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Morning tip: Soreness lingers for Marcin Gortat after rough week


Morning tip: Soreness lingers for Marcin Gortat after rough week

The past week hasn't been easy for Marcin Gortat, who had been called out by his coach for being "soft" and it left him feeling sore. Saturday, it started to look like another bad outing before things turned and the Wizards got a 108-99 win at Verizon Center, ending a three-game losing streak. He still seems bothered, but only a little. 

"It was actually a good week," said Gortat, who finished with his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds against the Orlando Magic. "My check came in."

Gortat is in the second year of a five-year deal that pays him $60 million. He'd only grabbed one defensive rebound in a 24-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and it drew coach Randy Wittman's rage. Gortat fired back on Friday and made it clear he didn't like being called out. 

"We won the game," said Gortat, who had trouble defending Nik Vucevic as he had 10 points in the first quarter alone for Orlando. "I'm still not there where I want to be. Missed a lot of shots, easy putbacks."

Gortat's saving grace was that he was able to get to the foul line six times in the first half to steady himself. Nene came in off the bench to battle Vucevic for position in the low post which slowed him down. He shot 3-for-11 for the last three quarters.

"We are more aggressive defensively. We're actually going through screens harder than usual. Hopefully we're going to maintain that," Gortat said. "John (Wall) played better today also, pushing transition. We looked good. Kristopher (Humphries) was outstanding raining those threes."

Humphries had a career-high five three-pointers en route to a season-high 23 points.

In the fourth quarter, Gortat's activity paid off. He made a foul shot to complete a three-point play that trimmed the Wizards' deficit to 90-89. He blocked a shot by Elfrid Payton, who he was defending on a switch. The 6-11 center then ran the floor and was able to tip in a missed layup by Garrett Temple for a 94-90 lead. A tap out of a missed shot by Otto Porter produced a second-chance shot for Wall whose jumper extended their lead to 101-94.

"It opens up a lot," Gortat said of Humphries' three-point shooting and the offense. "People are going to start finally opening up the paint for me. At some point they're going to realize it's better to give up two than three. That's going to be great but Kris got to continue to shoot like that."

Ultimately, when the Wizards play like this and don't just rely on Wall and Bradley Beal, who missed his second game in a row with a left shoulder contusion, they will be better off. Temple had 18 points. Wall had 15 points and 11 assists, Porter nine points and 10 rebounds and the bench contributed 30 points and 18 rebounds.  The Wizards had consecutive losses last weekend where they totaled 50 turnovers. In this one, they had just 11. 

"They're franchise players. There's going to be a lot of pressure on them. There's going to be a lot of responsibility on them. They're going to get open shots. They're going to get a lot of looks," said Gortat, referencing Wall and Beal who'd been the closers in fourth quarters. "They're going to take their shots but at the end of the day, especially for John, he's got to make sure he's going to create for everybody and get everybody involved. We got to move the ball. We got to hit the guy who's open. We got games, we got stretches where we playing the right way. We got games where people trying to do it on their own. You're not going to win a game like that in the NBA."

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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.