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Morning tip: DeJuan Blair puts 'dignity' on the line


Morning tip: DeJuan Blair puts 'dignity' on the line

The chance is here for DeJuan Blair to rebound. Yes, the Wizards will need the backup center to do that exact task anyway, but this is about his career which took a major detour last season.

Blair appeared in a career-low 29 games in his first season in Washington. His previous low was 61 with the San Antonio Spurs in 2012-13. Two seasons ago, Blair was key in the Dallas Mavericks' run when they pushed the eventual NBA champion Spurs to seven games in the first round. He never even made an appearance for the Wizards when they advanced to the East semifinals last season. 

"I have a bigger opportunity to get on the court and show what I can do," said Blair, who was behind the now departed Kevin Seraphin in the rotation behind starting center Marcin Gortat and relegated to mop-up duty in blowouts. "I think I can help this team out a lot. It’s a pretty big year for me, where I am in my career, myself, for my dignity, for everything. So I won’t go crazy.

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"It felt like I wasn’t here," Blair said about last season. "It felt like I was just going with the motion. It was something that I got over. It was a phase in my life I want to never happen again."

The reasons appear to be simple. Coach Randy Wittman didn't think he was in good enough condition and the Wizards transitioned to smaller, more fluid lineups as they got closer to the postseason. Because of his three-point shooting, Drew Gooden ate up minutes among the bigs, too.

"I worked hard this summer and tried to come back in the best shape I could, just trying to get out on that court no matter what I’m doing," said Blair, who added that he lost 30 pounds. "It’s definitely motivation. Seeing my team in the playoffs last year and not being able to do anything really (was) a big downfall for me so I dedicated my summer.

"I trained in Florida so I was out on the beach a lot doing a lot of things, hot yoga, a lot of things I’m not used to doing. I’m just trying to take care of my body more."

During the exit interviews, Wittman made it clear to Blair that he was too distracted and not ready to contribute. Blair was granted leave for a death last season as well.

"Not worry about a lot of negative things. Try to think positive. That’s my whole M.O.," Blair said. "Just be more professional. Don’t worry about a lot of things. I’m a worry wart. I worry about a lot of things on and off the court so I just got to stick to what I know and what I can handle and let everything else happen.

"I’m ready mentally and physically. I’ve been waiting a long time."

MORE WIZARDS: John Wall makes $400k donation to local charity

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3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

3 things to watch for improved Wizards vs. Cavs

The Washington Wizards still have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. The Cleveland Cavaliers no longer employ LeBron James. That makes Wednesday’s first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference foes curious. The radical change for the visitors also requires a preview. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Sustaining the surge

Monday’s 117-109 victory over the Orlando Magic extended the Wizards’ winning streak to a season-high two. Don't knock the modest uptick after a 2-9 start. John Wall’s stat line took a big leap over the last three games: 24.0 points, 10.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 45.5 percent on 3-pointers. Beyond the numbers, the point guard appears to have knocked off the remaining rust physically. We’re used to his aggressive end-to-end pushes, but now Wall is firing up the court immediately after makes or misses, helping Washington quickly enter its offensive sets. Another strong outing from the five-time All-Star could propel the Wizards to their first three-game winning streak since Feb. 10-22.

Bench support

Starters Wall, Beal, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris had solid games against the Magic, but it was the Wizards’ second unit playing above previous season norms. All five reserves finished with a plus-minus of plus-8 or better. Jeff Green continued his sizzling shooting, sinking 4 of 5 from beyond the arc en route to 18 points. The 6-foot-9 forward is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall. Backcourt partners Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky, slow to develop chemistry this season, showed increased comfort during the winning streak. Washington needs more from the pair to help keep minutes for Wall and Beal at reasonable levels. That Green and Rivers, in particular, have provided steady help has contributed to Porter sitting out the fourth quarter in three consecutive games.

Cleveland doesn’t rock

From four consecutive NBA Finals appearances to the NBA’s worst record (2-11, tied with Phoenix). Yeah, the Cavaliers miss LeBron James just a little. They also are down Kevin Love (toe surgery), leaving Jordan Clarkson (15.2) and Rodney Hood (12.9) as Cleveland’s top scorers. That’s not ideal. The Cavaliers are 27th in scoring (103.3) while giving up 113.1 points per game, which is better than Washington’s league-worst 118.5. Rookie point guard Collin Sexton, the No. 8 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, is filling in for the injured George Hill. Sexton is averaging 17.0 points over the last three games.


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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

A sluggish start and a handful of woefully inefficient defensive efforts had the Wizards looking for answers early into the 2018-19 NBA season.

But making a major trade was not something the Washington front office was willing to do. As the Jimmy Butler saga reached its climax in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves reportedly attempted to strike of a conversation with the Wizards regarding Bradley Beal.

The details, reported by Marc Stein in his latest New York Times newsletter (via ProBasketballTalk), are minimal, but it sounds like the Wizards quickly brushed the discussion aside as Beal has remained off-limits in their eyes.

Word is the Wolves did try to engage Washington — another team falling well short of expectations — in trade talks for the sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal. But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start. They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts. 

Otto Porter, like many of his teammates, started the season in the wrong direction. But trading Porter is a tricky situation, one the Wizards organization probably doesn't want to pursue given the contract he was signed to just over a year ago. Trying to trade John Wall would be even more difficult.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves dealt Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards rattled off weekend wins over ht eHeat and Magic, and while not equal to making a blockbuster trade, it does show that the Wizards can make an internal fix to what ails them.