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Morning tip: Contrasting styles await Wizards in 2nd round


Morning tip: Contrasting styles await Wizards in 2nd round

The more time the Wizards have to collect themselves and recharge, it'll likely be for the better as they wait for their second-round opponent which will be the Atlanta Hawks or Brooklyn Nets.

"Whoever comes out of that series, we can't sit here and say who do we want," said Drew Gooden. "We never played that game. We didn't play that game last year. Whoever it's going to be we're going to prepare for that opponent."

The Wizards went through the entire playbook in their first practice Tuesday after eliminating the Toronto Raptors in four games over the weekend. They sacrificed a few victories and seeding to rest key starters, John Wall, Paul Pierce and Nene, in the last few weeks of the regular season. And they still have yet to unleash all of their weapons as Kris Humphries and Rasual Butler only appeared in garbage time of their final game vs. Toronto, Garrett Temple didn't appear at all because of a right hamstring strain and Kevin Seraphin went mostly unused in the final two games. 

Coach Randy Wittman has a lot of options to tinker lineups if necessary or throw 11th-hour wrinkles into his game plan. The Hawks and Nets, who'll got at least six games in their first-round series, won't have much time to prepare with Game 5 tonight and Game 6 on Friday. The second round would begin Sunday unless Game 7 is needed.

Last season, the Wizards were able to get rid of the Chicago Bulls in five games with Trevor Booker getting the playing time off the bench at power forward. In the next round vs. the Indiana Pacers, who had to go seven games in the first round, Wittman went with Gooden over Booker because he needed more size and outside shooting to open the floor for his backcourt. 

Brooklyn or Atlanta will force similar changes based on their personnel. The Nets have a true back-to-the-basket center in Brook Lopez. The Raptors are more similar to the Hawks in that they are very perimeter-oriented with shooters who can get hot quickly and pile on the offense. Their post players, however, are more versatile which is why the Hawks are the No. 1 seed in the East. 

"Like I told you guys coming down the stretch I didn't care if we played Toronto or Chicago," Wittman said of the 2014-15 regular season that ended with 46 wins and a No. 5 seed for the second year in a row. "I don't really get caught up in that. Either one of them poses its own problem. I don't think one is bigger than the other. Right now I want our guys to continue to focus on us, what we have to do. That's my whole message this week."

The preparation for Atlanta isn't easier because the Wizards just focused on Toronto's guard-heavy offense.

"It's two different teams," Gooden said. "You got to be aware who to double-team because when you swing it to their bigs they have Paul Millsap, Al Horford, those are bigs who can shoot or make plays with the basketball. It might be a different game plan."

MORE WIZARDS: Garrett Temple's return strengthens defense

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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 


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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.