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John Wall listens to Scott Brooks, lowers weight to be better two-way player

John Wall listens to Scott Brooks, lowers weight to be better two-way player

John Wall is an open book about his shortcomings. Coach Scott Brooks blasted his defense in a loss to the Toronto Raptors earlier this season, when he sat his point guard down for a film study session together. And recently he revealed that Brooks wanted him to lose weight so he can be a more effecitve two-way player.

Coming off surgeries to both knees May 5, the leaner Wall has gotten has led to better efforts end-to-end for four quarters.

"I have a lot of respect for him. Had the two surgeries over the summer, didn't play basketball, did the work, put the time in to be able to get back in training camp. Then he gained a few pounds in the process," Brooks said. "He's worked hard to get back down to fighting weight. He has been there about the last three or four weeks. The rust is starting to come off of his game."

Wall has been prone to gambling for steals rather than playing position to stay in front of his man. That can lead to seven steals like he had in Wednesday's 109-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Or it can lead to breakdowns on the interior and put the bigs out of position in a scramble like it has time and again in a 3-9 start, or in Game 5 of the East semifinals when Al Horford's putback dunk cost the Wizards a 3-2 series lead. 

At 6-4, Wall is bigger than point guards such as Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving and every bit as fast. In one of his best performances two seasons ago, he had 10 points and 11 assists in a win over the L.A. Clippers by dominating his matchup with Chris Paul.

Wall had a game-high 25 points and 10 assists vs. Charlotte, but he doesn't have to always turn in performances like that for the Wizards (10-14) to win.  

"I like when he impacts the game with his passing and his defensive play," Brooks said. "That gives our team juice and it gives our team passion when he does that. He had a tough challenge last night but he met that challenge with Kemba (Walker). He has to lock in defensively every night. There's no days off in this league, especially at that spot."

MORE WIZARDS: Markieff Morris' status uncertain

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Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

Rui Hachimura's learning curve can be seen on offense late in games

WASHINGTON -- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has translated so smoothly to the NBA level that it is easy to forget he is still just a rookie with only 31 games under his belt. For a reminder of his inexperience, just look at the fourth quarter.

Hachimura tends to start games hot on the offensive end, like he did on Friday in the Wizards' loss to the Cavaliers when he had eight points by the end of the first quarter. But he scored only nine points after that and went scoreless through seven minutes in the fourth.

That has been a consistent theme for him this season. He averages 4.8 points in the first quarter shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 4.0 points in the second shooting 57 percent and then 4.3 points on 47.9 percent in the third. In the fourth quarter those numbers plummet to 1.9 points on average and 33.3 percent shooting.

Basically, Hachimura often comes out on fire but then slows down considerably once opponents make midgame changes. Against the Cavs, Hachimura said it was because they disrupted passing lanes.

"They are an NBA team. They just adjusted. They didn't want me to catch the ball. They didn't let me just catch the ball. I think that's why," he said.

The Wizards have seen teams switch defensive match-ups midgame to counter Hachimura. Sometimes taking away his midrange jumper will be prioritized. The Cavs seemed to find success playing Hachimura more physically in the second half, bumping him away from his comfort zones.

Over time, Hachimura can improve his ability to sustain scoring throughout games simply by becoming more versatile. The more consistent he becomes at making three-point shots and creating off the dribble, the more difficult it will be for teams to stop him. As long as he keeps improving, he will reach a point where he can stay ahead of the defense with a multitude of counters.

Developing a more reliable outside game and more dribble combinations will take some time. For now, Hachimura believes the key to him keeping up his scoring pace involves working with his teammates, particularly star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

"I just gotta connect more with Brad. Brad is the one everybody is trying to guard. Screens and pick-and-rolls with him, that kind of stuff will help me," Hachimura said.

Hachimura's game against the Cavaliers reflected how the team played overall. After scoring 41 points in the first quarter, they managed only 42 in the second half. They blew a 16-point lead and lost, 113-108.

So, he wasn't alone. And those rooting for Hachimura to round out his game should feel good about his odds. He has a relentless work ethic and is often staying after practice to go over film with player development coach Dave Adkins.

Hachimura is perceptive and driven to improve. In order to take the next step as a scorer, he will have to get better at closing games.

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Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Tristan Thompson calls Bradley Beal one of the best shooting guards in the league

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson spoke with reporters after the team's victory over the Wizards Friday night, praising Bradley Beal, who was snubbed from All-Star consideration this season despite averaging nearly 30 points-per-game.

The Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Thompson said their main focus was neutralizing Beal.

"The Wizards are really good offensively when they are making their runs," Thompson said postgame. "Bradley Beal is an All-Star in our league. One of the top-three two-guards in our league right now, so we were just trying to make it tough for him."

Beal finished the night with 26 points, but struggled from the floor. Beal shot 9-for-28 from the floor and the Cavaliers' stingy defense was clearly a factor.

Beal and the Wizards will have a chance to get back on track on Sunday night at Capital One Arena when they host the Chicago Bulls for the final time this season.

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