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Morning tip: Gortat sees maturation of Wall and Beal


Morning tip: Gortat sees maturation of Wall and Beal

ORLANDO -- While much will be made of the summit meeting held by John Wall and Bradley Beal midway through the fourth quarter of the Wizards' comeback win over the Magic, overlooked was Marcin Gortat's role. He had his input, and his re-telling of what went down is quite colorful.

"I was a witness when these two were talking to each other, exchanging the words, and I tell them, ‘Hey man, you two are the best players on the team but as the third-best player on the team I’m telling you right now it ain't going to work if you two aren't on the same page,’" Gortat said after Thursday's practice. "I said to both of them, 'You two are incredible, talented players and we need different things from both of you. We need you to get aggressive and shoot the ball and we need from you to be the creator push the fast break and make everybody better. At the end of the day we win or die with you.'"

Trailing for most of the fourth quarter, Wall and Beal combined for 19 of their 46 points there. Wall had three of his career-high five blocks. They made plays on both ends of the floor and it culminated with a floater from Wall with 13 seconds left for the winner, 88-87. The duo took 13 of the 18 shots by the starters in the fourth.

Gortat continued about the conversation from his viewpoint: "'It’s not like you two are going to sit down and all of a sudden there’s going to be another two people that’s going to lead this team. It won’t happen like that. ... I’ve seen a lot of maturity from them. They’re different type of players from last year. Working together they changed the game by themselves. …Three years ago they had no clue how to do it."

Keeping things in context, after tonight's game at the Milwaukee Bucks there will be 80 games left so it's premature to say Wall and Beal have arrived. And the win in Orlando came against a team that has averaged 22.6 wins for the last three seasons. But there have been chemistry issues with Gortat and the backcourt in his previous two seasons, particularly on the defensive end, so his praise is a positive sign.

"They understood that either you’re going to cooperate or you’re going to destroy the team. That’s how it is. It's just like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they’re going to cooperate, they’re going to work together and win games or they’re going to actually (expletive) up the whole team," Gortat said. "That’s how it is. These two guys, they’re smart enough, bright enough, they understand we win or lose, we’re going to die with them.

"I set about a million screens. I didn’t even have one post-up touch. I don’t care. As long as we get these two guys rolling, as long as we’re winning games, I don’t care."

There's a lot of grunt work behind the scenes that takes place which can be attributed to veterans of seasons past (Trevor Ariza, Paul Pierce and Al Harrington) and present (Gortat, Nene and Drew Gooden) and coach Randy Wittman. He had to break down Wall from being erratic offensively and lacking discipline on defense and rebuild him into a two-time All-Star who not only sees the game differently but prepares more like a professional.

"You got to have that quality on your team, guys that are going to make plays in the crunch. Good teams have it," Wittman said. "We’ve worked a number of years on development with both the guys. They played with confidence down the stretch.

"It’s not made over night. You got to be able to be a guy that handles missing the shot at the end of the game and be ready the next game to take the same shot. Your skin has got to be thick."

Wall and Beal have had their issues with each other on the court. Who's responsibility is it? Who's fault is it? Who will take the last shot? They'll exchange words but it's nothing personal.

“The more you play together, the more you learn about each other. That’s life, too," Wittman said. "My first year with my wife was a lot different than the 31st year. It’s a process of understanding what buttons you can push with each other, which you might not know the first couple years playing together. It’s a process of understanding those qualities in each other and how to deal with each other, in tough times as well as good times."

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season


Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.