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Markieff Morris demands better focus from Wizards -- and himself

Markieff Morris demands better focus from Wizards -- and himself

TORONTO -- The discipline that the Wizards lacked in their two losses out of the All-Star break came to the forefront in their latest two victories. Markieff Morris, stroking his chin and cracking a smile, knew not to overreact because it's an 82-game season with lots of ebbs and flows.

"Same team. Ain't (expletive) change. You don't make judgment off of two games," said Morris, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Wedneday's 105-96 wipeout of the Toronto Raptors. "Like I've said, Philly was a trap game. Not taking nothing away from Philly. Fresh off the break, they're playing balls-out hard. We were still in it and had a chance to win it. In the second game, Utah just beat our ass. They were just more prepared than we were."

The Wizards (36-23) have stacked two impressive victories, including over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, to erase the taste of their second loss this season to the Sixers.

They had a focus that was absent when they botched rotations on the perimeter, allowed dribble pentration and failed to make the extra efforts to protect the rim. It wasn't one player at fault but multiple ones.

Wednesday, they disrupted DeMar DeRozan as he had 24 points on just 7-for-20 shooting for Toronto. He didn't make his first shot until 4:20 remained in the first quarter on a post-up of the smaller Bradley Beal, but that was easy as his looks would come.

"It's hard to contest his shot because he has a high release and he's so athletic. He has a great shot fake before and after the dribble," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought we did as well as we could possibly do. We haven't particularly played him well. ... Our guys did a good job of staying engaged. Our switches were good."

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Kelly Oubre would come in late in the first and force DeRozan into a miss on a drive with his 7-2 wingspan. He then harrassed him beyond the three-point line and drew a charge. DeRozan isn't a three-point shooter and he also is a master at the pump fake to get defenders out of position and on his hip. That's how he lives at the free-throw line to supplement his offense. 

When Morris covered DeRozan on switches, he forced him to try to shoot over his 6-10 frame, not allowing him into the lane by biting those up-fakes. 

"We're almost at the point where if you know what a guy's doing and you bite for that pump fake, you got to pay a fine," Morris said. "That's the type of level we're trying to get to. Guys know their assignments, what exactly he's going to do because it's going to be like that in the playoffs once we get there.

Morris only drew two fouls. He was in foul trouble vs. the Sixers and the Jazz. In the latter, he was ejected after he was assessed a technical for arguing a call and throwing the ball. That also cost him a $25,000 fine from the league. He had a flagrant 1 earlier in the game because he was frustrated by a no-call when he was shoved in the lower back by Jazz forward Derrick Favors. 

"I hate to be scored on," said Morris, who had a season-high four blocks on Golden State and then became a set-up man with his ball distribution Wednesday. "I'm being selfish if I take fouls that's going to get me out the game so I'm just trying to get better with that."

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What would the Rockets have to offer for the Wizards to consider trading Davis Bertans?

What would the Rockets have to offer for the Wizards to consider trading Davis Bertans?

The Rockets are in a difficult position with the NBA Trade Deadline less than two weeks away. 

They've fallen to the sixth seed in the Western Conference, James Harden is in the middle of a terrible shooting slump after carrying Houston's offense for the last three months and the Russell Westbrook experiment hasn't produced the results general manager Daryl Morey was hoping for. 

The West is a bloodbath this year, and outside of Harden and Westbrook, the Rockets don't have any reliable offensive weapons with Eric Gordon posting by far the worst shooting percentage of his career (36 percent). With two stars who don't fit well together and a collection of journeymen veterans filling out the roster, Houston is trying just about anything to upgrade their roster. 

According to Shams Charania, the Rockets are making future draft picks available in trade discussions ahead of the deadline. The Wizards have received a ton of interest regarding Davis Bertans and will have to decide whether to trade him before the deadline or risk losing him for nothing in free agency. Could the Rockets sway Washington towards trade?

Bertans' fit with the Rockets would be seamless. They've struggled with floor spacing while Harden has the ball because nobody respects Westbrook's jumper and Gordon continues to struggle. Bertans would alleviate everything for that offense and become one of Harden's favorite kick-out targets. Bertans currently leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot three-point makes per game (3.2), so just imagine the kind of damage he'd be able to do off of Harden's dribble penetration. 

