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Internal matters force Wizards to call players-only meeting

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Internal matters force Wizards to call players-only meeting

The doors slammed shut in the Wizards' locker room Thursday, after they lost for the third consecutive time. For the second time in three years, a players-only meeting was required and it seems fitting that their next game is against the Houston Rockets.

It was Trevor Ariza, who left as a free agent for Houston two seasons ago, initiating a closed-door pow wow following a 2-7 start. At that time, there were personal issues between teammates that had to be worked out. This one, after a 117-113 to the Denver Nuggets, was about a team that's 20-24 and on the verge of being home in the postseason for the first time since a 29-win season in 2012-13.

"The flow has been terrible for us these last couple games. That's something that players and coaches have to do a better job," said Jared Dudley, who called himself the team spokesman because he faces the music every time the Wizards play badly. "At times it's good to play Nene and (Marcin) Gortat together. ... What team are we trying to be here? We can't keep coming into this locker room talking about inconsistency because April 15 (when the regular-season ends) we'll all be back at the crib."

Thursday, it wasn't a good start for the Wizards going with their big lineup. They fell behind quickly 10-2 and eventually trailed by 18 in the third quarter. Gortat didn't play at all in the fourth quarter when they made a comeback to tie the score at 99 on a three-point play by Ramon Sessions. 

The Wizards are 1-3 with Nene and Gortat starting the last four games while Dudley, who had been the starter at power forward, coming off the bench.

They've given up 106 points in a loss to the Toronto Raptors, 108 to the Portland Trail Blazers and 116 and 119 to the Boston Celtics. All, of course, are losses, too.

"Everybody can make excuses about us being injured but we have a lot of guys that step up and play big roles," point guard John Wall said. "You got to go out there and compete and do it on the defensive end."

Bradley Beal didn't want to reveal any details about what was said in the meeting, but Garrett Temple didn't hesitate to bring up the obvious.

"That's exactly why. We're not playing defense the way we're capable of. We have to fix it before it's too late," said Temple who had 20 or more points for the fifth time this season in place of Beal while he's on a minutes restriction. "In a few games come All-Star break, if we continue to play like we're going to play then it's going to be too late. We had a little closed-door discussion as a team as players. Hopefully it changes things."

Six players from that initial players meeting remain: Wall, Temple, Beal, Nene, Gortat and Otto Porter.

"Totally different team. It's different things that we talked about," Temple said. "Maybe one or two things that were similar that were brought up. The main point, the main focus was a little different than the one two years ago."

It's clear that Dudley is starting to become agitated by the slow starts and abrupt stops whenever they gain momentum. The Wizards, a team he was happy to join when he was acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, should be in the mix for a top four seeding. That means home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs instead of the two No. 5 seeds.

MORE WIZARDS: FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM LOSS TO NUGGETS

The Wizards made their run with Dudley on the floor all 12 minutes of the fourth. The same goes for Temple and Nene. Combined, they shot 7 of 11 in a 34-point quarter.

"We're trying to find ourselves. We're doing it through games. We're struggling with that. I keep hearing, 'What's our identity?' so basically our identity is to space the floor, put the pressure on," Dudley said. "We're a three-point shooting team that can go into Nene and we have to be aggressive defensively. Those are our strengths. I don't care what lineup is out there. That for this team going forward.

"When it comes to basketball IQ and knowing stuff like that it's apparent that's when we're at our most successful. Defensively, we got to start holding each other accountable. That starts with me helping these guys out where defensively someone's not getting up into them, if it's John, if it's Sessions it starts with the point guards. Bigs talking, Nene, Gortat myself have to do a better job holding each other accountable. Players are going to have to hold each other accountable during the games more to be able to get under guys. That's something I'll do a better job of going forward."

It should be no surprise that when Temple, Nene and Dudley are on the floor the Wizards are at their best on both ends. Per 100 possessions on offense and defense, they are the only three players coming into Thursday that had a positive rating. 

"No matter what scheme you put out there, if guys don't go out and execute the scheme, don't compete defensively, defense is all about heart," said Temple, their best one-on-one defender. "You don't have to be the quickest. You don't have to be the strongest. You just have to have heart and that comes with defending the possession and rebounding.

"All that is heart. No scheme can keep a guy offensive glass. You got to box him out and rebound. No schemes can keep a guy from one-on-one, getting in the paint for a layup. That's not a scheme. That's one-on-one defense and we've got to take pride. We've got to guard people."

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Ian Mahinmi

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Ian Mahinmi

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Ian Mahinmi's season...

