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Injuries impacting Wizards opening game roster decisions?


Injuries impacting Wizards opening game roster decisions?

Just before the start of training camp, final decisions over the Wizards opening game roster composition appeared easy, like a 2-on-none fast break. Shame on any of us who had that outlook seeing as little has come easy for this franchise in recent years, especially on the injury front.

The choice of which player or players to keep at the back end of the roster likely will not affect a potential playoff push, one would think. Then again, with three starring players sidelined and the most notable duo - John Wall and Nene - perhaps both out for the early portion of the regular season, Wizards coach Randy Wittman faces an all hands on deck situation.

"It's going to be interesting, it's going to be tough," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of the final decisions.

Wall's stress injury to his left knee, one that will keep Washington's starting point guard out several more weeks, is the bigger picture concern for a team looking to avoid yet another slow start.

Yet it's those missing inside that could lead to a final roster surprise. Nene's lingering foot injury refuses to say no más, leaving the 6-foot-11 Brazilian's timetable for return up for grabs. Kevin Seraphin has missed nearly four full preseason games with a calf injury. The 6-foot-10 big man could easily sit out the final two, slowing the rapidly improving center's progress entering the upcoming campaign.

Without those two formidable interior pieces, Emeka Okafor stands as Wittman's only option at center. 6-foot-11 Jan Vesely is the lone power forward with true power forward height. Combo forwards Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton, both two games back after missing action with various ailments, bring energy and effort but at 6-foot-8 are also undersized for major minutes in the NBA's trenches.

"We're going to have weigh it a little bit. Obviously, we're going to be thin up front," Wittman said. "Your decision in trying to look at who fits that mold best for us, they also might not be the guy you want to keep when those guys are healthy."

The irony is a question entering camp is how Wittman would find minutes for all those frontcourt options, a group that also includes perimeter threats Martell Webster and Cartier Martin. That's why non-roster invitees Brian Cook, who played five games for the Wizards last season, 6-foot-10 Shavlik Randolph and 7-footer Earl Barron figured to be little more than training camp depth despite their NBA experience.

The Wizards replacement plan at point guard centered on having three options - A.J. Price, Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo - man the role until Wall's hopeful Thanksgiving week return. Once the Wizards added Pargo the day before the team headed to George Mason, 15 players on the roster had guaranteed or partially guarantee contracts. That's maximum number of players for all NBA teams.

If Wittman chooses the final roster based on the long haul, those 15 are likely good to go. That means three point guards stick, as does Martin and the training staff works triple overtime on Nene's foot and Seraphin's calf.

If Wittman feels another inside option is required, Cook's 9-year resume, 3-point range and rugged 6-foot-9 frame likely tops the list, though Randolph and Barron have shown enough on the boards to warrant consideration. If this is the scenario, then someone must go. Even if out for several weeks, Wall and Nene will count on the 15-man roster.

Martin, Washington's top 3-point shooter last season, signed a one-year contract this summer. This would be his fourth season spent with the Wizards. That opportunity remains, though he has been squeezed for playing time during much of the preseason.

Then you have Mack and Pargo, the battling point guards and players without fully guaranteed deals. Perhaps Wittman decides that keeping them both is not required with Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal able to run the offense in a pinch. If so, do you hold onto Mack, the Wizards second round pick last season who played 64 games as a rookie, or the 33-year-old Pargo, who offers superior perimeter shooting plus oodles of NBA experience?

Wittman says he does not relish having to make these decisions, in part for reasons that extend beyond X's and O's.

"If I could have a genie come out of the bottle, I'd skip these next two weeks," Wittman said. "This is the worst part of my job; I don't like it, making decisions on guys' dreams. It is what it is. To their credit, all of them are making it difficult on me."

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How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

How one half of assertive basketball may turn around the Wizards' season

The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares. 

So, she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara. 

Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half?

Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions. 

The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially, just a dismal first half that saw them down 24 points and 73-54 at halftime.

The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seemed plausible. 

Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars played like a team wanting to play each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.

John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate. 

“That’s how we need to play,” Bradley Beal told NBC Sports Washington.

“Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.

One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve. 

The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation. The Wizards then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.

“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”

The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break.

Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span. 

“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” Beal said. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A  much-needed win at that.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because of his son, Austin, Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.

“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.

“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”

Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.

We’ll see for how long.


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Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

Markieff Morris unhappy with leaks coming out of Wizards' locker room

The Wizards had just completed a 24-point comeback against the L.A. Clippers, but something wasn't sitting right with power forward Markieff Morris.

When asked by a reporter if it was nice to get the win given their recent losing and the media controversy surrounding the team, Morris couldn't help but wonder who it was who leaked comments made by players behind closed doors at a practice last week.

There were very specific quotes cited by several media outlets and Morris wants to know where they came from. 

"It's f***ed up what's going on," he said.

"The comments that's coming from the locker room, that's f***ed up."

Morris went on to say that anonymous sources leaking information shouldn't "happen in sports." Many professional athletes see the locker room and team-only events like practice as sacred. Anyone who breaks that code is, in their eyes, a traitor.

If Morris knew who the information came from, it sounds like he would do something about it.

"I don't know who it is, so it's hard to address. But it's messed up," he said.

Which player or member of the organization spilled the beans could be a question for this team all season. It doesn't sound like Morris will forget that it happened.