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John Wall didn't mind getting hands dirty in surprising return

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John Wall didn't mind getting hands dirty in surprising return

ATLANTA -- John Wall threw himself on the floor with 32.6 seconds left, and the score tied at 78, for a loose ball, corralled it and called a timeout. He slapped the floor repeatedly with his good hand, the right one, as he sensed a Game 5 victory was near Wednesday.

But a 3-2 series lead for the Wizards is oh-so-far away. Wall blocked Dennis Schroder's shot on the final play as he drove to the basket, but Al Horford darted in like a bowling ball to send bodies scattering to grab the loose ball for the putback with two seconds left and an 82-81 victory for the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena. 

"It felt great. I didn't have any problems with my hand," Wall said after having 15 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals. "I was able to play aggressive and make plays so I was fine."

Wall, who was a game-time decision until about 50 minutes before tipoff, started and played for the first time since Game 1 when he fell on his left arm for a series-changing broken left hand and wrist. He has five non-displaced fractures which usually take up to six weeks to heal and don't require surgery. 

Wall scored 11 points in the first half as the Wizards went on a 24-8 run to lead 46-41 at halftime. They had a double-digit lead in the third quarter and had multiple chances to put away the Hawks and win here for the second time. But it wasn't meant to be, even after they erased a 78-73 deficit with 2:29 left.

Wall took a charge from center Mike Muscala earlier in the game. He chased down Schroder to block him in transition with his right hand in the fourth. 

"I thought he was great considering everything," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I don't think he played tentatively at all. I never saw him wince or anything bother him, so that's good. He played like John -- all out. He made a heck of a block on the last play of the game on Schroder at the rim. He had another one in the fourth quarter. I'm just glad to see he kept his left wrist up when he hit the ground."

Bradley Beal had a game-high 23 points for Washington, and the the only other guard off the bench, Ramon Sessions, went 0-for-4 and didn't score. 

"You kind of cringed every time you saw him make a move to the basket and he'd fall," Beal said. "But he's a soldier. He's going to continue to lead us."

For the Wizards to win this series, however, that will require leading them back here for Game 7. 

[MORE WIZARDS: Pierce's mouth outruns game clock in Game 5 loss]

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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.

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