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Morning tip: Injury catches Will Bynum off guard

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Morning tip: Injury catches Will Bynum off guard

Will Bynum hasn't played in this series with the Atlanta Hawks, and he only made one appearance in the final game of a sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the first round. But he's one of the last players to know that John Wall had five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist which could elevate Bynum into a more meaningful role come Game 3 Saturday.

After Paul Pierce, Ramon Sessions, Bradley Beal and coach Randy Wittman spoke to assembled media Thursday afternoon about the news, Bynum remained on the practice court working up a sweat with some extra repetitions. It's a common practice here with bench players who aren't getting a lot of time in the rotation. 

When was Bynum told? "Right before the game," he said, referring to Tuesday's 106-90 loss in Atlanta when Wall was a late scratch because of his inability to grip the ball with his left hand. The seven-game series is 1-1.

When Bynum was told the question was in reference to Thursday, his eyes eyes lit up. "See, I didn't even know that. Wow," he said. "Dang. I didn't know that. It doesn't change my mentality. Hopefully Witt will use me."

Sessions will get the start as he did in Game 2. For defense, the Wizards will opt for Garrett Temple. He's their best on-ball perimeter defender and the Hawks have plenty of scorers on the outside. For offense, Wittman could chose to go with Bynum, who is about seven inches shorter than Temple but can be more prone to offensive outbursts with his dribble penetration.

"Our guards have to get in the paint and create easy opportunities. We have to have great ball movement," Bynum said. "And we got to be aggressive on the defensive end. We've got to hit them first. It's pretty simple. The little things like that is the key. It's the energy, the 50-50 balls, the extra pass, the hockey assists, those are the keys to winning the game."

Sessions scored a playoff career-high 21 points in the loss. Bynum's career playoff-high came in 2009 when he scored 22 points for the Detroit Pistons. 

"Because we play Sessions and John together a lot coming down the stretch, in practice Will is getting a lot of reps a that second unit point guard," Wittman said. "He's comfortable with what we're doing and everything."

Bynum took a moment to soak in the news. The last player signed to the roster as a free agent in late March and the last to know. But if Sessions can replicate Tuesday's effort and Bynum rise to the occasion, in a strange way this could benefit the Wizards in the short-term. But that's being extremely optimistic.

"I've been playing for a long time so things happen. You have to be ready," Bynum said. "I know it's tough for John because I know how eager he was for this opportunity. I know it's tough for him. For guys like myself for whoever gets the call to be ready.

"For sure, we can still win. It's just going to be tough without him."

MORE WIZARDS: Compared to these fractures, Wall's unique (not in a good way)

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Wizards open to trading big names? New report says 'every player' available for discussion

Wizards open to trading big names? New report says 'every player' available for discussion

With the losses piling up, rumors about the Washington Wizards’ future will increase. Another report emerged Monday following Sunday’s 119-109 home loss to the Portland Trailblazers.

From ESPN’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski:

As the Washington Wizards' season spirals, the franchise has started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster -- including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal -- is available for discussion in trade scenarios, league sources told ESPN.Washington's preference remains to reshape the team around Wall and Beal, but poor play among key teammates is limiting their trade value and paralyzing the Wizards' efforts to make meaningful changes to a roster that no longer appears functional together, league sources said.

This isn’t the first time this season that a report emerged about Washington’s potential involvement in trade talks. There is a difference, however. Prior reports had the Wizards inquiring about adding All-Star talents like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard to the Wall-Beal pairing as a way to push the projected contenders up the Eastern Conference standings.

This new angle from Wojnarowski is more about breaking up the band because of the off-key tone emerging from this roster after 16 games.

Sunday’s loss dropped Washington to 5-11. Of those defeats, seven have been by at least 10 points including the last two.

The Wizards have several tradable assets particularly with eight of their 13 players entering some form of free agency this summer including starting power forward Markieff Morris and key reserve Kelly Oubre Jr. Moving any of those players could provide some help on the margins or provide a needed wakeup call for a slumbering group. A true shakeup means dealing Wall, Beal or Otto Porter.

Wall’s supermax contract extension starts with 2019-20 season. He will average $42 million annually over the next four years. There’s an additional cost with a move as Wall’s contract includes a 15 percent trade kicker. None of the financial or compensation aspects factors in any deal involving Wall would mean dealing the face of the franchise since Washington selected the point guard No. 1 overall in 2010.

Beal, 25, is the more attractive guard for other teams. His off-ball game would be an easy fit for virtually any team in the league. The All-Star’s contract extension is the more palatable of the trio even with a $28.7 million salary in 2020-21, the final year of his deal. Porter, whose deal also extends to 2020-21, is the Wizards’ highest paid player this season at $26 million.  

Players said last week they don’t want to see trades.

“Everybody just has to be calm and patient,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington Thursday before back-to-back losses. “You hear all the talks about trade everybody, blow the team up. There’s no need for that.”