So the Rockets have plenty of reasons to be interested. The next part would be getting the Wizards to part with the Latvian sharpshooter. According to Chris Mannix, any and all trade inquiries into Bertans have gone nowhere, so the Rockets would probably have to come with their best offer to convince Tommy Sheppard to change his mind. 

Here are a few packages that could work. The Rockets and Wizards need to match salary in any trade. A Bertans-for-picks scenario would not be legal under the current CPA. 

Rockets receive: Davis Bertans

Wizards receive: PJ Tucker, 2021 first-round pick

The Wizards are straddling two different timelines at the moment. They have a number of promising young players and might end up with a top-five pick in this year's draft, but they also have Bradley Beal under contract for at least another season and John Wall returning from Achilles surgery next season. 

This trade would give the rebuilding timeline a first rounder far enough in the future where the Rockets could be in the midst of a tear-down, while giving the win-now timeline an established veteran who can knock down threes and defend at least three positions.

If the Rockets think this is too much, they may want to consider the direction of their franchise past this season. It might be time to go all-in. 

Rockets receive: Davis Bertans

Wizards receive: Danuel House, Ben McLemore, 2021 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick

This one would be an alternative if Houston refused to give up Tucker.

If the Rockets acquired Bertans via trade, they'd own his bird rights. This would allow them to re-sign him in the summer without using cap space, which holds significant value to a team like Houston given the fact that Harden and Westbrook will make over $80 million combined for the next two seasons at least. 

It's not certain whether the Wizards would be interested in any of these potential offers or if they even plan to consider talking to teams about Bertans.

Maybe they feel confident in their ability to re-sign Bertans in the summer. There aren't many teams with cap space this year after last year's free-agent spending spree, and the ones that do aren't very good. More money and familiarity could be the way to ensure Bertans stays in DC to play with Wall and Beal. 

What we do know is that there's bound to be more speculation before February 6 and until the clock strikes 3 p.m. on that day, teams will continue to leak information to get the market moving. 

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Bradley Beal's dominance left Cavaliers fans wondering what could have been

Bradley Beal's dominance left Cavaliers fans wondering what could have been

The Wizards may be 15-29, on pace for fewer wins than last year and sport the worst defense in the league by a wide margin, but Wizards fans can find solace in one simple fact. 

They aren't the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Heat one night before, the Wizards waltzed to their easiest win of the season. Bradley Beal was unguardable, Davis Bertans caught fire from three and Cleveland's top-five pick, Darius Garland had another rough shooting night. 

Suffice to say, Cavs fans weren't feeling great after the game last night. Here are some reactions we felt Wizards fans would want to see. 

Sad fans wanting to jump ship

"Absolutely disgraceful performance. In all my years as a fan of this team, I’ve never seen a group of players so lazy and pathetic. I’m taking my fan-hood to San Antonio where it looks like they know how to run a basketball team," said @FreakySportz

"Why do I continue to watch this team smh," wrote @cmcgoingal98

"PLAYERS DON'T CARE!! THIS GARBAGE IS UNREAL!!" @El_Matador92 screamed through his keyboard

"This is a wasted season... They need to trade [Kevin] Love now. He isn't a difference-maker," said @chanowski_j

What could have been with Bradley Beal

Beal had 36 points and eight assists on 15-22 shooting against the Cavs Thursday night. Nobody on Cleveland's roster could contain him, and after the game, it had Cavs fans wondering what could have been if Beal fell past the Wizards in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"We missed him by one spot in the draft," wrote @Hockey_Wolf

 

"I love Bradley Beal's game," said @The Real_DiO

"Beal 15-22 from the floor. You have to go into the game knowing he's the primary scorer. How many wide-open looks did he get?" wrote @CLESportPrspctv

"Not much you can do when a team is that committed to getting their star open shots. And Beal is great when free to shoot or drive... Wizards just were committed and determined to get him free," said @KirkLOB

Love brings Beal back to life

The best moment of the night came after Beal took a charge in the second half and laid flat on his back once he got hit. Then Love came over and did his best to revive the star shooting guard. 

Naturally, the jokes were flying at the Cavs' expense. 

"Love is so ready to be traded lol," wrote @ife_any

"Someone needs to revive Kevin Love's career," said @JRaviloi

"Should've left him for dead. Did you see what he did to us last night?" wrote @Belasic_Mark

"Highlight of the night," said @MomOnWarpath

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