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Morning tip: Of all Wizards' accomplishments, one box remains unchecked under Scott Brooks

Morning tip: Of all Wizards' accomplishments, one box remains unchecked under Scott Brooks

Long before training camp began in Richmond, Va., almost eight months ago, first-year coach Scott Brooks preached defense. His track record for developing young players and his style were attractive to president Ernie Grunfeld, but the Wizards had lost that hard-nosed edge in a 41-41 season.

The defensive identity that was missing during a 2-8 start appeared to be put to bed when the Wizards entered the All-Star break on an 18-3 streak. Alas, it has returned and there aren't a lot of regular-season games left to correct what's wrong as the playoffs draw near. The latest example came in the first half Tuesday when the Charlotte Hornets -- the 14th most efficient offensive team per 100 possessions -- scored 63 points and shot 60.5%. 

Brooks chewed out his team in the locker room and they played with a desire on the defensive end that can elevate them to the conference finals. They managed a 118-111 victory, though that's still too many points to allow in any game but especially against a mid-level offensive team. 

"I coach with my heart. The time I talk to the players during halftime or timeouts is my honest view of the game, what's happening. I just basically said direct and to the point, we're not giving a good enough effort," Brooks said after Wednesday's practice before departing for tonight's game with the N.Y. Knicks. "We think we can turn it on and off. It's unacceptable. Can't do that. Good teams don't do that. We've been a good team all year by committing to defending and playing for each other. That was the message. I didn't raise my voice. It was just very direct. and I give our guys a lot of credit. We came out in the third qurter and responded."

Regarded as a "players' coach" after his seven-year stint with the Oklahoma City  Thunder, Brooks has shown a more authoritarian edge when necessary. Kelly Oubre paid the price when he lost playing time for being unprepared. Ian Mahinmi has squeezed out playing time from Marcin Gorat as his rim protection and frontline help has been inconsistent. 

Gortat was a key factor in the second-half turnaround in Charlotte, indicating he may have gotten Brooks message. It was one that Markieff Morris called "militaristic' during mini-camp when he visited the Las Vegas summer league team in July. 

In points allowed per 100 possessions, the Wizards' defense is 20th at 106.9. They get 32.6 defensive rebounds per game which is just 23rd-best. 

"It's not always going to be easy conversations. It's not going to be always positive," Brooks, who played in the NBA for 10 years, on how he relates to his own players. "You want guys that respect the job and respect coaching and that's what we have. 

"I have a lot of respect for the players. Been there before. That doesn't give me an edge over the guys who have never played. ... I also understand they need to be pushed and demand exellence from them. I always believe the best players are the self-motivated players. But even the self-motivated players need a push every now and then."

The second unit has been efficient on the defensive end since the All-Star break. In 12 games used, the lineup of Brandon Jennings, Bojan Bogdanovic, Oubre, Jason Smith and Mahinmi hold opponents to 38.8% overall shooting, 30.8% from three-point range, 

The starting five, however, has more work to do though it's a much larger sample size with them playing together all season (69 games). John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Morris and Gortat allow 47% overall shooting and 35.8% three-point shooting. 

[RELATED: Brooks: 'We have to be a better defensive team']

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Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura tops the list of jersey sales in Japan

Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura tops the list of jersey sales in Japan

Today the NBA announced that Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura has the most popular jersey in Japan.

Sales from NBAStore.jp, the official online NBA store in Japan, put Hachimura at the top of the list, followed by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. The rankings were based on online sales during the 2019-2020 NBA season through January.

Hachimura's ranking shouldn't come as a surprise, as the rookie became the first Japanese-born player selected in the first round of the NBA draft when the Wizards took him ninth overall last summer.

Not only was Hachimura the top-selling jersey, but he also accounted for 24% of all jersey sales. Additionally, the Wizards made up 13% of all team merchandise sales. 

The Lakers topped the list of most popular team merchandise, followed by the Wizards and the Warriors. The Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks rounded out the top five.

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Report: Steph Curry will return from hand surgery against Wizards

Report: Steph Curry will return from hand surgery against Wizards

Steph Curry will return to game action when the Golden State Warriors host the Wizards on Sunday night, The Athletic reported Tuesday. The game will come almost four months to the day after Curry broke his left hand during a collision with Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes on Oct. 30.

The Warriors (12-14) enter play Tuesday with the worst record in the NBA having played most of the season without Curry or shooting guard Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL during the NBA Finals last summer.

Curry was cleared for contact Saturday and told reporters that March 1 had been his target date for a while.

"It's always been March 1," Curry said, per ESPN's Nick Friedell. "But that for me mostly is just to give you a target. You have to have something to work towards in the rehab process because that gives you a barometer for each week, what you're building towards."

The Wizards are hoping for the healthy returns of Davis Bertans (sore right knee) and Thomas Bryant (right foot) to the lineup against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday and will presumably go into Sunday’s contest with a clean injury report outside John Wall.

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