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How Marcin Gortat sets table for Wizards' half-court offense with screens

How Marcin Gortat sets table for Wizards' half-court offense with screens

Setting screens is a nuance of basketball that's taken for granted. But if a team doesn't have bigs who can free shooters, by disrupting coverages by opposing defenses, it won't have very good shooters. Marcin Gortat has long be lauded for his screening.

For several seasons, the Oklahoma City justified having Kendrick Perkins, who was a liability defensively against small-ball lineups as shown in the 2012 NBA Finals vs. the Miami Heat, as its starting center under current Wizards coach Scott Brooks. 

Gortat, however, is different. He's more offensively capable than Perkins, more athletic and has 14 double-doubles just 25 games into the season following his 12 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in Friday's 122-108 win over the Detroit Pistons. The John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt combined for 50 points on 18-for-30 shooting and 15 assists. 

Snapshots of the evidence:

"Marcin did a great job. The thing about Marcin and I see it, every team needs good screeners and he's turning into our best screener and I think he's one of the best in the league," Brooks said. "He doesn't get credit but he gets Brad and John a lot of open looks. If it wasn't for his screens we would struggle.”

Wall was complimentary, too. There have been challenges with his big man when it comes to support on pick-and-roll coverages, but the Wizards' half-court is efficient in large part because of Gortat's role. 

"Our bigs did a heck of a job screening for us," Wall said. 

Indeed, they did. Jason Smith and Markieff Morris had a hand in what happened, too.

There's a back-and-forth banter between the team's oldest player at 32 and his two guards in their mid-20s. Sometimes it gets tense when things aren't going well and that's usually regarding communication on the defensive end. Sometimes Gortat fades on shots rather than going strong to the rim. Sometimes he's reluctant to help because he's overly concerned with his man getting lobs. Gortat wants his backcourt to commit more to stopping dribble penetration to help him out. 

The key, however, is having a respect for each other and how each part helps the whole in an 82-game season that's bound to have its ups and down. And the trio seems to be keeping that balance between them better under Brooks' guidance. 

"He's realizing how important he is and he's realizing how many more shots he can get when he screens," said Beal with a laugh. "When he does that, it frees us up as guards and it gives us more space and a better opportunity for everybody else. He does a tremendous job at it. We're tough on him sometimes, but he's a key piece to our team. We know he sets some of the best screens on the team and it gets guys open all the time. We definitely need to give him more credit than we give him. He does an excellent job. We just need him to be a workhorse and be as dominant as he is."

MORE WIZARDS: HOW SERIOUS ARE ALL-STAR CHANCES FOR JOHN WALL, BRADLEY BEAL?

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John Wall takes another step in rehab, facing teammates in practice

John Wall takes another step in rehab, facing teammates in practice

WASHINGTON -- The steady progress continues for John Wall in his rehab from a ruptured left Achilles tendon, as the Wizards point guard is now facing teammates in 4-on-4 drills at practice.

Head coach Scott Brooks described the games as "controlled," noting they were not full-speed or with contact and featured a 10-second shot clock. But that remains a notable step in his road back after he had previously been playing mostly against player development coaches.

"He practiced for the whole practice. He looked great," Brooks said. "There is still a ways to go. But his energy, his enthusiasm, his strength [looks good]. His shot looks better."

Wall, 29, hasn't played in a game since Dec. 26 of 2018. He had surgery on his Achilles on Feb. 12, 2019. He is currently over 11 months into what is typically an 11-to-15 month recovery.

Brooks, though, makes a point to couch positive updates about Wall with patience. The team has indicated he may not play at all this season.

"I don't know if he plays this year," Brooks said. "We can be patient and we're going to be patient because we need him to be right for a lot of years. This is his career and we know how serious that injury is. He's taking it serious."

Part of the equation is the financial commitment the Wizards have made in Wall. He is due roughly $131.5 million over the next three seasons. They want to make sure he is good to go not just for this year, but that he can be effective for the remainder of his contract.

According to Brooks, even having Wall back to this level has added some positive energy to the Wizards' organization.

"I know the excitement is around because he's around and he's looking [good]," Brooks said. "When he comes back, he's going to be the John Wall we all love."

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Wizards vs. Pistons: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Pistons: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Detroit Pistons are coming in hot on MLK Day, looking for their third straight road win with Derrick Rose in action while Griffin and Kennard are sidelined.

However, the Wizards lead this series 2-1 and are eager to win this matinee after a a tough 140-111 loss in Toronto Thursday night.

After recent frustrations with losing "winnable games," Bradley Beal was held to just 14 points in 23 minutes. Can Beal and company come back strong in the district on Monday?

WIZARDS vs. PISTONS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Detroit Pistons

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 2:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Pistons will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Pistons on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. PISTONS TV SCHEDULE

1:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

1:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

2:00 PM: Wizards vs. Pistons (LIVE)

4:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

5:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

5:30 PM: Wizards Talk (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. PISTONS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: John Wall (OUT, Left Achilles), Rui Hachimura (OUT, Groin), Jordan McRae (Day-to-day, ankle), Garrison Mathews (OUT, Ankle), Anzejs Tasecniks (Day-to-day, Ankle)

Pistons: Blake Griffin (OUT, Left Knee), Khyri Thomas (OUT, Foot), Luke Kennard (OUT, Knee), Reggie Jackson (OUT, Back) 

WIZARDS vs. PISTONS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, G, Wizards (27.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.4 apg): While he was stifled against the Raptors, Beal averages 24 points and 33.3% from 3 vs Detroit.

Derrick Rose, PG, Pistons (18.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 5.9 apg): Rose notched 27 points and nine assists in 136-103 victory over Atlanta Hawks. He averages 18.5 ppg and 50% from the field vs the Wizards. 

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