Player: Ian Mahinmi

Position: Center

Age: 31

2017-18 salary: $15.9 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.9 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 55.6 FG%, 00.0 3P%, 70.3 FT%, 55.6 eFG%, 107 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 1/12 vs. Magic - 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, steal, assist, 7-for-8 FG, 3-for-4 FT

Season review: After missing 51 games in the 2016-17 season, the first of his four-year contract with the Wizards, center Ian Mahinmi managed to stay healthy for the entirety of 2017-18. He appeared in 77 games and gave the Wizards a good look at the player they signed to a $64 million deal in free agency.

Mahinmi was a mainstay in the Wizards' rotation as their backup center. While Marcin Gortat started all 82 games at center, Mahinmi at times got the nod late in games as head coach Scott Brooks favored his defense.

Though Mahinmi was available all season, he still fell short of the numbers he put up in his last year in Indiana, in 2015-16. Mahinmi's minutes per game were his fewest since 2010-11, and his points and rebounds were his fewest since 2013-14. 

Mahinmi's numbers were affected by his low minutes, as he could never quite crack the top six or seven spots in Brooks' rotation. His numbers per 36 minutes, however, were on par with how he played in Indiana before the Wizards signed him to a big contract.

2015-16 per 36: 13.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.3 spg

2017-18 per 36: 11.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.2 spg

That, of course, only means so much. Mahinmi may have been relatively efficient with his minutes, but the consistency wasn't there to convince Brooks and the coaching staff to increase his role.

It will be interesting to see what the team plans for Mahinmi next season, as this summer could bring changes to their frontcourt. Both of their starting big men - Gortat and Markieff Morris - have one year left on their contracts. If Gortat in particular is dealt, that could open the door for Mahinmi to earn more playing time.

The Wizards could also add to their frontcourt through the draft. If they get a rim-protecting big man in the first round, that could be bad news for Mahinmi's playing time. Like several Wizards players, Mahinmi's role is up in the air entering this summer.

Potential to improve: Finishing around rim, consistency, limiting fouls

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

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Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

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Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

The University of Kentucky was well-represented at the Wizards' first pre-draft workout on Tuesday at Capital One Arena, as All-Star point guard John Wall sat courtside to watch a young player who could join him next season in Washington.

The Wizards hosted Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo just days after interviewing him at the NBA Combine in Chicago, Ill., another sign the 19-year-old is a legitimate option for their second round pick, set for 44th overall in next month's draft.

Diallo, who is originally from Queens, NY., said he is friends with Wall, as the two have crossed paths due to the Kentucky connection. 

"I feel like he knows what I'm capable of," Diallo said.

He now hopes the Wizards front office understands what he can do. Diallo is a defensive-minded wing who measured 6-foot-6 (with shoes) at the combine and with a 7-foot wingspan. He had the fifth-best max vertical leap at the combine, coming in at 40.5 inches. He was also the 12th-ranked player in the class of 2017 out of high school.

The measurables and pedigree are impressive, but Diallo's potential has yet to be realized. He didn't play a game despite attending Kentucky in the 2016-17 academic year. He tested the NBA Draft waters last summer before returning to Kentucky to average a modest 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Diallo has already worked out for the Chicago Bulls and will meet with plenty more teams, but is currently projected by most mock drafts to be a second round pick. This time he hired an agent and will definitely be making the leap.

"It feels good this year going through it with both feet in. It's been a great process," he said.

The Wizards like Diallo's defensive ability, his speed and awareness in the open floor and his potential to improve as a shooter. Diallo shot 33.8 percent from three on 2.1 attempts per game in the 2017-18 season.

"I hope to show my athleticism and how that plays a big part on the defensive end," Diallo said of his goals in pre-draft workouts.

"[The Wizards] are a team that wants to play fast and they have a fast point guard that needs players to keep up with him. That's what I tried to show in this workout, to show how fast I can play and show how composed I can play."

If the Wizards deem Diallo worth taking a chance on, he would provide a nice fit positionally. Though their second round pick could spend much of next season in the G-League, Diallo plays shooting guard and they have a need behind starter Bradley Beal. 

The Wizards see Tomas Satoransky as a possibility at backup shooting guard and Jodie Meeks is expected to return next season on a player option. But those guys were on the roster in 2017-18 and couldn't fill the void behind Beal, who logged more minutes than all but three players in the league. Meeks is also set to begin the 2018-19 season serving a suspension.

Diallo played at a big-time program and has the athleticism to compete at the NBA level early on. He could help a team improve long-term at guarding the perimeter, an area the Wizards have made strides in but still have a ways to go. That was seen in their playoff series against the Raptors when Toronto averaged 11.0 threes made per game and shot 41 percent.

Though it's early in the draft workout process, the Wizards have made it clear they are interested in Diallo.

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