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Morning tip: Wizards accept moving on without John Wall

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Morning tip: Wizards accept moving on without John Wall

When a team circles its wagons after it loses a key cog like John Wall, lip service is to be expected as players always will say the right things. Going out and proving it the way the Wizards did in winning Game 3 over the No. 1 seed Atlanta Hawks, however, is another matter.

"I was tired of getting all the text messages, "Awww, what are you guys going to do?'" said Drew Gooden. "What are we supposed to do? We still have confidence in guys ... We got to get it out of our heads if we're going to have him, if we're not going to have him because we got to find a way and nobody feels sorry for us."

Truer words couldn't have been spoken after the Wizards held on for a 103-101 victory Saturday and a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is tonight at Verizon Center, where the Wizards are unbeaten in three games this postseason. Wall broke his left wrist and hand in Game 1 and isn't expected to be available in this series, if at all in the event they advance. They're 11-40 without Wall in his fifth season.

Ramon Sessions will get his third start, and Will Bynum and Garrett Temple will assume control in relief. The trio combined to shoot just 4-for-17 but they scored 20 points by getting to the foul line 15 times in Game 3.

"We have no other choice," said Bradley Beal, Wall's backcourt mate, when asked about moving on. "We can sit here and make excuses or go out and win and prove people wrong. We have so much depth on this team. We have so many guys who stepped up tonight it was terrific. We just need that moving forward each and every game. 

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"We would love to have John but he's not with us. We got to do whatever it takes to win."

What team isn't banged up this late in the season? The Hawks were fortunate to not have any problems during the regular season but that has changed (Thabo Sefolosha, Paul Millsap). And just look around at the teams still alive in the playoffs.

"Other teams go through this as well. Memphis went through it with Michael Conley, Cleveland is going through it with Kevin Love, losing J.R. Smith to a two-game suspension," Gooden said. "Other teams are going through this. Pau (Gasol) is hurt now with a hamstring. He's doubtful so nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this situation. We know that."

Still, to keep the home-court advantage they took from Atlanta by winning Game 1 at Phillips Arena, the Wizards have to hold serve in Game 4. In their first game without Wall in this series, the Wizards were even late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 but fell apart late. They've had an answer to every wrinkle that they've had thrown at them. 

"We haven't accomplished anything. Two wins doesn't get us anything," coach Randy Wittman said of his team being underdogs. "I want them to still think that way. They believe it. I think we saw that in Game 2 on short notice. It was basically 50 minutes before tip-off that they found out John wasn't going to play. They quickly went out there and did their darnedest to put themselves in position to win in Game 2. Think that carried right over into Game 3. Yes, these guys believe."

                                                                                    

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

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