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Morning tip: Maybe Wizards just don't have 'it'


Morning tip: Maybe Wizards just don't have 'it'

Tired of being on the receiving end while they get pummeled on the boards and the hustle plays, Garrett Temple is pretty blunt about the Wizards' overall lack of fight. They just don't have it.

"We never had it this season," Temple said before the team left to play Tuesday's game at the N.Y. Knicks. "We've had it for spurts but we haven't had it for a full 10 games. We had that four-game winning streak. That's why we were able to win games. That's the team that we are. We're physical and it doesn't come from just hitting guys hard or having hard fouls. Physical comes from cracking down, flying around helping your teammate out. We're not physical enough on the defensive end."

In Saturday's 108-104 loss at the Charlotte Hornets, who erased a 19-point deficit to win for the second time in three meetings, the Wizards gave in. The Knicks handed the Wizards (22-27) their first loss of the season by scoring 117 points in Verizon Center. 

"We're not a physical, beat-'em-up team, but you can still be physical. You can be the slightest guy and still be physical," coach Randy Wittman said. "Being physical is first to the ball. In games like in Charlotte, 50-50 balls were definitely in their favor. When you're physical you're more apt to control those type of things. ... We got beat twice without even getting on the floor. They got on the floor and got baskets on both of them. In a two-possession game that's pretty important."

Nene (left calf) hasn't played in the last two games and they usually take a step back in the toughness department without him. But Nene, who is expected to play Tuesday, isn't a full-time player and can't be relied on to bail out the Wizards every time the going gets rough. He will deliver hard fouls and body up his man before he gets to his position on the low block. Nene also will use his powerful frame to keep his man off the boards so his teammates can grab the rebounds instead.

The Wizards, however, are last in the NBA in rebounding at 40 per game. They finished last season ranked eighth because Nene started next to Marcin Gortat. This season, they've gone to a pace-and-space style with Kris Humphries and now Jared Dudley as the starting "stretch" four.

"Teams come out and push us around. First of all we don't rebound the ball well enough. Being physical, you have rebound the ball," Temple said. "Rebounding is all hustle. When you have a team (30)th in rebounding that let's you know you're not a physical team. We give up too many layups. No hard fouls. Until we change that we won't be a physical team."

Wittman sat down with the team in a film session Monday. The inability to be on the same page defensively this deep into a season is troubling for a unit that has its core players from two playoff runs still together. They confused responsibilities during coverages. They don't always recognize their personnel and what they should be giving up vs. taking away from the opponent. 

"We're not going a lot of stuff right. A lot of stuff is going wrong," Temple said. "We might focus on defending the pick-and-roll one day and then the next day focus on rebounding, knowing where our man is, things of that nature. Guys are still focused and understand that we're definitely hearing the message that things need to be changed."

RELATED: Otto Porter will log more time as Wizards' 'stretch' option

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John Wall badly wants to win and is sick of perception he cares more about his own stats

John Wall badly wants to win and is sick of perception he cares more about his own stats

John Wall is ready to put the 2017-18 season behind him, behind him like a hapless defender staring at the back of his No. 2 jersey on a fastbreak. 

After missing 41 games due to injuries and falling in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, the Wizards' All-Star point guard is taking nothing for granted. The 28-year-old believes he's about to lead the most talented team he's ever played on.

Wall has made five All-Star teams and one All-NBA selection. After playing for two seasons without one, he signed a reportedly five-year shoe deal with Adidas in 2018. He has a supermax contract, one that kicks in next season and begins at a projected $37.8 million.

What Wall doesn't have is what he's always wanted most. He wants to win.

The Wizards have made the playoffs four times in his career and reached the second round three times. The Eastern Conference Finals, however, have been elusive.

"I'm the type of guy that wants to have a statue out front. I want to bring a championship here. Those are all the things that I care about," Wall told NBC Sports Washington. "If you're not winning as a group and doing things as a team, then you don't get individual success. That's something that I learned a long time ago."

There was a lot about the 2017-18 season that bothered Wall. In particular, he detested the perception that grew that he was unhappy with the team's success while he was injured. 

During Wall's second injury absence, from late January to late March, the Wizards won five straight games and 10 of 13 with him watching from the sidelines.

Though it ultimately proved to be a mirage, as the Wizards lost 12 of their next 17 that he didn’t play, there were numbers early on that suggested their success was because they passed the ball more frequently without him. Comments from his teammates Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat to reporters and on social media were viewed by some as slights to their point guard.

Wall remained silent at first and a lack of communication between the sides allowed it all to bottle up. He did several interviews, including one with NBC Sports Washington, to give his side of the story and to say it was ridiculous he could be criticized for not being a team player.

That narrative still bothers him.

"Some people mistake me that all I care about is individual stats but that's never been my game," he said. "I don't think a lot of people really get that."

"I love to get assists. I love to get 10 assists before I score 30 points. It's just that I have the ability to do both. A lot of guys never had the ability to be able to do both. It's great to do that, but I feel like if I ain't winning then it don't mean s*** to me."

Wall's numbers are historically good for his age and he is aware of the company he's in. He is one of only four players to average at least 18 points, nine assists and four rebounds per game through their first eight NBA seasons. The other three were Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Chris Paul. Johnson and Robertson are Hall of Famers and Paul will be there someday. 

Statistically, Wall is on a Hall of Fame track, but he wants much more than a plaque in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"I think about all of that. Everybody thinks about the Hall of Fame and being the franchise scoring leader and all that," he said. "I have all of those goals, but it don't mean s*** if you don't win at the end of the day. You can be a loser and have all of these records, but what does that stand for?"

Wall has been relatively fortunate throughout his career when it comes to his health, but his worst injuries have come at inopportune times. In 2015, his Wizards were up 1-0 on the Hawks in the second round of the playoffs when he suffered five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand. That may have cost him a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last year, Wall's months-long injury saga began when he banged his knee with a Mavericks player in just the 10th game of the season. 

It was a down year for him and the Wizards in a season in which the Cavaliers were vulnerable, the Celtics had major injuries and the Sixers were still learning how to win. If Washington was at full-strength, perhaps they could have taken advantage.

Now, after an offseason that brought newcomers Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers and Jeff Green to Washington, and that saw LeBron James leave the Eastern Conference, Wall feels he has a serious opportunity to win.

He just wants to get back to the postseason and take another shot at a deep playoff run he believes he is destined for.

"We had a great chance [in 2017]," he said. "We just s***ed the bed. That's how it goes. I don't think [time is] running out, but teams are getting better."


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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.