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Morning tip: Can Humphries evolve into stretch 4? He's trying

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Morning tip: Can Humphries evolve into stretch 4? He's trying

For Kris Humphries to retain his minutes in the future with the Wizards, he realizes where he has to expand his game in the same way Drew Gooden re-invented himself by becoming a three-point shooter.

"I never really worked on shooting threes and stuff. I started working on it this year," said Humphries, a power forward who has a mid-range game and doesn't play much with his back to the basket on offense. "I had a lot of success in the last month (practicing) or so I really working on it every day, continue to work on it next year, add to my game."

Humphries has made just two in his career and those game as a rookie in 2004-05. He was 0-for-7 in his first season in Washington. After the Wizards' season ended in an Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks, coach Randy Wittman insisted that playing smaller and faster, meaning using more stretch shooters such as Gooden and Paul Pierce (if he returns) at Humphries' spot, is imperative to be a championship team. 

"I never really got up the attempts or really put the focus on it. Maybe the way this team has been playing I will," Humphries said. "It's only a couple feet difference from where I shoot it really well right now."

While Humphries is a solid rebounder, the spacing on the floor changed for the Wizards after their 31-15 start. The mid-range game didn't work as well and opponents took it away. When they flourished in the playoffs, dealing with the small-ball lineups of the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta that shredded them during the regular season, the Wizards went with Gooden as the backup to Nene. It changed both series and made the Wizards competitive against the No. 1 seed Hawks despite losing John Wall for three games with a broken left wrist. 

Humphries had missed 17 games late in the season because of a left groin strain and despite getting minutes initially to play his way back in the rotation he couldn't. Conditioning was an issue, too.

"It didn't help," said Humphries, who averaged 8.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in 64 appearances. "I can tell you that much. It's one of those things you just sit back and think about. It's tough to see things that you can do to help and not be out there. It's a game. You got to support your teammates."

The Wizards were so successful in sweeping Toronto, who'd beaten them in all three regular-season games, they stuck with Gooden as the rotations tightened as expected. More of the offense ran through Marcin Gortat with pick-and-rolls with Wall while Nene focused on rebounding and doing more of the dirty work. 

But the series with Atlanta changed in Game 5 when Al Horford's buzzer-beating putback gave them a 3-2 edge. He stormed in to snag the offensive rebound from Nene who shouldered much of the blame. Nene, however, followed the ball into the paint on a drive by Dennis Schroder and had to seal Paul Millsap, who had gotten inside of Pierce for rebounding position. Horford had an unobstructed run at full-speed to recoup Schroder's miss. 

The sequence was difficult to watch for Humphries. He only appeared in garbage time of Game 4 in the first round and never played in the second round. 

"Any time you're a guy who's been a great rebounder your whole career and you see them kind of beating you on hustle plays, stuff around the bucket, it's tough," said Humphries. "I thought I handled it well. It's frustrating. You want your team to win. You want to advance as far as possible, knowing that you've been an integral part of what the team was doing all year so I think it throws you for a loop. It's tough. It's the NBA. Got to prepare for anything. Move forward."

MORE WIZARDS: No excuses: John Wall deserves All-NBA over Kyrie Irving

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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