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Morning tip: Making the most of a less efficient bench on the road

Morning tip: Making the most of a less efficient bench on the road

Scott Brooks went back to a common saying about the Wizards when they play lackluster on defense like they have for the last five games.

“At times,” the coach said after a 119-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, “we hoped that they missed instead of making them miss. When you do that you’re not going to have success in this league.”

And yet, the Wizards (41-25) still went 4-1.

While Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris didn’t always play their best, the reserves again were key in getting them the distance they needed to close games or getting them back in it as they did Monday in helping erase a 21-point deficit to Minnesota. They just couldn't finish off the last one.

“We dug ourselves a hole and a second unit came in and dig a great job of getting us back into the game,” Wall said.

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After Jason Smith didn’t play in 4 of 5 games, Brooks relied on him for 23 minutes in a comeback win over the Phoenix Suns.

Smith was 6 of 7 for 17 points in what was his best performance on the trip. He didn’t play in the next game, at the Denver Nuggets, but went 4 of 4 in 23 minutes, and then 0-for-1 and 2-for-3 in the last two in which he played 8-9 minutes. Smith made all three of his three-point attempts on the trip.

Ian Mahinmi shot a combined 14-for-19 (73.6%) and had seven more rebounds three times in averaging 20 minutes per game. His low-post defense and ability to defend away from rim was needed for versatile bigs like Karl-Anthony Towns.

Bojan Bogdanovic averaged 15.8 points but saw his efficiency shooting dip to 42% (23 of 55). From three-point range, he had two games where he shot 0-for-5 and 1-for-6. But he manufactured his offense from the foul line, going 16-for-16 in one game.

Brandon Jennings still hasn’t found his shot. He missed all eight of his three-point attempts and has yet to make one with the Wizards. He had 22 total assists, however, averaging 13.4 minutes behind Wall.

Tomas Satoransky has played spot duty. He didn't exceed eight minutes in any game but was a solid ballhandler and defensively which helped them get back into games. He only took four shots, making two.

The biggest dropoff came from Kelly Oubre, who played double-digit minutes just twice on the trip, ending with just 39 seconds of action in the final game. The last time he scored in double digits was Feb. 6 in the home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

RELATED: JOHN WALL THE EAST'S TOP PLAYER AGAIN

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

Fans of both crossword puzzles and the Washington Wizards had a leg-up when completing the New York Times crossword puzzle on Sunday. 

The clue: "Wizards, but not witches."

The answer: 7 letters, "NBATEAM." 

This isn't the first time famous crosswords have included sports-related clues. The Washington Post and LA Times have used Bobby Orr as an answer many of times (trust me, we always have a half-finished crossword puzzle hiding somewhere in our living room). 

But athletes aren't the only answers to clues. Remember when the Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan revealed the Washington Capitals' "cult of crossword men" back in 2016?

The New York Times even published a list of the top-10 sports names to know for crossword fanatics everywhere. 

Just further proof that sports continue to permeate every aspect of life. 

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