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Key adjustment for Wizards: Revamping sub-par team defense

Key adjustment for Wizards: Revamping sub-par team defense

The Wizards failed to live up to Scott Brooks’ expectations on defense despite a 49-win season.

Had they done just a tad better in the East semifinals, they would’ve gotten past the Boston Celtics instead of losing in seven games.

Brooks’ rotations changed frequently.

The season turned when he went away from Marcus Thornton, who was benched after a disastrous stretch in losses to the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks in early January.

[RELATED: NEWEST WIZARD EXCITED TO IMPROVE TEAM'S WEAKNESS]

John Wall had his moments of brilliance but didn’t have as good of a season on the defensive end. Otto Porter can defend smaller, less physical players at small forward but he has difficulty against the likes of a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony even in his faded state.

That’s all about individual defense. But defense is about more than steals, blocks or one-on-one matchups.

To get to the next level, they all have to do a better covering for one another.

[WIZARDS TIPOFF PODCAST: 1-ON-1 WITH NBAPA VP GARRETT TEMPLE]

Corrective action: Team defense.

The fallout: Wall and Beal had their best seasons as professionals, though both were on fumes the last time out. Wall shot 8-for-23 in a Game 7 loss to Boston after playing 44 of 48 minutes. In the previous game, he logged 42.  Beal played 43 and 46 minutes in the last two games.

The departed: Brandon Jennings, Trey Burke.

The fixes: Kelly Oubre, Sheldon Mac and simple communication.

[BEST OF THE BEST: ELVIN HAYES vs. CARON BUTLER]

The Wizards had a top 10 scoring defense for three consecutive seasons until 2015-16 when they went to a pace-and-space style and came unhinged. In Brooks’ first season, they allowed 107.4 per game which was 21st. Opponents shot 36.4% from three which ranked 20th and 46.6% overall which was just 24th.

Oubre’s strength is defending with his 7-2 wingspan and was able to lock down elite point guards when he was in sync. But he lost his way multiple times in the postseason by dropping rotations. Mac can defend but lost time in the rotation when he made bad decisions, such as going under screens on elite shooters but going over vs. sub-par ones to open up the lane.

Wall fell asleep off the ball and was beaten backdoor. He died on screens and didn’t fight through them enough. And his communication with starting center Marcin Gortat was central to many of the bad things that transpired in the playoffs.

Markieff Morris’ rotations in help were late. Bojan Bogdanovic was exploited because of his lack of foot speed as the Celtics went at him.

There was more than enough blame to go around but by improving their defense by a few points they’re not just a 50-win team but possibly a No. 1 seed in the East.

 

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Grizzlies trade Mike Conley to the Jazz

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Grizzlies trade Mike Conley to the Jazz

A person with knowledge of the decision says the Memphis Grizzlies have traded veteran point guard Mike Conley, who has played the most games in franchise history, to the Utah Jazz.

The person says the Grizzlies swapped Conley for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver and Grayson Allen. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because neither Memphis nor Utah has announced the trade.

ESPN.com first reported the deal, which it says also includes Utah's No. 23 pick overall in Thursday night's draft. 

Conley was the final piece of the core that led the Grizzlies to seven consecutive playoff berths, including the 2013 Western Conference Finals. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen left in 2017 as free agents, and Memphis traded Marc Gasol to Toronto in February, splitting up a duo that had been the NBA's longest-tenured teammates. Gasol went on to help the Raptors win their first NBA title.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has since confirmed that Memphis will also be receiving a 2020 protected first-round pick, which will either convey as a late-lottery pick in 2020 and 2021 or become a lightly-protected pick from 2022-2024. 

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Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Watch I Am the Prospect: Isaiah Roby in full in the video player above. A five-part series, I Am the Prospect follows top basketball prospects in their journey to the 2019 NBA Draft.

One hundred miles west of Chicago sits Dixon, Illinois, a small city of around 15,000 not at all known for producing star basketball players. 

But for Nebraska forward and potential NBA Draft pick Isaiah Roby, it's home. 

"Small town kid, it's something that's always been a part of my identity," Roby told NBC Sports Washington for I Am the Prospect. "I have that underdog mentality and a chip on my shoulder of being from a small town. I have a lot of pride in that."

"I think I'm one of only two or three guys to play Division I basketball out of my town, and that's something I'm really proud of."

Roby's struggle against small town obscurity began at a young age, back when he was playing AAU ball. 

"It took a lot to get to this point for me, especially coming from a small town with not a lot of opportunities so it takes a lot of time and dedication, countless miles," he said. "I would drive 90 minutes roundtrip, or both ways, just for practice, AAU practice."

And in Roby's case, he wasn't the only one making those long trips and dedicating countless hours to furthering his basketball career. Roby credits his mother, Danielle, as a big reason why he's where he is now.

"She sacrificed a lot for me to be in the place I am today and she's my biggest motivator," he said. "She's the reason that I was able to play AAU basketball because those things aren't cheap. You know, traveling, paying for team fees, paying for hotel fees.

"My mom picked up multiple jobs at a time for me to be in those positions and in order for me to be where I am today."

Roby began to gain recognition in Dixon because of his skills on the basketball floor. So much so, his "stardom" affected his job. 

"Growing up, I worked at a restaurant in Dixon, 'world's tallest host' they were saying," Roby recalled. "First I was a host, and as I got better in basketball, people started to recognize me more. They had to move me to the back because it took too long for me to sit people at tables."

However, outside of his hometown, Roby was still relatively unknown. He only received one scholarship offer from a Divison I school, Nebraska, which like Dixon had little basketball history. 

But it was that chance to make some history which sold Roby on becoming a Cornhusker.

"Probably the biggest reason I ended up at Nebraska is because of the coaching staff and the facilities they have there," he said. "Coaches sold me on being a part of something new, trying to start something new at a university. Nebraska is not known for basketball, but they kind of sold me on being a special time in Nebraska basketball history, so that was something that I definitely wanted to be a part of."

During his sophomore and junior seasons in Lincoln, Roby helped the Cornhuskers earn back-to-back berths in the NIT, Nebraska's first postseason appearances since making the NCAA Tournament in 2014. 

In fact, Roby led Nebraska to its first postseason win since 2008, scoring a career-high 28 points in the Cornhuskers' 80-76 victory over Butler in the 2019 NIT first round. 

Now, he has his sights set on the NBA. Roby projects as a low first-round or second-round pick, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig ranking Roby No. 41 on his latest 2019 NBA Draft Big Board.

And after beating the odds to play for a Division I program, Roby believes he can do the same at the next level. 

"In every gym I go into I feel like I'm the best player, so I'm just trying to prove that to all these NBA teams," Roby said. "And at the end of the day, if I get a chance, I'm the type of player that's gonna work hard."

"I know I need to work on parts of my game and develop further, but I think down the line I'm going to be a starter in this league and a player that sticks around for multiple years."

Roby has aspirations to do good work off the court as well, remembering how others helped him and his family in times of need. 

"I grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home. My family did things like shop with a cop on Christmas. The local police department would come and give my family a turkey for Thanksgiving." 

"I've had all these opportunities for people to help me and my family out, so that's something I definitely want to be involved [with] in the NBA," he said. "Being a positive role model for kids in the community, these are all things I'm looking forward to doing for an NBA team."

And as potentially the first native of Dixon to make the NBA, Roby's journey can provide inspiration to anyone with dreams that may seem impossible. 

"I'm living proof that it's possible to come out of anywhere no matter what the situation," Roby said. "If you really, truly care about it enough, anything is possible."

I AM THE PROSPECT