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Morning tip: Wall, Beal work out kinks so both can thrive together

Morning tip: Wall, Beal work out kinks so both can thrive together

The book on John Wall and Bradley Beal has long been this: Too often they play better when separated and not when together on the court, allowing each of them to run the team on their own terms. The early returns this season suggest that's become a thing of the past.

Beal set a career-high with seven made three-pointers in Monday's 101-95 win over the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center en route to a team-high 31 points. He added six rebounds and three assists. Wall had a terrible night that was made difficult by a sore leg which contributed to his 11 turnovers (eight in the first half) but he also had 19 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds to balance out that eyesore.

More and more, Wall and Beal are playing better together as they complement each other better in their fifth season together. 

"We realize that. It's a little bit of a maturity thing, growing up," said Beal, who also has scored 34 and a career-high of 42 since returning from a right hamstring strain Nov. 9 that kept him out three games. "It's a totally different system, too, different coaches, different players. We realize that we carry a majority of the load. On any given night, I can have it going. He can have it going. When we're both on the floor, it just opens up the floor, opens up opportunities for both of us. If one of us is out there, they're going to just load up on him or vice versa."

Beal had a slow start to the season but is averaging a career-high 20.1 points and his output is rising. Wall's offense hasn't suffered with career-high averages of 25.3 points and 38% shooting from three. 

What makes Beal's production so striking lately is that he played 76 minutes in the previous two games and never made a trip to the foul line. Monday, he logged 41 minutes in the overtime game and only made two trips. Those didn't come until the last three minutes of regulation in what had been a tightly called contest that featured 47 fouls and 52 foul shots.

In the win against Sacramento, Wall and Beal did something for each other that they'd yet to show consistently this season: They screened for one another. While that might not seem like a big deal, it is. 

The more a shooters like Beal partake in flex action, weakside screening for others before they get a screen themselves, improves the quality of their eventual looks. Defenses are required to make decisions on whether to switch or not to switch more often and are prone to make more mistakes. It also creates more mismatches. In his last five games, Beal is shooting 21-for-49 from three-point range, or 42.8%, and 50% overall from the field. 

Still, there are matters to work out. Wall took an impossible, contested fadeaway jumper at the end of the regulation as he ran the high pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat to Beal's side of the floor. Given Beal's hot hand, he probably should've been the first option and, to have better spacing, he was better-suited on the weakside of the floor. After watching the film with Wall on Tuesday, coach Scott Brooks agreed that it was a forced shot and not the best read by his point guard. 

Closing games with better efficiency is their next level as a duo. 

[RELATED: Wizards' game plan works on DeMarcus Cousins]

 

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Current, former NBA players to Zion Williamson after knee injury: Sit out until the NBA draft

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Current, former NBA players to Zion Williamson after knee injury: Sit out until the NBA draft

Duke's freshman forward Zion Williamson is the biggest name in college basketball. So big, that if you just say 'Zion' people automatically know who you are talking about.

When the 18-year-old phenom slipped and tore through his Nike sneaker Wednesday night against North Carolina resulting in him suffering what coach Mike Krzyzewski called a "mild right knee sprain," questions about protecting his future arose.

Expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, seeing Williamson go down and unable to return now has current and former NBA players calling for him to sit out the remainder of the season to protect his stock.

Duke felt the loss of Williamson as the Tar Heels went on to win 88-72. How much time Williamson will miss will become clearer Thursday, but is sitting out the season something he should, and will, consider?

Earlier this month, Williamson told Sports Hub Triad‘s Josh Graham that he didn't commit to Duke just to sit on the sideline.

“I just can’t stop playing," Williamson said. "I’d be letting my teammates down. I’d be letting Coach K down. I’d be letting a lot of people down. If I wanted to sit out, I wouldn’t have went to college. I came to Duke to play.”

Heading into Wednesday's rivalry, the freshman was averaging 21.6 points-per-game, 8.8 total rebounds and a 68.3 field goal percentage. Ranked No. 1 in college basketball, a national championship appearance with him at the forefront is likely. 

Williamson does have a $8 million loss of value insurance policy that Duke paid for should he be selected 16th or later in the NBA draft, according to The Action Network's Darren Rovell. Injury or not, it's unlikely he would even drop that far. 

Former NBA star Scottie Pippen suggested Williamson shut it down for this very reason back in January.

"I think he's done enough for basketball, college basketball, that it's more about him personally now," Pippen said on ESPN's The Jump. "I think for him as a young player that I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career." 

The extent and significance of his injury will become clearer over the next few weeks, but don't expect this debate to be settled any time soon.

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Barack Obama had front row seat to Zion Williamson injury: 'His show broke'

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Barack Obama had front row seat to Zion Williamson injury: 'His show broke'

Former President Barack Obama is just like us.

While attending Wednesday night's North Carolina vs. Duke game, Obama had a front-row seat to Zion Williamson's wild shoe-breaking move. He was just as shocked as the rest of us.

Just 36 seconds into one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball, Williamson was making a move towards the basket when his left foot slipped. Trying to find enough balance to counter his collapsing leg, the 6-foot-7, 285 pound player took to his right leg causing his sneaker to completely tear apart. Zion, who is a big enough superstar that he can be recognized just by his first name, then left the game and did not return with what Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski described as a "mild right knee sprain." 

Zion's rookie season has been headlined by his monster-like ability, but tearing a Nike shoe apart is something not even the 44th President of the United States has seen before.

After the game, Obama tweeted his well wishes to the 18-year-old. 

Duke felt the loss of Zion as the Tar Heels went on to win 88-72. How much time the predicted No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft will miss will become clearer Thursday. Duke heads up to No. 7 Syracuse Saturday.

"When you lose the leading candidate for national player of the year, you have a lot of adjusting to do," Coach K said after the game. 

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