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Morning tip: How Wizards plan to develop another young player in Chris McCullough

Morning tip: How Wizards plan to develop another young player in Chris McCullough

The phone kept ringing, and even when Chris McCullough's agent told him that he had been traded to the Wizards the 6-10 big man didn't believe it.

"It definitely caught me off-guard. It was unexpected," said McCullough, who arrived after the Wizards practiced Thursday and joined them for their first post-All-Star Game at the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. "I was sleeping when it happened. My phone just started ringing, ringing, ringing. I finally answered it. I got a text saying I was traded to the Wizards. I thought my agent was messing with me."

McCullough, who was acquired in a deal that also sent Brooklyn Nets teammate Bojan Bogdanovic to Washington, has spent most of his second NBA season with the Long Island Nets, playing for the D-League. He had to take a pair of two-hour flights to get to D.C. from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Before he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in a game January 2015, five months before the NBA draft. The Nets still took him 29th overall in the first round. 

"People had projected him as a possible lottery pick," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "He’s still coming back off of that injury. He’s 6-foot-10, runs the floor well, he can shoot the basketball, very athletic and he has some upside. We’re going to try to develop him. We’re going to try to work with him and how much he develops we’ll see. It’s really going to be up to him."

MORE WIZARDS: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CHRIS MCCULLOUGH

McCullough's NBA experience is limited because of the injury. He was able to recover in time during his rookie season to play in 24 games. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.8 rebounds when he averaged 15.1 minutes. This season, under a new coach, he only has played in 14 games and averaged just 5.1 minutes in 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds before logging most of his action in the D-League.

"I’m going to try to do the little things, be the guy who hustles the most, diving on the floor for loose balls, anything to (help) my team win," McCullough said. "I like to run the floor, rebound. Hopefully John Wall throws me some (lobs). I’m ready for it."

Just turning 22, McCullough is the type of player the Wizards are willing to invest time in under coach Scott Brooks (see undrafted rookies Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon Mac). They were less likely to do it previously because then-coach Randy Wittman preferred proven veterans. 

Development is a major part of Brooks' lure.

"I did not know much about him. He has good size. Athletic, working on his outside shot," Brooks said. "He's a young, developing player. We don't know what he can be. But I know with myself and our staff, and how we approach all of our players, we're going to push him and demand that he keeps getting better and improving and see how far we can get him. It's not just a throw-in (for the trade). It's somebody we're going to see how good we can get him and we go from there."

McCullough sees himself developing into one of the league's most sought-after assets.

"Be a stretch four," he said. "I think I’m that now. ... I have no idea how good I’m going to be yet."

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Wizards vs. Heat: TV channel, Time, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Heat: TV channel, Time, Live stream, how to watch

The Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak with a nice win over the Pistons on Martin Luther King Day. 

They won't be able to celebrate for long though as they hit the road to play an extremely good Miami Heat team just a couple of weeks after the Wizards beat them without Bradley Beal. 

Can Washington shock everyone once again and continue to play their best against great teams? Here's what you need to know to watch and find out. 

WIZARDS vs. HEAT HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Miami, Game 43

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami FL

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Heat will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Heat on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. HEAT TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Wizards Outsiders

7:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live 

7:30 PM: Wizards vs. Heat

10:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 

10:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live 

11:00 PM: Wizards Talk 

WIZARDS vs. HEAT INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Rui Hachimura (OUT, groin), Garrison Mathews (OUT, ankle), Moe Wagner (OUT, ankle),  John Wall (OUT, Achilles)

Heat: Jimmy Butler (Day-to-day, hip), Justise Winslow (OUT, back)

 

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Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

WASHINGTON -- Go to a Washington Wizards game these days and you may see point guard Ish Smith do many things. He has a mean crossover, is shooting threes like never before in his career and he's a blur up and down the court.

What you will basically never see Smith do is dunk. He hasn't thrown one down in a game since the 2017-18 season. He dunked twice that year, down from four times the season before and down from his career-high of eight the year before that.

Smith has basically eliminated dunking from his game. It's not that he can't, he just chooses not to. And it's for a good reason.

Now in his 10th NBA season, Smith believes the wear-and-tear that comes with dunking isn't worth it at this point.

"I'm saving my legs," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I was watching something and Steve Nash was talking about how he played when he got older - on the ground, pretty much on land. He was preserving his energy because he moved a lot, cut a lot [with] ball-handling and different things like that. I try to preserve all that."

Smith, 31, has achieved a rare level of longevity in the NBA. He went undrafted in 2010, yet has lasted a decade in the NBA as a 6-foot tall point guard. The Wizards are his 11th team, one off the NBA record.

There is an old adage in the NBA that each dunk takes a game off your career. Many things can happen when players are high up in the air and risking contact, but also the simple act of jumping and landing can take its toll on joints and ligaments.

Smith has carved out the career he has by making sacrifices, and that includes dunking. Even when he is alone on a fastbreak, he will just lay it in.

"Yeah, you get breakout layups and stuff like that," he said. "I guess because I have done it, but it's not as tempting as used to be. It's just like get these two points and get back."

When he was younger, Smith would dunk when he had the opportunity. Now he says he's kind of over it.

"I had some dunk-ons [back in the day]. But as I got older, I realized it ain't all that," he said.

Smith now prides himself on a wide array of release angles on layups around the rim. He can finish with his right and left hand, in traffic and off-balance. He can double-clutch and use the glass.

Smith has a way of sneaking under bigger defensive players and timing layups to avoid blocked shots. It's a big part of his game.

But maybe someday soon we will see Smith dunk again in a game. Perhaps he will do so, just to show everyone he's still got it.

"[I dunked] the other day when we were in Toronto, after practice," he said. "After that, I was like 'oh no, I don't know why I did that.'"

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