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Morning tip: Nene looks 'phenomenal' in return to Wizards


Morning tip: Nene looks 'phenomenal' in return to Wizards

In just 12 minutes, and in Nene's first action since Nov. 27, his play in Wednesday's 121-115 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers give the Wizards hope that they'll emerge from what's now a two-game losing streak.

He took four free throws in less than 90 seconds when he entered at 2:38 of the first quarters. Nene, a 52% shooter from the foul line, missed three of them. But he ended with seven points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal. His strip of Kyrie Irving led to Ramon Session's dunk to tie the score at 95 to erase an 18-point deficit. 

"What you expect. A little sore," Nene said of the left calf strain. "It was good. It's good to be back. I was a little nervous in the beginning but it was good. I've been pushing myself in here. I've been doing the right thing. Now I just got to let the game and conditioning come back. I just got to be patient."

Nene gave the Wizards (15-18) a physical presence that they've lacked at times in the middle. Kris Humphries (knee) and Drew Gooden (calf) sat out. DeJuan Blair, who had been unavailable because of knee soreness recently, wasn't used. Marcin Gortat had 12 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes.

"It was good getting Nene back," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Getting his size back. But we were limited in the amount of minutes we could play him."

It was a short stint but Nene is one of the few players on the second unit who can create his own shot and for others. Gary Neal, who had been out with a thigh strain, had 13 points off the bench. Bradley Beal (leg) is working his way back and probably is a few weeks away.

"Nene played phenomenal tonight," said Jared Dudley, who has had to play a disproportionate amount of time on the low block in his absence. "Gary, you see with the added punch. Once we get Brad and hold the course, we're going to be a good team."

The offense flowed better in the third quarter when the Wizards made 8 of 11 three-pointers, according to John Wall, in part because of the little things Nene did that often go unnoticed. 

"He was key," Wall said. "Rebounding the ball, setting good screens, finishing, giving us another low-post presence who can score the ball and also giving March a break."

[RELATED: Redskins players turn out for Wizards-Cavaliers]

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season


Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.