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Morning tip: Unenviable task for Marcin Gortat vs. T'Wolves

Morning tip: Unenviable task for Marcin Gortat vs. T'Wolves

The pressure doesn't lessen for Marcin Gortat. The Wizards' center, a traditional big man accustomed to playing in the paint, has had to defend on the perimeter more than ever this season by stepping out to the three-point arc vs. DeMarcus Cousins, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez, Dirk Nowitzki and likely will chase Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnestoa Timberwolves on Friday.

"He’s been able to get some practice with that, even last game guarding Dirk," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks of the 113-105 loss at the Dallas Mavericks earlier in week. "They have two guys that can stretch you out. Gorgui (Dieng) doesn’t shoot threes as much as Towns but you have to be ready for it. It’s hard. It’s an adjustment he’s going to have to continue to work on. The league is going that way. Every team has (big) guys that can shoot.”

Cousins scored 36 points but it took 34 shots in a loss for the Sacramento Kings. Surprisingly, the Wizards didn't trap the ball or offer a lot of help. Gortat did the job. Turner dropped 20 points but only made one three in a win and was held to 15 points and no threes in a loss. Lopez lit it up in their first meeting with 25 points but Gortat responded in the rematch by holding him to 11 points. 

Towns is averaging a double-double in just his second season at 21.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Minnesota (11-24). 

"In terms of his skill he’s like Boogie," said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, referring to Cousins, who also went to Kentucky before Towns. "He likes to step out put the ball on the floor, he plays hard, plays aggressive, has a great post game. Has a good motor. He’s going to be tough. ... With a guy like that we’d rather him shoot those jumpers than be inside. He’s a huge piece to being around the basket, finishing, grabbing rebounds, so hopefully we can contest his jumpers and he’ll (feel) comfortable out there.”

In the only meeting in D.C. last season, the Timberwolves went to double overtime to win 132-129 amid some mild controversy. The last two-minute report released by the NBA revealed a lot of missed calls, including in the extra periods, and most went against Washington. 

Towns had 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Dieng, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, drained the final shot of regulation to force the first overtime. 

Towns has had 30 points or more four times. His set his career-high with 47 and also had 41. He has had 15 or more rebounds nine times. He's just a 31% shooter from three but he can't be left alone as he evolves from distance.

"I feel like he's more dangerous on the perimeter," said Wizards point guard John Wall. "He's able to shoot the ball. He's able to put the ball on the floor. He's able to find his teammates."

[RELATED: Film study: What leads to Wizards' leaky 3-point defense]

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?