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Morning tip: Understanding history of Gortat's dust up with Wittman

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Morning tip: Understanding history of Gortat's dust up with Wittman

Randy Wittman and Marcin Gortat find themselves in a peculiar yet familiar situation. They're not seeing eye to eye on what's going wrong with the Wizards in regards to their low-post play, but they need each other to succeed.

The Wizards (3-4) go into tonight's game vs. the Orlando Magic desperate to snap a three-game losing streak. To do so, and live up to their preseason billing, Gortat has to grab more than one defensive rebound in 27 minutes. And he has to produce better season stats than 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 47.3% shooting, all career lows for Gortat as a starter in the NBA.

This all began anew after a 24-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier in the week, when Wittman referenced his "supposed big men" to call out Gortat, though not by name. Then Gortat responded after Friday's practice by calling out Wittman for allegedly violating an agreement to not air dirty laundry. It could get messier from here, especially if Nik Vucevic has his way in the paint vs. Gortat tonight, and it'll be even worse if the Wizards were to lose.

There could be light at the end of this tunnel if they can come to some sort of understanding, but this has been three seasons in the making with plenty of road bumps along the way:

  • Gortat drew first blood with Wittman soon after joined the Wizards in 2013, acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. He publicly questioned his role in the offense during a four-game losing streak, was chewed out by his coach during a road trip in New York and could be seen profusely apologizing that morning. Wittman contended that Gortat is consciously drifting away from the basket rather than rolling hard towards it. It's a read and react that he's responsible for, not the coaches or the teammate who feeds him the ball. And two years later, this topic still is being batted around.

  • The spats have happened with teammates, too. Last season, Gortat and John Wall were on completely different pages when it came to pick-and-roll defensive responsibilities, and there were spirited discussions at practices between the two and coaches when they were mired in a losing streak. After Gortat blamed individual defense on a 38-point loss to the Cavaliers and teammates relying too much on help, Paul Pierce shot back. "That's what basketball is. I don't know what March is talking about," Pierce said. "Because when you play a team game you play help defense." For months after this, Gortat rarely made himself available for interviews and when he did he gave one- and two-word answers.

  • Gortat is the only true center on the roster. Drew Gooden is 6-10 but he's a three-point shooter and undersized to go against the likes of Andre Drummond (Pistons) in the low post. Kris Humphries played at the five some before coming here from the Boston Celtics but he's a face-up player and doesn't play with his back to the basket. DeJuan Blair is undersized at 6-7 and isn't as athletic or mobile. So barring trading Gortat for another player with a comparable salary and size, the Wizards don't have many options. Nene is Gortat's backup and had 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench when he last played, but back spasms kept him out vs. the Thunder. At 33, Nene can't be relied on to play starter's minutes. Gortat remains the best option and there's no reason why he shouldn't average 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. 

  • This is the final fully guaranteed year of Wittman's contract, with the 2016-17 season a partial guarantee. The Wizards are not just trying to get at least to the conference finals, which they were near reaching until Wall broke his left wrist in last season's semifinals, but must show stability and a unified front going into free agency. Yes, they want to be able to tell Kevin Durant, "Look how close we are to winning a championship. Look how good of a locker room we have, something you've grown accustomed to in Oklahoma City." This pitch isn't as believable if the Wizards have a .500 record, exit in the first round of the playoffs and having players choosing sides to deepen the turmoil. The Wizards are not getting rid of anyone at this point for the sake of doing so without a comparable replacement. Right now, that's not an option. 

  • If Wall can take the criticism, so can Gortat. Think back to two seasons ago. The Wizards hadn't made the playoffs in six seasons. They were struggling to get over .500 and they lay an egg against the lowly Celtics at home, losing in double overtime as Phil Pressey scored a career-high 20 points. Wittman was irate that Wall, who he believed took him for granted because he was an undrafted and unaccomplished player and only was on the court because Boston was riddled with injuries. Earlier in that same season, Wall blew off Wittman's critique when the Wizards lost to the Milwaukee Bucks at home and called into question his point guard's leadership -- after he'd signed a five-year, $80 million max contract and before Wittman was given a three-year extension. Regardless what anyone says about Wittman, he doesn't cower to star players in hopes he can keep his job and he's not about to dial it back for Gortat. Wall became an All-Star for the first time that season, and then again last season. Said Wall after he was reminded of that public spat: "You don’t want to hear it, but that’s the kind of relationship we have. Even when he was an assistant coach that’s what I’ve been dealing with of him saying, 'You ain't doing this. You ain't doing that.’ If you want to be the best player on the team, be the franchise guy, you’ve got to take that criticism in front of the team so those guys sit back and accept it." And before anyone says this isn't a common practice in the NBA, yes it is. Gregg Popovich has done it even with Tim Duncan his entire career. 

