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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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Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hoped Bradley Beal's decision to sign a contract extension last week would send a message to the younger players on the team. According to second-year veteran Troy Brown Jr., it already has. 

Brown, 20, said he was part of a group of players that cheered Beal when he arrived at the team's practice facility over the weekend, the day after news broke. 

"I was happy," Brown said. "We just appreciate him."

Brown's biggest takeaways from Beal's new contract, which will keep him in Washington through at least the 2021-22 season, involved the commitment he has made. Even as a two-time All-Star in his prime, he is willing to see through what the Wizards are trying to build.

That helped bolster Brown's opinion of the Wizards as an organization.

"It's good to see guys like Brad stay home," Brown said. "Like he talked about, he got drafted here. It makes younger guys like me, Thomas [Bryant] and Rui [Hachimura] feel good about the city, just to see the leader of our team taking that extension when he does have other options."

Like Beal, Brown is a first round pick. The Wizards selected him 15th overall in the 2018 draft, six years after they took Beal with the third pick in 2012. Beal has been around long enough to know exactly what it takes to be a star player in the NBA.

Brown has paid close attention and believes Beal can help him and the other young players on the team find success in the league.

"He leads by example every day. He comes in, works hard and is very vocal. Even if he's not talking a lot in practice, he's going hard," Brown said. 

"It's just one of those things where every time you know what you're going to get out of him. You don't really have to worry about Brad's effort or being a leader because he's going to do that every day."

What Beal has done is essentially say he's ready to be patient and help guide the Wizards through a transition period. While other NBA stars probably would have forced their way out of the situation he's in, Beal is laying down roots with confidence the team's new front office structure and philosophy will pay dividends down the road.

Beal has spoken about how he wants to build something new in Washington where the NBA franchise hasn't won 50 games or been to the conference finals since the 1970s. Brown has fallen in line, hoping to be part of a basketball renaissance in The District.

"We're all young guys in the league, but at the same time we understand the stuff that's going on with D.C. [with the Nationals, Capitals and Mystics]. It's not irrelevant to us. We want to make a name for the Wizards. I feel like with us, we take it more personal than other people do. We just want to turn this thing around," he said.

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Wizards announce 2019-20 opening night starting lineup featuring Rui Hachimura

Wizards announce 2019-20 opening night starting lineup featuring Rui Hachimura

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards have their starting five penciled in for opening night in Dallas as they get set for their first game of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday against the Mavericks.

The two big headliners are Rui Hachimura at the four and Isaac Bonga at the three. The Wizards picked Hachimura ninth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and he has secured a starting NBA job out of his first training camp.

Bonga is in there mostly due to injuries, as both Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles continue to work their way back. The Wizards plan to have Brown start most games this season at small forward, but he is still days away from returning from a left calf strain.

Here is the Wizards' starting lineup, as announced by head coach Scott Brooks:

PG - Ish Smith

SG - Bradley Beal

SF - Isaac Bonga

PF - Rui Hachimura

C - Thomas Bryant

Also expected to be part of the rotation against the Mavericks are guards Chris Chiozza, Jordan McRae and Justin Robinson, plus big men Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner. Rookies Admiral Schofield and Garrison Mathews may also see some time. 

The Wizards will open their season at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on NBC Sports Washington. Live coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Wizards Outsiders.

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