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Morning tip: Can Markieff Morris be Wizards' Draymond Green?


Morning tip: Can Markieff Morris be Wizards' Draymond Green?

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It would seem silly to think that the Wizards' hopes of beating the Golden State Warriors at home, where they are 35-0 this season, would hinge on the health of Markieff Morris but they do. Of course, better teams have come to Oracle Arena with a plan and failed miserably when faced with the wrath of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. 

The Wizards (36-37), however, are fighting for their playoff lives and pulling off such an upset could revive them psychologically as well as in the actual East standings.

"We got to go over there and just give everything we have. There's one word that has to stand out in front of everything. It's just desperation," said Wizards center Marcin Gortat. "We got to play desperate. We want to leave everything out there on the court. If we're not going to play like that then we aren't going to have a chance to win."

On Feb. 3, the Warriors won at Verizon Center 134-121, but it was an entertaining scrap in which Curry went for 51 points and John Wall countered with 41 points and 10 assists.

Undersized, the Wizards were starting Jared Dudley at power forward. He was just 1 of 4 for five points as no starter other than Wall scored in double-figures. Now the starter is Morris, who was acquired at the trade deadline and possibly will play tonight. Morris is 6-10, versatile enough to allow the Wizards to switch on coverages, a luxury they weren't able to stick with when Dudley was in the lineup.

Morris sat out Sunday's 101-88 win vs. the L.A. Lakers because of soreness in his left calf to improve his chances of playing Golden State. He's a much better option against Draymond Green, who can play center when the Warriors go to a small-ball lineup and allows them to switch everything and close out shooters more successfully because he can defend positions 1 through 5.

The Wizards are finding that Morris has a lot of the same qualities, evidenced by what he did consecutive games against Carmelo Anthony and Paul Millsap recently. He can hold his own one-on-one in the post and on the perimeter. Not having to help automatically improves the integrity of Washington's defense as a result. 

Golden State (66-7) won't have Andre Igoudala (ankle) and his replacement, Brandon Rush (knee), has been listed as questionable to play. Morris having a big game is a necessary component for the Wizards to have any real chance at winning.

"I think he can help us a lot, being able switch and those type of things are things we're going to need," Wall said of Morris before shifting focus to why Curry was able come within two points of his season-high in Washington by scoring 36 in the first half alone. "He just got off. We were switching (pick-and-rolls). You don't switch Dud on Steph Curry. He don't want to get switched on (him). He was getting open looks and being aggressive, putting Dud in a bind. In the second half we were being more aggressive with him, more physical."

Bradley Beal, who came off the bench after having returned from a leg injury, will have to show up, too. He only had four points against the Lakers. Garrett Temple's defense is pivotal in relief as he has to help make Curry work for every look he gets.

"I think we should change some things because he had 51 points. He's going to hit some tough shots," Temple said. "As long as they're contested shots and he's not getting in the lane and making plays for everybody else, we'll have to live with the contested 30-footers.

"This game is going to be won on the defensive end. The few teams that have beat them they've been able to keep Curry in check and just defend more than one of their big three, Curry, Klay, Draymond."

The tendency is to have Gortat pressure the passer from the high post, in this case center Andrew Bogut, because he's the least threatening of their offensive weapons. But Bogut is a magnificent passer. He'll pick up cutters to the basket particularly when Golden State runs its Triangle actions. The more shots he he's allowed to take, the better off the Wizards will be.

"When Bogut has it don't pressure him. You've giving them the paint so wide open with everybody chasing over the top," Wall said of ball screens and dribble handoffs. "(We should) fall back into a zone and let that man (Gortat) protect the paint. Then you can chase Steph Curry off of threes."

There may not be enough time left in this season to determine how well Morris can work in Washington but he has three more years left on his contract at an average of $8 million each. What he produces compared to what he gets paid -- relative to players at his position and of his quality in an open marketplace -- makes him a bargain.

