three basketball playing sons, all of whom starred locally as preps at DeMatha. Jerai, the oldest brother, spent his college days at Clemson before playing professionally overseas. Jerami, the youngest of the three, played 65 games as rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.

"It's big for me," Grant said of his exposure to all levels of basketball. "I've studied the game a lot.  I've been around the game, especially the NBA game my whole life. Just my knowledge of the game, my basketball IQ, being around the game for so long helped me."

Grant rarely left the court during Notre Dame's 32-6 campaign which culminated with an epic Midwest Region finals loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals while playing 37 minutes per game. 

Wright directed Utah to the round of 16 during the NCAA Tournament, including a win over Georgetown. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 36 percent on 3-point attempts. 

It might seem odd that the Washington Wizards would consider taking a guard in the first round of the NBA Draft considering the team's strength lies with the John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt. It probably shouldn't. The Wizards have frontcourt needs, but can go with the best player available, especially if forward Paul Pierce returns.

With Wall's long-term contract, point guard isn't a pressing need. Adding Ramon Sessions at the trading shored up the backup position. However, Sessions' deal ends after the 2015-16 season. He's also more of a scorer than facilitator. Washington used Beal significantly more as a lead guard when Wall missed three games with a fractured hand and wrist during the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta.

[MORE WIZARDS: HOW WILL THE BENCH PERFORM NEXT SEASON?]

The Hawks' use of drive-and-kick point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder either together or in waves kept Wizard defenders on their heels throughout the six-game series.

"I think it would be good fit," Grant said. "Bringing some energy off the bench. Some readiness off the bench. More playmaking. I think I can definitely fit."

At 6-foot-5, Grant and Wright have the size to defend wing guards and play alongside Wall. Grant only shot 32 percent on 3-pointers this season after sinking 41 percent as a junior. He attributed the decline to taking more shots off the dribble rather than being set up with passes on the wing. 

"Putting the ball in my hands or having me run of some screens and spotting up, I think I'm equipped to do both," he said.

Grant's sense of the draft board puts him in the 7-20 range. That could mean landing with his hometown team. Some players prefer getting out of town. Grant doesn't see an issue.

"I'm mature. It's not going to bother me too much," he said. "I have a pretty strong base family. It wouldn't be too bad at all for me."

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Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

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USA Today Sports

Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

 

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards were finally feeling better after that 2-9 start to the regular season. Three wins in a row with three games remaining on the homestand starting with the Brooklyn Nets Friday night. They didn’t conquer all of their problems. But at least they could breathe a bit easier, smile more natural. Heck, they were only 1 ½ games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and three back of third place.

“And we’ve been playing terrible," John Wall said to NBC Sports Washington Thursday night at the point guard’s annual turkey giveaway.  “That’s how shaky it is. You never know how it’s going to go, but we can’t look at that aspect. ... Have to take it one game at a time. Our focus is on Brooklyn right now. Try to win to make it four in a row.”

Last season Brooklyn was one of those non-contending teams that flummoxed the Wizards. Brooklyn finished 28-54, yet won two of three over Washington. While the current momentum was compelling, the reporter told Wall he’s heard such focus talk before and witnessed mixed results. The point guard nodded in acknowledgment.

“You put yourself in that situation, you have to answer (questions) and [reporters] have to ask," Wall said.

Another batch of questions came at Wall and the Wizards Friday. Brooklyn, a try-hard squad lacking high-end talent, dumped Washington 115-104.

The Nets, who lost leading scorer Caris Levert to a nasty ankle injury this week, turned a 56-54 halftime lead into a 19-point margin in the fourth quarter. They also converted 13 Washington turnovers into 19 points.

The Wizards, now 5-10, finished 3 of 17 on 3-pointers. Their defense lacked oomph at the point of attack.

“They were more aggressive than we were, offense and defense,” Bradley Beal said. “They forced us to turn the ball over. We couldn’t make shots [and] we definitely couldn’t guard them. Our one-on-one defense was suspect.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks echoed the defensive struggles.

“The problem was that we couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight,” said Brooks, addressing a broad topic he largely could skip during the recent winning. 

Washington no longer ranks last in scoring defense thanks to the woeful Atlanta Hawks, but the 116.9 points allowed per game serves as a reminder that Friday’s struggles were no one-off.

