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Morning tip: Wall's career-high 19 assists a reminder of his brilliance

Morning tip: Wall's career-high 19 assists a reminder of his brilliance

John Wall making great passes and racking up assists is no surprise to the fans and members of the media who watch him on a regular basis, as he has been doing it for years, ever since he debuted back in 2010.

Imagine being one of his teammates, who see his gift for passing up close and personal each and every day in practice, shootarounds and games.

Like, Markieff Morris for instance.

The power forward was asked following the Wizards' 107-94 win over the Pelicans on Sunday night if Wall, who tied a career-high with 19 assists, is able to find his teammates in their favorite spots on the floor to shoot from.

Morris replied with a question: "You watched the game, right?"

Morris wasn't trying to be mean or condescending. He said it with a smile. But he just thinks it's obvious at this point that Wall is one of the very best in the game of basketball at setting up his teammates.

"You see how easy it is," Morris explained. "It’s something that we see every game, so it’s not surprising to us. S***, if we would make shots then he would have 20 assists every game."

Wall wasted no time racking up assists on Sunday night. He had six dimes in his first eight minutes. He later had six assists in the fourth quarter, including four in a span of 2:16 (from 3:58 to :42) to help seal the Wizards' win.

Those quick spurts of assists were a product of what the Pelicans' defense was offering him. Early on, he was in distributor mode. Through the second and third quarters he was looking for his own shot. Once he started missing midrange jumpers in the third quarter, he switched back to a pass-first mentality and New Orleans couldn't stop him.


"I just wanted to be aggressive and find guys and get them their shots," Wall said. "That’s my job. When I’m scoring, that’s a big plus for our team and I know I have to score at times... But my job is to just play defense and try to set these guys up. When I’m aggressive I can open up the floor for everybody."

That give-and-take dynamic where Wall feels out the game and goes from there is something his coach is well aware of and very comfortable with.

"They were switching a lot. I thought he did a good job of finding guys," Scott Brooks said. "He’s a great player. He makes good plays. I trust his decisions."

Morris trusts Wall in that regard, as well.

"He’s a great decision-maker. He’s a great player, a top point guard to me. He leads and we just follow in his footsteps," Morris said. "He gets to penetrating and he’s a great passer. He’s got eyes on the back of his head. We’ve just gotta get open. He’s doing a hell of a job finding us in our spots and we’re making shots."

Morris, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, was the beneficiary of four of Wall's assists. Wall set up two of Morris' three three-pointers on Sunday.

"Like every other game, John did a great job of finding me. I feel like when I catch the ball I have a thousand years to shoot. I just have to take my time and knock them down," Morris said.

Wall will be back in New Orleans in about three weeks for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. Does he have an encore in store for that game? Wall did once drop 22 assists in the Sophomore-Rookie Challenge at All-Star weekend in 2011.

"I hope so. Maybe. I might not get that many minutes coming off the bench. I’ll do what I can," he said.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver is a WNBA All-Star once again. 

Toliver was named an All-Star reserve on Monday as selected by the league's coaches. She joins Elena Delle Donne, who was named a captain of one of the two teams, and head coach Mike Thibault as representatives from the Mystics. 

This selection gives Toliver, 5-7, the third honor of her career and the second with Washington. Last year en route to the franchise's first WNBA Finals appearance Toliver was named an All-Star. She also got the nod in 2013 when she played with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Through 15 games, Toliver is averaging 12.1 points and is second in the league with 5.7 assists per game, which is also on pace for a career-high.

She is shooting at a career-best .497 clip and is looking as explosive as ever at 32-years-old. With her and Delle Donne, the Mystics are 9-6 and second in the Eastern Conference.

In the offseason, Toliver is also an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. Often she worked on the player development side of the staff and closely with Bradley Beal. 

Delle Donne will have the first choice of selection in the All-Star game draft. As a reserve, Toliver cannot be selected until after the starters are chosen. 


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Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards have flipped their roster this offseason, to the point where they are one or two moves away from what could be considered a significant rebuild. Those two moves would be trading Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The team has no plans to do the former and probably can't do the latter due to Wall's injury and contract. But the point at which they arrived has sparked some debate about whether the Wizards should go all in and blow it up completely.

Count ESPN's Mark Jackson among those who believes the Wizards should not completely tank. The NBA Finals broadaster and longtime star point guard thinks there is a model to follow that equals a reset but also keeps Beal, in particular, in the mix.

"The Clippers," Jackson said. "They didn't tear it down, but competed until the point where they added pieces to where it gave them a real chance. I think that's the avenue to take."

The Clippers have dominated headlines recently after signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, a pair of moves that have installed them as title contenders. But Jackson was speaking more about the steps they took the previous year. They traded off many of their pieces, but did not fully rebuild. And they did it all while keeping their veteran head coach.

"They didn't sell all the way out. They were relevant and competed and they gained valuable experience as they got to the point where they are a championship contender," Jackson said.

"You lose Blake Griffin, you lose DeAndre Jordan and you lose Chris Paul; everybody says that's a teardown, but they defended, they competed at a high level and they were pros. They were high character guys. Good things happened until now where they have a real chance to win it all."

The Clippers took a step back when they traded Paul before the 2017-18 season, but not a major step back. They went from 51 to 42 wins. After trading Griffin and letting Jordan go in free agency, they took a step forward and improved to 48 wins this past season.

L.A. maintained a winning culture while shifting gears. It is worth noting the two biggest winners in 2019 free agency - them and the Brooklyn Nets - were not tanking teams starting from scratch.

There are plenty of differences between where the Wizards are now and where the Clippers were when they began their reset, of course. L.A. had more talent to deal from and got more back in some of the trades they made. 

They got a lot for Griffin and then Tobias Harris when they traded him to the Sixers. The Wizards have little to show for the deals they made involving Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris. There is also the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract, which complicates things further.

But, as Jackson notes, the Wizards are on a different playing field. They don't have to compete in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.

"The fortunate thing for them is that they're in the Eastern Conference. They have a home run hitter in Bradley Beal who is finally getting the recognition he deserves," he said.

"Ultimately, it's about getting John back healthy and allowing these young players to grown and develop and continue to add pieces that can play a role. I think the future is bright for them."