If he can become anything like Green, who benefits from having once-in-a-lifetime shotmakers around him who arguably inflate his assists numbers, Morris will be a steal.

MORE WIZARDS: Wall shares thoughts on postgame convo with Kobe Bryant                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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John Wall badly wants to win and is sick of perception he cares more about his own stats

John Wall badly wants to win and is sick of perception he cares more about his own stats

John Wall is ready to put the 2017-18 season behind him, behind him like a hapless defender staring at the back of his No. 2 jersey on a fastbreak. 

After missing 41 games due to injuries and falling in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, the Wizards' All-Star point guard is taking nothing for granted. The 28-year-old believes he's about to lead the most talented team he's ever played on.

Wall has made five All-Star teams and one All-NBA selection. After playing for two seasons without one, he signed a reportedly five-year shoe deal with Adidas in 2018. He has a supermax contract, one that kicks in next season and begins at a projected $37.8 million.

What Wall doesn't have is what he's always wanted most. He wants to win.

The Wizards have made the playoffs four times in his career and reached the second round three times. The Eastern Conference Finals, however, have been elusive.

"I'm the type of guy that wants to have a statue out front. I want to bring a championship here. Those are all the things that I care about," Wall told NBC Sports Washington. "If you're not winning as a group and doing things as a team, then you don't get individual success. That's something that I learned a long time ago."

There was a lot about the 2017-18 season that bothered Wall. In particular, he detested the perception that grew that he was unhappy with the team's success while he was injured. 

During Wall's second injury absence, from late January to late March, the Wizards won five straight games and 10 of 13 with him watching from the sidelines.

Though it ultimately proved to be a mirage, as the Wizards lost 12 of their next 17 that he didn’t play, there were numbers early on that suggested their success was because they passed the ball more frequently without him. Comments from his teammates Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat to reporters and on social media were viewed by some as slights to their point guard.

Wall remained silent at first and a lack of communication between the sides allowed it all to bottle up. He did several interviews, including one with NBC Sports Washington, to give his side of the story and to say it was ridiculous he could be criticized for not being a team player.

That narrative still bothers him.

"Some people mistake me that all I care about is individual stats but that's never been my game," he said. "I don't think a lot of people really get that."

"I love to get assists. I love to get 10 assists before I score 30 points. It's just that I have the ability to do both. A lot of guys never had the ability to be able to do both. It's great to do that, but I feel like if I ain't winning then it don't mean s*** to me."

Wall's numbers are historically good for his age and he is aware of the company he's in. He is one of only four players to average at least 18 points, nine assists and four rebounds per game through their first eight NBA seasons. The other three were Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Chris Paul. Johnson and Robertson are Hall of Famers and Paul will be there someday. 

Statistically, Wall is on a Hall of Fame track, but he wants much more than a plaque in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"I think about all of that. Everybody thinks about the Hall of Fame and being the franchise scoring leader and all that," he said. "I have all of those goals, but it don't mean s*** if you don't win at the end of the day. You can be a loser and have all of these records, but what does that stand for?"

Wall has been relatively fortunate throughout his career when it comes to his health, but his worst injuries have come at inopportune times. In 2015, his Wizards were up 1-0 on the Hawks in the second round of the playoffs when he suffered five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand. That may have cost him a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last year, Wall's months-long injury saga began when he banged his knee with a Mavericks player in just the 10th game of the season. 

It was a down year for him and the Wizards in a season in which the Cavaliers were vulnerable, the Celtics had major injuries and the Sixers were still learning how to win. If Washington was at full-strength, perhaps they could have taken advantage.

Now, after an offseason that brought newcomers Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers and Jeff Green to Washington, and that saw LeBron James leave the Eastern Conference, Wall feels he has a serious opportunity to win.

He just wants to get back to the postseason and take another shot at a deep playoff run he believes he is destined for.

"We had a great chance [in 2017]," he said. "We just s***ed the bed. That's how it goes. I don't think [time is] running out, but teams are getting better."


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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.