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Morning tip: Wizards can learn from Hornets' success going small

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Morning tip: Wizards can learn from Hornets' success going small

The comparisons between the Wizards and Charlotte Hornets can't be avoided. While one appeared on track to bigger and brighter things ahead behind a possible All-Star backcourt, the other had to reassess its roster and steady itself following an injury rash.

Even after Sunday's 113-98 win over the Hornets, the Wizards (39-41) are the team that has been turned upside down. Their season ends Wednesday with nothing better than a .500 record following a 46-win 2014-15 in which they advanced to the conference semifinals. Charlotte (46-34) is a No. 6 seed with a shot at moving up to fourth, already 13 games better in the win column than a season ago. 

Like Washington this season, Charlotte was riddled with injuries last season. Like Washington did with Nene, Charlotte moved one of its bigs to the bench this season, Al Jefferson, and went with four perimeter players.

The Wizards began with reshaping Kris Humphries, eventually traded, as their starting "stretch" four while Charlotte's Marvin Williams has been learning that role for years. Then they went to Jared Dudley, a career backup who was undersized for the role which necessitated a move to acquire Markieff Morris.

Why were they more successful? The Hornets have moved up 22 spots in three-point shooting, from dead last a year ago to No. 8 going into Monday's games, without compromising their defensive identity. CSNmidatlantic.com had one-on-ones with Hornets coach Steve Clifford, their prize free-agent acquisition Nic Batum and the Williams who has gone from being an NBA nomad to a highly sought-after free agent when the season ends because of his versatility:

Steve Clifford

Batum is in the final year of his deal after being scooped in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers last season. GM Rich Cho, who spent a season running Portland, had a prior relationship with the 6-8 combo forward who can play shooting guard, defend both spots and stretch the floor with his three-point shot.

"There are two things. He’s such a facilitator. Even when you talk to him, the way he views the game is so much about making his teammates play better. Having one guy like that you can play through so much makes such a difference. He doesn’t care if he scores. It doesn’t matter. You can put him in the pick-and-roll, a dribble hand-off, run him off staggers (screens) or post him. When that second defender comes, he wants to move the ball. When your guys when you play through does that it becomes contagious."

The Wizards have Otto Porter as their starting small forward and Bradley Beal as their starting shooting guard. The latter has been injured or playing on a minutes restriction most of the season. Neither is as experienced as Batum. 

“Without being there every day, I think that to me you play to the strengths of your best players. There’s certain things that equate to winning. Being able to play four out is a big deal. With Williams and (Frank) Kaminsky, we’re always four out. To me, sometimes when you’re either taking a guy who is learn how to shoot threes or you’re just playing a smaller guy who can’t guard that position you can be four out but it’s hard to be balanced. Golden State, when people say they downsize, no they’re huge. Except when they play Draymond (Green) up front, they’re big everywhere. Again, I just think you have to have guys like Marvin. He can shoot the three and guard most four men so you can play four out.

Marvin Williams

"With Washington they’d played (Marcin) Gortat and Nene together for so long so it was a little different seeing those guys go four out, one in. Nene coming off the bench. Humphries was capable to shoot it out there but three-point shooting we work on every single day. Something I personally spend a great deal of time on and Frank does as well. Those are shots they want us to take to make the four-out-and-one-in work. I don’t feel it’s anything you can just take a team and do it. You got to have the personnel for it.

"Nic, he makes everything work for us. He’s guarding multiple positions. Obviously he can play multiple positions on offense. He definitely is the plus for us. With him out there playing the pick-and-roll and Kemba (Walker) out there playing the pick-and-rolls, Cody (Zeller) is such a great screener and he’s a little unorthodox as well because he’s such a  fast five man. A lot of guys can’t keep up with him. The organization did a great job putting together the right personnel.

“A few years ago a 'tweener' is a guy you can’t really find a spot for them. Now I feel like that’s what everybody is looking for one. Golden State kind of changed the game with Draymond. With Draymond’s ability to play out on the perimeter and on the inside, a lot of them are trying to do the same thing. It does help guys like myself.

