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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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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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