  • When Glen Rice Jr. was cut, it was because he was in the second year of a deal that wasn't fully guaranteed. So when he kept backtalking to Wittman at practice and showed him up on the sideline in a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors, he never appeared in uniform for them again. Rice was well-liked in the locker room, but even teammates understood why the decision that was made. And they painted this picture about Wittman that Gortat hasn't grasped. Wittman will vent. He will yell (and this goes for media, too). But when that moment is over, it's done. He'll say "Hello" to you the next morning and even smile. The point being, Wittman doesn't carry that bad blood with him and he expects players, who are supposed to be professionals, to be able to do the same. And that's how he wants his players to deal with each other so they don't hold on to negative feelings that could hurt the team long-term. Gortat said he has no desire to sit down and talk with Wittman about this latest episode, but he might not have a choice. 


MORE: Michael Jenkins gets exclusive interview with "Boogie Cousins" 

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Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

Swaggy Picasso's Sole Talk had the Wizards taking notice opening night

The connection between athletes and their fans is a powerful thing in sports. The NBA is one of the trendiest, fashion-forward leagues in the world. From shoe design to overall wardrobe to eccentric personalities...the Association has it all on display for fans across the globe to consume. 

Lloyd Ferguson, a fan himself and native of Silver Spring, Md., is bursting onto the customized sneakers scene as an up-and-coming artist. 

His Instagram (@SwaggyPicasso) serves as his personal laboratory and a platform to share his creations. 

Prior to the start of Thursday night's Wizards-Heat game, NBC Sports Washington invited Ferguson to Capital One Arena for what would become a memorable night for the 23-year-old. 

Chris Miller and Drew Gooden featured Swaggy Picasso on the pregame show for an interview and sneaker showcase.

"The inside of my body was jiggling and moving. I was like 'I gotta keep composed and stay cool. You're on national televison, Lloyd.'" 

You would have never known it. 

Ferguson, who was a basketball player himself locally, grew up a Wizards and D.C. sports fan all around. 

Little did he know several Wizards would take notice of his artwork. 

Kelly Oubre, Devin Robinson and John Wall - each known for their wardrobes and respective styles - stopped by to take a peek at Ferguson's kicks. 

"Their reactions to my art was all I needed, honestly. They see the potential and growth. It's very overwhelming." 

It was a groundbreaking night for a young talent with lofty dreams and aspirations. 

Swaggy Picasso has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

"I've been busting out these shoes day and night. I don't sleep. My desire to paint shoes is ridiculous." 

 

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Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. Raptors: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards take to the court Saturday night looking for their first win of the season against the Toronto Raptors. 

In their first game of the season the Wizards laid an egg after the Miami Heat were missing three rotation players on the second end of a back-to-back. Similar problems emerged even with new offseason additions Jeff Green and Austin Rivers having stellar debuts. Dwight Howard did not play in the contest, still dealing with a butt injury. 

Now, the Wizards will go up against one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Raptors. They also acquired a former All-Star in Kwahi Leonard this offseason, trading away DeMar DeRozan. Besides the switch, this is pretty much the same squad that knocked the Wizards out of the First Round of the playoffs last season.

On Saturday the Raptors will be coming off a back-to-back after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday night. Once again, another big opportunity for the Wizards against an Eastern Conference foe early in the season.

The Wizards-Raptors will take place on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Capital One Arena and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Toronto Raptors, 2018 NBA regular season Game 2
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Raptors will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Raptors on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the new MyTeams App.
Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS TV SCHEDULE
6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)
7:00 PM: Toronto Raptors @ Wizards (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)
10:30 PM: Redskins GameDay: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (questionable)
Raptors: Delon Wright (day-to-day), OG Anunoby (probable)

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS PLAYERS TO WATCH

John Wall, Wizards: After speculation on if Wall would return to his peak form, he showed out on Thursday night. With 26 points, nine assists, and four blocks, the point guard was all around the court for the Wizards. 

Otto Porter Jr./ Jeff Green, Wizards: Covering Leonard is going to be a tall task. It is anticipated that the taller Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Green to be the duo that will be covering the lengthy guard.  Neither guy are going to light-up the stat sheet on the offensive end, but after a nice showing by Green on Thursday look for them to split time defensively. 

Khawi Leonard: Leonard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut with the Raptors, picking up right where he left off before his injury. Will a back-to-back affect the star that hasn't played consistently since 2016? 

WIZARDS vs. RAPTORS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 95 games
Regular Season Record: Raptors lead 48-37
Postseason Record: Wizards lead 6-4
Last Meeting: Raptors won 102-92
Last 10: Raptors lead 6-4

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