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Morning tip: Marcin Gortat respects Dwight Howard. 'He made me a better player'

Morning tip: Marcin Gortat respects Dwight Howard. 'He made me a better player'

The battles between Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard took place long before these NBA playoffs. For three-plus years the 32-year-old Polish center went at Howard in spirited practices with the Orlando Magic. Their history is well-documented, and a 1-0 series lead for the Wizards doesn't mean he's going to engage in any more chatter than necessary. 

"When I see people tell me that Dwight did this this and that, and the end of the day I know what this kid is going to bring to the table," said Gortat, who had 14 points 10 rebounds in Sunday's 114-107 victory against the Atlanta Hawks. "I'll have to guard him for at least three more games. I'm going to cut (the nonsense) off at this point. I know what this guy is."

Howard had a game-high 14 rebounds but only scored seven points. He shot 2-for-6. Gortat was a dunking machine, even drawing a technical foul for taunting Paul Millsap. 

That likely won't happen with Howard, who is one year younger and in his first year in Atlanta. It's his third team since leaving Orlando in 2012. Gortat, who was a backup who started 19 games in his time here, was traded the previous year to the Phoenix Suns. Two years after that, he was shipped to the Wizards. 

"I know exactly what its like defending Dwight for the first four years. You got to bring your best. You better not lose your focus becuase he's going to punish you, hurt you really bad," Gortat said. "I just try to stay focused for 48 minutes. I'm not going to say anything crazy because I truly respect the guy. We're going to have our little shoving matches, pushes, garbage-talking but at the end of the day he's my vet. He took care of me back in Orlando. I'll never forget what he did for me. That he made me a better player."

[RELATED: Smith, Oubre, sit out Wizards' practice with injuries]

Their battles in practice were tougher than what Gortat experienced in Game 1. It could ratchet upwards in Game 2 Wednesday. The league determined in it's last two-minute report that Gortat got away with two fouls, both came on holds of Howard and Mike Muscala on rebounds. 

"One thing I really love about Dwight is after the game he doesn't take anything personally. I'm not going to take anything personally. Even though he made me bleed every day for my first four years in the NBA. I bled everyday in practice," Gortat said. "I learned to play tough basketball. He made me who I am today. I was going against an animal in practice."

Gortat played good position defense. He helped seal off the lanes to the basket and kept Howard on his hip simultaneously. He beat Howard down the floor, dunked, and got back on the defensive end to push him off the low block before the entry pass came. It was the type of high-motor effort that'll be required for the Wizards to get through this stretch without Ian Mahinmi (strained left calf).

"The stuff that's going down here in the game, imagine the same stuff going three times harder in  practice where you don't have whistles, fouls and stuff like that," Gortat said of the Orlando days. "It was pretty much for me about surviving practice, going to the weight room every day, lift hard because otherwise I'm going to end up in the hospital or a wheelchair."

He avoided the foul trouble that had slowed him in a lot of games after the All-Star break, too. 

"I can't get relaxed over there and make sure I control those fouls," Gortat said. "It's better to have those three, four fouls in the fourth quarter where I can spend them just in case."

[RELATED: Millsap sees Morris, Wizards' trash talking as a trap]

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Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

As the NBA regular season approaches, the Washington Wizards seek to finalize their roster.

The Wizards announced on Wednesday that they have waived Phil Booth, Justin Anderson and Jemerrio Jones. The team also signed 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks and small forward Jalen Jones, according to The Athletic's Fred Katz.

Pasecniks and Jones were signed to Exhibit 10 contracts, meaning that if they are waived, they will have the opportunity to play for the Go-Go, the Wizards' G-League affiliate. Booth was on an Exhibit 10 deal, so he will report to the Go-Go after being waived.

Pasecniks, a 7-foot center from Latvia, was the 25th overall selection from the 2017 draft. The Orlando Magic drafted him and moved him to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for draft picks. The 76ers renounced his rights in June.

Pasecniks played on the Wizards summer league team, averaging 4.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. Jalen Jones has averaged 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc in 32 games over two seasons with three teams.


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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.