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Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

LOS ANGELES -- During their previous five-game road trip, the Wizards were able to pull out four heart-stopping victories with two of them comebacks in overtime.

That was two weeks go, and they've begun this one by upsetting the Clevlend Cavaliers on their home floor.

What set up that 127-115 win Saturday was what took place Friday in the first game of a back-to-back.

They routed the Brooklyn Nets 129-108 in a game in which they never were threatened. No starter played more than 24 minutes. That made it easier for the reerves to step in.

"We really locked in, did our job, got the guys some extra minutes rest and it paid off," coach Scott Brooks said. 

This is how elite teams are able to develop their benches heading into the postseason. The Wizards (45-28) didn't have thier leading bench scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, vs. Cleveland because of lower back stiffness the following night but that was OK.

Second-year forward Kelly Oubre filled that void by shooting 7 of 8 for 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Jason Smith continued to show three-point range and an ability to switch onto perimeter players. His play gives Brooks options in the middle behind Marcin Gortat. He can go to Smith or starter Markieff Morris with his smaller lineups or Ian Mahinmi who is a traditional big.

They Wizards have been able to win with Gortat, Morris and even Otto Porter not producing the type of offense now that they posted before the All-Star break. More than any other team in the NBA, all starting five for the Wizards have posted more double-digit scoring games than any other in the NBA. Gortat has stuggled the most and has seen his minutes reduced significantly.

"You don’t need everybody to play at a high level offensively. They just have to play at a high level energy and commitment, focusing on doing the things to help the team win. It’s not about  minutes," Brooks said. "I keep telling all of our guys, 'If you want minutes, you just play well. You get extra minutes. And if you play we’ll you’re still going to get some sub time.'

"We have a good bench and we’re going to use it. Ian has done a great job. Jason has done a good job. It’s not what March has done. He hasn’t played well but our guys have stepped up and played well but he’s going to bounce back."

The Wizards scored 40 points in the first quarter in Cleveland. John Wall set the tone by pushing the tempo even when they didn't have numbers in transition and still got uncontested layups.

Tuesday, it's a game at the L.A. Lakers in the first game of a back-to-back. They should put them away early, too.

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Sashi Brown on his role, team culture and how he can sell the Wizards to free agents

Sashi Brown on his role, team culture and how he can sell the Wizards to free agents

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Wizards have bucked convention by hiring Sashi Brown as their chief operations and planning officer, as he comes from outside the basketball world. He has served as top executive but in the NFL, not in the NBA. 

Brown and Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis, though, believe there are plenty of skills that will translate. After all, there are many commonalities in running the front office of professional sports teams.

They are constructed similarly with executives, scouts, and medical staffs. And the same principles apply to contract negotiations and pitching free agents. 

Brown admits it will take some time for him to acclimate to working in a new league, but is confident his experience as a sports executive, in business and as a lawyer will help the Wizards right away.

"There is far more that will transfer than I think people would imagine," he told NBC Sports Washington. 

"When you have sat in that seat as a GM, the job is so big. These are now billion-dollar enterprises. We've got a lot of things that we want to accomplish and you really just can't have enough talent. That's what it feels like a lot of days. From technology to strategy to contract and negotiation and league initiatives, but also just operational support; things that we would like to get done day-to-day to be world-class."

What could take time is Brown's impact on basketball insight. He was known as a forward-thinking NFL executive when it came to analytics. But advanced stats and their utilization are very different in basketball.

Brown said during his introductory press conference on Monday that basketball decisions will ultimately be made by Tommy Sheppard, the team's new general manager. Brown's role will be making those decisions more comprehensive and informed by organizing and developing the team's resources. 

Between Brown and Sheppard, no one is working for the other. Their boss is Leonsis and they are expected to work in tandem.

"They can focus on the team and the players and winning titles," Brown said of Sheppard and those running the Go-Go, Mystics and District Gaming.

"We're going to be a team. Tommy talked about being a team of teams. Ted would like that as a vision from the top down."

Over time, there will surely be some pain points. Everyone has their own philosophies. There will be disagreements.

But disagreements can be productive. The Wizards feel they need new, outside voices and Brown's fresh perspective will be very valuable to resetting their direction and culture.

Brown knows what that process is like, having started from the bottom with the NFL's Cleveland Browns three years ago. He laid a foundation there as GM that has helped lead to a bright future for one of the NFL's most moribund teams.

Culture is a nebulous concept in sports. It is hard to define. The Wizards just know theirs needs an adjustment.

Brown, for one, believes good culture leads to winning and not the other way around.

"I think that if you're relying on winning to develop your culture you probably don't have a very good culture," he said. "It really has to be the driver for winning. That's what we're going to do. We've got guys that are experienced and passionate that will hold the entire organization accountable."

Brown, 43, has little basketball experience to draw from as he joins the Wizards. He played the sport as a kid growing up. His best claim-to-fame in basketball is that his grandfather coached at Kentucky State University.

"It's been in my family for years. It's in my blood," he said.

What Brown does have a firm grasp of is what professional teams need in order to win. One is a cohesive message when pitching a free agent on signing with them.

Brown will part of that process for the Wizards. He is Harvard-educated and charismatic, the type of person you would want on your side in the negotiating room. And he has a plan to make the Wizards a more attractive destination.

"I think [players] want a commitment. I think they want a chance to win championships. We've seen that in abundance over the last two or three offseasons. The league is transforming itself and continues to evolve. We want to be at the forefront of that," he said.

"Our facilities are top-notch and we'll do everything to keep them there. Our people, our doctors and our medical care for players is great. Our coaching is going to be top-notch and championship-caliber. We want to be comprehensive in terms of what we offer all of our athletes."

Brown is smart, engaging and smooth. It is easy to see why Leonsis is enamored with his potential. Now Brown just has to prove him right.

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Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

 Rui Hachimura and Zion Williamson, two of the most high-profile NBA rookies from the 2019 NBA Draft class, have joined forces on a new team, Jordan Brand. 

The New Orleans Pelicans' new star and No. 1 overall draft pick announced Tuesday afternoon that he'll be signing with Jumpman on a multi-year deal; the details of the deal have yet to be revealed. 

This decision comes about a month after Hachimura became the first Japanese-born player to sign with the brand

Both players have entered the NBA with an incredible amount of fanfare and hype surrounding their transitions to the Association. Hachimura was the star attraction for 61 media members from 21 different outlets in Japan during the NBA Summer League, while Zion's American media presence, understandably, was also substantial.

When Hachimura signed in June it was a dream come true for him and his family. Williamson shared similar sentiments when outlining why he decided to join the Jordan Brand team:

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson told Nike News. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to, and I really can’t express how happy and excited I am for this journey.”

Since their thrilling faceoff in college, when Gonzaga edged an 89-87 victory over the Blue Devils thanks to Hachimura's 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks, the two talents have experienced a similar, yet unique, tip-off to their careers.

It's said that if you look good you play good, and it seems both Hachimura and Williamson have that first part figured out.  

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