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Morning tip: Morris can be most difficult Wizards player to figure out

Morning tip: Morris can be most difficult Wizards player to figure out

If push comes to shove, Markieff Morris won't have a problem doing the shoving. Giannis Antetokounmpo found that out the hard way, and Wizards coach Scott Brooks wants to see more of it.

But the forward who posted 23 points and nine rebounds in an upset over the L.A.Clippers on Dec. 18 didn't resurface until Monday, when he had 18 points in a late comeback from 10 points down to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-102.

"We definitely know that he plays better when he has that edge. Maybe I should pick a pregame fight with him every game," said Brooks, after Morris had set the tone for a physical game in which he had bad blood with Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova. "When he has that edge he's much better. He has to be able to start the game that way."

For Morris, who has had trouble avoiding fouls, a lot has to do with whistles. He has had to sit early because of cheap ones on reach-ins.  If he's allowed to assert himself, he can be more effective but he also has to use better judgment and adjust to game officials.

"With some guys, you're allowed to play with that edge," Morris said about game officials after Tuesday's practice. "Some games you aren't. It was one of those games we needed that edge to win."

Following the win vs. L.A. Morris had just six points on 2-for-9 shooting in a 107-105 loss to the Indiana Pacers. He only had eight in a 107-97 win over the Chicago Bulls. 

What makes Morris so valuable is that he can defend traditional bigs at power forward and step away from the rim to compete with "stretch" types at the four spot. He will fall asleep when defending off ball, which is how Jabari Parker had such a good outing in the Wizards' 27-point loss to Milwaukee on Friday. His rebounding average could be higher (5.7).

Morris hit the go-ahead shot in Monday's rematch with the Bucks for a 99-98 lead the Wizards never trailed again. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter did everything else. 

"Offensively he can score in different areas from the floor. Defensively he has some challenging moments beause he's guarding players he's not used to guarding," said Brooks of Morris, who didn't have as much experience playing this way during his first four-plus years with the Phoenix Suns. "The shooting fours are a thing that's here. It's not going anywhere. He's going to have to continue to improve and always know where his man is and be able to close all the way out to the three-point shooters. When he plays with that edge we're a much better team."

Skillwise, Morris is the Wizards' third-best player. They call isos for him in the low post and even away from the basket. They rely on him more in these sets than Porter who does his best work moving without the ball. Morris' passing ability is an underrated part of his game, too. 

"When I caught it in the post they were doubling me, too. I was just cutting it in the right spots, finding the right spots to get open. It was just one of those games," Morris said of the Bucks. "They were loading up a lot on Brad."

He feels like they owe the Pacers who escaped with a win that shouldn't have been. It'll be clear immediately if Morris brings that same attitude for tonight's game at Verizon Center. 

"We got to get this one, just like the Milwaukee game." he said. "Sometimes you got to get the ball in your hands to make those plays."

That means he wants to be involved in the offense more early. The Pacers could have their hands full much like the Bucks.

"He has that mind-set, he has that killer instinct," Beal said. "If you're his teammate, he's rocking with you. If you're on the other team he's all against you. That's the guy you always want to have around you. He lit a fire under everybody."

[RELATED: Film study: How Wall, Beal get everyone else open]

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Survey of NBA general managers reportedly shows divide in how teams want to proceed with season

Survey of NBA general managers reportedly shows divide in how teams want to proceed with season

A conference call between NBA general managers and commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday revealed a divide as to how the GMs think the league should proceed if able to finish the 2019-20 season, according to a report by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.

GMs were given a survey, the results of which were revealed on the call, and according to the report, they were split on several things:

  • Half the general managers voted to skip the rest of the regular season and go straight to the playoffs

  • More than half voted to reseed the playoffs 1 to 16, regardless of conference

  • About 75 percent voted in favor of a play-in tournament for bubble teams to determine the final playoff seeds; the other 25 percent voted in favor of a World Cup-style group stage

The play-in tournament was reported as a potential option by ESPN on Wednesday. Labeled as a “playoffs plus” format, it would allow teams just outside of the playoff picture like the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings -- all separated by just 1.5 games -- a way to play themselves into the playoffs if the regular season is in fact canceled. 

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The Wizards, currently the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and 5.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, weren’t mentioned in the report, but it did say 20-24 teams would be included. This would likely include Washington.

According to O’Connor, teams with top seeds like the East-leading Bucks and West-leading Lakers favor the play-in option over a group stage, likely because they get an easier matchup against lower-seeded teams and a less difficult path to a title. And because teams will always vote in their own best interest, the survey isn’t an indication of what will ultimately happen.

“There was zero commitment to any one plan,” one of the GMs told O’Connor. “But it was a call to gather more information.”

On Friday, Silver will talk with the league’s board of governors to discuss formats to resume the season, a potential timeline for return, and more. But nothing is expected to be determined on that call either.

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Scott Brooks: Bradley Beal is one of the NBA's best overall players

Scott Brooks: Bradley Beal is one of the NBA's best overall players

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks always has nice things to say about Bradley Beal, his star shooting guard. But on Thursday night's 'Wizards Greatest Hits' broadcast on NBC Sports Washington, he took it up a notch with his praise.

While speaking with host Chris Miller as they watched back the Wizards' Jan. 2019 win over the Knicks in London, Brooks shared some very high compliments of Beal.

"He is really one of the best players in the league," Brooks said. "All-around, not only at guard, he is one of the best players in the league. His game has improved so much over the past three years. He's getting better every year."

As they watched the fourth quarter of that Wizards-Knicks game, Brooks went on about how Beal can flip a switch during crunch time and how sometimes all it takes is a quick conversation between them.

"There are times where I need him to take over a game. I just say 'Brad, it's time,'" Brooks said.

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The best line from Brooks may have been when Beal not making the 2019-20 All-Star team came up. Brooks' coaching peers vote on the reserves and they famously left Beal out, which made for some history combined with his scoring average at the time.

Brooks wants to know from other NBA coaches: "If you don't think he's an All-Star, then why are you double-teaming every single time we play?"

If you get an answer to that question, Scott, be sure to let us know.

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