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Morning tip: Why two Wizards 'guarantee' Morris won't be problem


Morning tip: Why two Wizards 'guarantee' Morris won't be problem

For a player who has such a bad reputation after a tumultuous season with the Phoenix Suns, Markieff Morris draws nothing but high praise from those who know him well in ex-teammates -- and soon-to-be teammates once again -- Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley.

Morris was traded Thursday after a season in which he was suspended for throwing a towel in his coach's face on the bench and grabbing a teammate during a timeout during a game just two weeks ago. It all was a culmination of anger he had toward the organization that he claimed lied to him about personnel moves involving his brother, Marcus, who was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Markieff Morris, who is playing at less than his value at about $8 million per year because he opted to stay to play with his brother, never could get past it.

"That's blown out of proportion. This guy is emotional," said Gortat, who was traded here from Phoenix before the start of the 2013-14 season. "I'm not saying he's a quiet kid. He's kind of a spicy kid. Kind of an aggressive kid. From time to time he's aggressive but listen, this is what we need."

Morris is expected to emerge as the starting power forward for the Wizards (24-28), who beat the Utah Jazz 103-89 later Thursday. He's 6-10 but undersized in terms of strength in the low post but he gives them a better option than Dudley when it comes to post-up chances.

"Certain teams switch on us and Dud is not really going to be a post-up guy. They're able to switch on him in pick-and-rolls," point guard John Wall said. "(Morris) is able to post up, can rebound the ball, can finish around the paint and can make plays for us."

The fire and mean streak that the Wizards tend to lack, Morris has enough of each for everybody. 


"He's an unselfish guy. He knows the game. He's going to move the ball the way we move the ball. I'm sure he's hungry," Gortat said. "He's going to come face-to-face with somebody else, if they're going to (hard) foul me or John or anybody else, he's going to challenge the guy face-to-face. This is what we need, a guy who's down for his teammate and he's going to fight."

Gortat didn't mean that literally, of course. Coach Randy Wittman likes players with a bit of a mean streak anyway.

"In talking to the people that I talked to, I got nothing but rave reviews that he would be a good piece for us," Wittman said. "I talked to a lot of people I have a great respect for, that were very close to him at Phoenix."

Dudley has known Morris since his 2011 rookie season and has remained close to him since. Always blunt, while Dudley defended Morris as a person he wasn't fond of his reckless behavior toward Phoenix's coaching staff or his teammates.

"He's a good kid. When I was there, he had no problems," said Dudley, who spent two seasons with Morris. "He had one problem obviously this year when he had the situation where he felt disrespected, felt betrayed. I'm not going to defend him. Some of the stuff he did was unprofessional. But that being said, I guarantee you we'll have no problems with him here. He is a good friend of mine. I usually hang out with him in the summer time. It's easy for me to mentor him.

"His mom lives 35-45 minutes away from here. I've already talked to him. He's a starting power forward. ... We need another body, another athlete. From the time he gets here, he's going to be motivated to show people he's not that player (he was in Phoenix). He's got a fresh start. Anytime you've got John Wall on your team, it's going to make it a lot easier."

Gortat is about results was Washington struggles to re-establish itself as a serious team to be reckoned with come playoff time. They've got 30 games left in the regular season, including Friday vs. the Detroit Pistons, to change perceptions.

"You're looking for a basketball player who is going to help you win basketball games," he said, "and he's going to do that."

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.