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

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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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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

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