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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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Wizards hire Sashi Brown as senior vice president in front office shakeup

Wizards hire Sashi Brown as senior vice president in front office shakeup

Though the Wizards pulled from within their organization to find a new general manager, the franchise is taking an outside-the-box approach to restructuring their front office. Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis looked all around sports in search for a high-level executive and it was in football where he found his man.

Sashi Brown, a former Cleveland Browns executive, now joins the Wizards as a senior vice president working with and in support of Tommy Sheppard, their senior vice president and general manager, NBC Sports Washington has learned. The two men will run separate groups under a new umbrella called Monumental Basketball.

The new vertical will include the Capital City Go-Go, Wizards District Gaming (the NBA 2K League franchise), the Mystics and a grassroots, local basketball program. Sheppard will oversee all of the pro teams, though the Mystics will have more autonomy under head coach and general manager Mike Thibault.

Brown will handle mostly strategic, big-picture duties. Sheppard will be the head personnel decision-maker and deal with players, agents and the coaching staff. Brown, though, will be part of the process in recruiting free agents and selling the Wizards' organization as a whole.

With Brown in the mix, the Wizards believe they can take the next step in investing in analytics, pro scouting and player development. There will be an acute focus on player wellness and personal development with a division led by former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III, a new hire, and Sashia Jones, who was promoted from the Wizards' marketing department.

The team is also adding an executive to its medical program. Daniel Medina, formerly of the Sixers and FC Barcelona, is coming on board to help with player health and training.

The Wizards will launch youth basketball initiatives, hoping to connect communities between the NBA, G-League, high schools and local leagues. Part of the thinking is the potential long-term benefits when the NBA Draft expands to include high school players. Wizards and Bullets alumni will be involved with those efforts.

Despite the fact Brown comes from the NFL, the Wizards' new dual front office structure is not uncommon in sports. Leonsis' Capitals operate in a similar way with Dick Patrick as team president and Brian MacLellan as senior VP and GM. They are setting it up so Sheppard focuses on basketball and others handle the rest. 

The Wizards' front office will now more closely resemble that of the Clippers and Raptors, which have larger staffs with specialized titles. There will be front office additions announced at a later date as the Wizards beef up their scouting and analytics departments. Leonsis envisions more communication between the front office and ownership within this new dynamic.

Brown, 43, worked in the Browns' organization from 2013 until he was dismissed in 2017. He joined them after working for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A Harvard Law grad, Brown will also provide the Wizards legal expertise. The Capitals have a similar situation with Don Fishman, one of their assistant general managers.

Brown leaves a complicated legacy behind in the NFL. He oversaw an aggressive rebuild by the Browns, one where they tanked to accumulate as many draft picks as possible, not unlike the Sixers did in 'The Process' with Sam Hinkie in charge. 

Like Hinkie, Brown was fired before that process began to bear fruit. Now the Browns are seen as a team on the rise under new leadership and how much credit Brown should receive has been up for debate. 

Brown helped lay the groundwork for the Browns. Now he will try to do the same for the Wizards.


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This video of early Thomas Bryant-Isaiah Thomas chemistry should make Wizards fans smile

This video of early Thomas Bryant-Isaiah Thomas chemistry should make Wizards fans smile

One of the best parts of the NBA offseason, behind free-agency and the draft, has to be the open run's that go on all summer long. These sessions give an opportunity for NBA players to team up with each other, while also playing alongside high school, college, and overseas talent. 

Some new Wizards teammates, Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Bryant, made their way to the Rico Hines private run in Los Angeles, California to establish some chemistry before training camp opens in late September.  

As seen above, IT is no stranger to sharing the sugar as he finished top 20 in the league in assists per game (5.9) in 2016, the last season he was fully healthy. While TB is one of the most efficient rim-runners in the league, leading the NBA in two-point field goal percentage (68.5) last season. 

Could this be a preview of what to expect come season's tip? Wizards fans sure hope so.