Brooklyn had its own defensive woes during a three-game skid entering Friday. Second-year center Jarrett Allen, the player the Nets selected 22nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft with the pick acquired from Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade, missed the previous two contests. His return fueled an interior turnaround.

Those stops led to Brooklyn’s generating offense. The Nets, who often used no more than one traditional big man, outscored the Wizards 13-2 in fast-break points. They hit 13 of 15 free throws in the third quarter and finished 30 of 38.

“I thought because we got stops, (we) got into transition, got easy buckets,” Nets forward and ex-Wizard Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Washington. “I thought they were fouling so much we were on our drives. We kept attacking. … I thought defense opened up our offense.”

Wall opened up the postgame Q&A session with reporters in Washington’s locker room. He noted Brooklyn’s constant use of pick-and-rolls with the Wizards switching one through four didn’t work. “Just about every time they drove, they got a foul.”

Wall lives a fishbowl existence. People pay good money to watch him work. That means they witness the highs and lows, the advancement and the learning. Teammates also have eyes on him. All observe the five-time All-Star reacting to some whistles or non-calls he deems incorrect, or his body language during a tough loss.

Wall, 28, acknowledges his role as the team leader. He accepts that fishbowl reality and knows when those frustrations show, everyone can see.

“It’s fun. It’s a challenge," Wall said of being a leader to NBC Sports Washington Thursday. "Every day you have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect, but you have to be good every day. You can’t take a bad day or dwell on something. You have to let that slide because when it gets bad or gets shaky, everybody is looking at you. If your head is down, everybody else’s head is down. That’s something I have to learn."

Despite the streak-busting setback Friday night, Wall stuck with his big picture, no panic approach.

“They just came out and played better tonight. That’s all it is,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington. “We didn’t make shots. We didn’t do a great job of executing. They attacked us defensively. We lost one game. We have to get past and prepare for Sunday with a good team in Portland coming in.”

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Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

Inability to make threes sinks Wizards vs. Nets, who happen to be great at stopping them

In an age where taking and making a lot of threes is every NBA team's goal, the Brooklyn Nets have mastered the ability to prevent their opponents from doing so. The Wizards found that out the hard way on Friday night in their 115-104 loss, which dropped them to 5-10 on the season.

Against the Nets, the Wizards attempted only 17 threes. They made three of them, which is tied for the fewest long range makes for any team this season. 

Only three times this season has an NBA team made only three three-pointers. Brooklyn can boast two of those games, having also held the Cavs to three triples on Oct. 24.

To their credit, the Nets are exceptionally good at locking down the perimeter. After beating the Wizards, they have surrendered the fewest three-point makes and attempts in the NBA.

The Wizards haven't shot well from three this season, but they have at least been good at taking them. They are 27th out of 30 teams at 32.2 percent from three, but their 31.9 attempts per game are about five more than they averaged last season.

Shooting more threes has been the Wizards' intention. It's something head coach Scott Brooks wanted to see this season from his team. 

Though they aren't going in, he believes they will at some point. The Wizards were fourth in basketball last year in three-point percentage (37.5).

But on Friday, the Nets took the Wizards' recent shooting woes to the extreme. They did so by using a two-tiered defensive approach.

They closed out the three-point line, forcing the Wizards to pass or dribble into the mid-range. While the Wizards would normally keep going to the rim, waiting for them was center Jarrett Allen.

Allen blocks 1.9 shots per game and alters many more. He also happens to have been acquired with the 2017 first round pick the Wizards sent over in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. 

Without an easy path to the rim, the Wizards were encouraged to settle for midrange shots. That's exactly what they do not want to do, but they took what the defense was giving them. 

It just didn't work.

"They were clogging up the paint and we just didn’t have anything going offensively," Brooks said.

Of the Wizards' 87 total field goal attempts against the Nets, 80.5 percent of them were two-pointers. Their season average is 63.5 percent.

"They forced us to take the midrange shot, which is a bad shot. It was tough," guard Austin Rivers said.

The Wizards have now lost three of their last four games against the Nets dating back to last season. In the three losses, they have made five threes or fewer. In the lone win, they made 10.

Though threes are always important in today's NBA, they have been a huge determinant of wins and losses in this particular matchup.

Shooting guard Bradley Beal, for one, believes the way to get threes off against Brooklyn is to play faster. He thinks they need to take more in transition.

That may be the case. But they have to figure out something against this Brooklyn team because the current approach hasn't been working.

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