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Markieff Morris raises level to meet Scott Brooks' demands

Markieff Morris raises level to meet Scott Brooks' demands

The moment the Wizards went after Al Horford in free agency to offer him a max contract, it meant Markieff Morris would've had to return to a role from earlier in his career as a sixth man. 

Morris, still the starting power forward, begins the second and fourth quarters with the second unit players and tends to go against opposing team's second units. And even when he's facing starters, his versatility puts him at an advantage most of the time when he can face up from 20 feet and beat even finesse bigs off the dribble.

"We've figured out who we are as a team," said Morris, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds in Tuesday's 123-108 rout of the Boston Celtics. "Every game we just staying with that same intensity. That same defensive intensity. We're getting wins."

Morris has five double-doubles, with four of them coming since Jan. 1. He also had four assists Tuesday, proving to be a playmaker with the ball from the high post or low as he quickly exploit defenses trying to help on him.

He now has a chemistry with backup point guard Trey Burke that was non-existent for months. They've run the pick-and-roll to near perfection in recent weeks, benefitting from each other's presence.

[RELATED: Beal came up with Wizards' 'all-black' idea, and delivered]

Defensively, Morris has responded. When he was with the Phoenix Suns, he was asked to do so many things away from the rim. Foot and ankle injuries earlier this season seemed to slow him down from a fast start. 

"His ability to switch and guard and make perimeter players take tough shots, I thought that was another important key to our win," said coach Scott Brooks, who has emphasized to the 6-10 vet second efforts and contesting three-point shooters more aggressively.

Isaiah Thomas drove into the paint with the Celtics trailing 91-84 but was stopped at the rim by Morris' help. He snatched the rebound and went to the other end to attack backup Jordan Mickey off the dribble for the and-1 layup which stretched the lead back to double digits. 

Not long after that, Morris hustled back following a turnover and challenged Thomas' three-pointer that hit the side of the backboard. Once he grabbed the rebound it put Bradley Beal in transtion for a throwahead dunk. 

“It’s a simple philosophy. If you contest the shot, he has a less chance to make it," Brooks said. "We’ve talked about that philosophy many of times. It’s the moment of truth. Every possession ends up with either you are going to contest the shot or you’re not. I think we are doing a much better job of doing that." 

The Wizards can play a two-man game with Morris which they exploited in the fourth quarter with Beal posting up the 5-foot-9 Thomas and the big making the entry pass. That gives Beal a high-percentage look if there's no help or Morris can read off the help and get the ball back for a better shot himself. 

Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Mickey had no chance sticking with Morris. Even Horford couldn't defend him well enough on post-ups.

Horford, who starts at center, had 22 points but just four rebounds in his matchup with Marcin Gortat. But he lost that battle just as the Wizards lost out on traveling to Atlanta to recruit him in the offseason.

Morris, who is on a contract that pays him an average of $8 million per year through 2019 and acquired in a deal with the Suns for a 2016 first-round draft pick in a weak class, is averaging 14 points, 6.6 rebounds. 

Horford has the same issue now that he had before leaving the Atlanta Hawks where he also was disadvantaged playing so much at center. He's posting 15.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists, but the Celtics gave him a contract that pays an average of $28.25 million per for four years. 

That's another numbers game that ends up in the Wizards' favor, ending up much better off salary-cap wise in the long run.

[RELATED: Stephen A. Smith has some nonsense reason to claim Wizards-Celtics isn't a rivalry]



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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.


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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has been all smiles in public when discussing his rehab from Achilles surgery. He has even remarked how smoothly this recovery has gone compared to others he's underwent in the past.

But his road back from a ruptured left Achilles has not been entirely free of obstacles. He revealed to NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast recently that he dealt with an infection that delayed him getting out of his walking boot.

That was already weeks after he first had surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel in January. He had a series of infections following that procedure, one of which helped doctors discover his Achilles had torn during a fall in his home.

Wall can admit now after the fact it was a difficult time for him.

"I've just put in a lot of hard work," he said. "For me to be where I'm at right now, with all the setbacks and infections and then finding out my Achilles was ruptured and then going through another infection, it was like 'man, when can I ever get past that point of just getting out of the boot and walking?'"

What made that last part particularly frustrating was where Wall makes his offseason home. He summers in Miami, a place notorious for its humidity.

"I was in Miami during the summertime in a boot. Like, man, I don't want to be in hot Miami in a boot, sweating," he said.

Nowadays, things are much better for Wall. He is doing on-court work at the Wizards' practice facility. He can shoot jumpers and do individual ball-handling and passing drills. He can jog and lift weights.

After months of waiting to just have his walking boot come off, Wall is very appreciative to simply be able to do anything on the basketball court.

"Just to do the ball-handling and be able to shoot and do the weight-lifting, that's a great aspect [of my progress]. It makes it easier for me because I'm in a great space where it's fun," he said. 

"I'm able to do what I'm able to do, even if I'm not playing at a high speed and running up and down, I'm able to shoot and do ball-handling. That's what I love to do."

Wall continues to make progress, now nine months removed from the Achilles surgery he had on Feb. 12. He is likely to be out at least three more months, and he could miss all of the 2019-20 season.

At some point, Wall may get restless, but he continues to preach patience towards his return. When asked by Chris Miller if he will start bothering the coaches soon to play, he said he's just happy to be back on the court in practice.