Portland led 32-12, by 21 points at halftime and 29 in third quarter.

"We've got to just play with more enthusiasm, more effort, more energy," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the loss. "That's embarrassing."

Wall and Beal also weighed in Sunday on the lagging effort postgame.

"You can't teach effort. You can't teach heart," Wall said.

Washington’s deep reserves pushed back in the final period and cut the deficit to single digits briefly.

 “It was terrible,” Beal said of the work from the main rotation players. “The guys who were in it at the end of the game played their asses off – played the way they we’re supposed to play the whole game and we didn't do that.” 

The Wizards aren’t playing the way anyone imagined. With 66 games remaining, there is plenty of time for a turnaround. At the moment, everyone is searching for solutions.
 

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Wizards running out of answers, but players don't seem to want trades

Wizards running out of answers, but players don't seem to want trades

As the Wizards have shown this year, and really since the beginning of last season, there is one particular type of NBA team that gives them trouble. It's the team that plays collectively, with toughness and an edge on defense.

The Wizards allow their opponents to set the tone and the aggressive ones that punch them first usually don't get a punch back.

So far this season, blue-collar teams like the Grizzlies, Clippers and Nets have given the Wizards fits. In those losses, Washington was just trying to keep up, hopelessly reacting on too many plays just a half-or-full-step slower than they needed to.

Though the Blazers are a high-scoring team led by big-name stars, they possess the qualities that expose the Wizards when they are in their most listless form. On Sunday, Portland came out with want-to on defense and a commitment to moving the ball to find open shooters on offense. 

That simple combination was too much for the Wizards, who let the game slip away early, trailing by as many as 20 points in the first quarter alone.

It was hard to watch for everyone on the Washington side; for fans, the coaches and also the players who are losing patience as they grasp for answers to what will fix their persistent woes.

The prevailing message from head coach Scott Brooks' postgame press conference and from the locker room was that they are actively searching for a solution, but that they have no clear sense what that solution is.

"It's embarrassing,” Brooks said, citing effort and energy like he often has this season. “Just trying to figure that out. It's on me."

"I'm not sure. We have to figure something out," forward Markieff Morris said.

"Honestly, I really don't have an answer," forward Jeff Green said, genuinely perplexed.

As the Wizards wilt at 5-11 and in last place, the general consensus from those on the court and the bench seems to be that no major changes need to be made. Brooks suggested he needs to find "five guys on the court that are playing for their team." But he says that all the time and has ever since he took the job before the 2016-17 season.

It doesn't mean wholesale changes are coming.

Guard Bradley Beal pleaded the fifth when asked if trades or firings need to be made.

"I have no idea. All I can do is my job and just like everybody else, and just come in and try to get better every day. At the end of the day, that's Ted [Leonsis'] job, Ernie [Grunfeld's] job to make those decisions," he said.

Morris and guard John Wall each expressed confidence in the players already on the roster.

“I don't think so," Wall said of potentially breaking up the core. "We can still figure it out."

"It's not time for a fire sale," Morris told NBC Sports Washington.

The best insight into what is plaguing the Wizards came from backup guard Austin Rivers. Though he can't put a finger on it, either, he sees some bad signs.

"Our team is like loaded with talent and we're losing game after game. You just start to question it," he said. 

"Guys are like tentative now when they're on the floor. You can see it. You guys can watch it and see it. It doesn't even take a basketball expert to watch... When you lose, guys start getting unsure. We're running and our spacing is terrible. It's just a snowball effect."

Rivers, like Green, went out of his way to say Brooks wasn't the root of it, that it's on the players. He also highlighted his backcourt partner Tomas Satoransky as someone who was exempt from their issues.

"Sato is definitely not the problem. Sato doesn't do anything wrong," Rivers said.

Satoransky was one of the few Wizards players who came out of Sunday's defeat with reasons to hold their chin up walking into the locker room afterwards. He had 10 points, seven assists and was +22 in the box score. 

Like Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. played well. He had 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and three blocks. He was +14. Others like Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr., two youngsters who only played when the game was out of hand, provided a spark of energy off the bench and helped cut the Blazers lead down to single digits late in the game after Portland led by as many as 29.

Brooks has been wary of major lineup adjustments since he arrived in Washington, but it's never been quite this bad. At 5-11, this start is even worse than two years ago, his first season on the job, when they rallied to win 49 games.

If their losing continues, Brooks will have to do something drastic at some point. Maybe that is moving Oubre into the starting lineup and taking Morris out to help guide the second unit. Morris could thrive as a small-ball center, while Oubre could help set a tone defensively with the starters. 

Oubre is their most energetic and active defender. Perhaps that would rub off on Wall, Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

It's clear the Wizards need to change something and the rotation is the logical first place to start. Rivers, for one, wonders if things will get better if they simply stick to the current plan.

"You're just like 'stay with it and it will turn around.' But when? You're digging yourself a farther and farther hole," he said.

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