Nicolas Batum

"I think Golden State, when they played small ball, they proved they could win. The whole league now starts doing it. We’re doing it with Marv. The first time I played against Marv, Marvin was strictly a small forward. Now he’s just a natural power forward. He spreads the floor. When you get a guy like Al Jefferson who can post up, you can free him up and get more space. That’s better. He’s close to 160 (made) threes this year. That’s a big thing for us.

"I think Morris is a good fit for them if you try to go that way. In the East, we’re all like that. Maybe Toronto is different because Toronto starts (Luis) Scola but they end up with (Patrick) Patterson. Patterson can shoot threes so it’s kind of the same. (Paul) Millsap can play outside. Boston got (Jared) Sullinger, they can put (Jae) Crowder at four, (Kelly) Olynyk shoots threes, (Jonas) Jerebko shoots threes. Miami got (Luol) Deng. Even (Chris) Bosh. The league is like that.

"I think they need more time to put Markieff in the system, training camp and get used to him."

MORE WIZARDS: Even minus Wall, Beal opposition thinks Wizards are playoff team

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Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

On Saturday, two days before the deadline to finalize Opening Day rosters, the Washington Wizards waived four players - LaVoy Allen, Chris Chiozza, Chasson Randle and Tiwian Kendley - and in doing so trimmed their roster down to 14 players. That's one fewer than the NBA roster maximum of 15 players, meaning they opted to leave one of their roster spots vacant.

This was not a big surprise, but it's worth going through the reasons why they chose to do so for those who may be wondering. 

For one, the Wizards have a lot of money committed to their roster and could use some savings. They are fourth in the NBA this season with a total cap of $134.9 million. That is $11.1 million more than the salary cap limit, which means they are due to pay $19.1 million in luxury tax next year, according to Spotrac.

The Wizards also don't absolutely need that 15th player. They have two two-way players in Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae who collectively give them depth at a wide variety of positions. 

Under two-way contracts, they can be activated for up to 45 days this season before the Wizards have to decide on a fully guaranteed NBA deal. The NBA adjusted the rules this season to exclude travel days from that 45-day clock. The NBA days limit for Robinson and McRae also does not begin until G-League training camps begin on Oct. 22.

Speaking of the G-League, the Wizards have their own team now. The Capital City Go-Go will begin their inaugural season in November and that will give the organization the deepest stable of prospects (and roster spots) is has ever had. They now have much more room than ever to stash young players that would otherwise be considered for the final spot.

Even if the Wizards didn't have that option, as they did not last year, it wouldn't necessarily convince them to fill the last roster spot. Last season, they went without a 15th player for much of the year and for extended stretches only carried 13, the league minimum. They even rolled with 12 after the NBA trade deadline, as the league allows two weeks for teams to reach the minimum.

That recent history alone was enough to suggest they wouldn't fill the 15th spot. And, truthfully, that 15th spot rarely came into play as an actual need. This isn't the NFL where injuries make every roster spot incredibly valuable, or MLB where extra innings can sometimes make it feel like their rosters aren't deep enough.

Perhaps the Wizards will fill the 15th spot at some point this season. They can do so in a variety of ways, including if they trade one player for two. Just don't count on it, for all the reasons listed above.

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Richard Jefferson announces retirement from basketball after 17 NBA seasons

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Richard Jefferson announces retirement from basketball after 17 NBA seasons

After a career that spanned 17 NBA seasons while playing for eight different teams, Richard Jefferson officially announced his retirement from basketball on Saturday via Instagram.

Jefferson spent the first seven years of his career with the Nets (then of New Jersey) before moving on to the Spurs, Bucks, Warriors, Jazz, Mavericks, Cavaliers and finally Nuggets. The Arizona alum was with Cleveland when the Cavs won the NBA title in 2015-16.

For his career, Jefferson averaged 12.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He played particularly well against the Wizards, scoring an average of 14.1 points in 43 total games versus Washington.

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