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Morning tip: Wizards concede Wittman correct about regular season


Morning tip: Wizards concede Wittman correct about regular season

Paul Pierce put the blame on the 15 players in the locker room. So did John Wall, Bradley Beal and every other voice that mattered after the Wizards cleaned out their lockers this week following another season that ended in the second round of the playoffs.

After a 31-15 start, they coasted and ultimately paid for it. Coach Randy Wittman called them out for it early and often and became exhausted having to hammer home the same point. They paced themselves to a 46-win season and another No. 5 seed. If they'd played with more urgency instead of trying to turn it on and off when it suited their purposes, maybe their series with the Atlanta Hawks turns out differently despite Wall's broken left wrist that cost him three games (See Pierce's keeping it real moment in the playoffs, pointing to some teammates enjoying success and the NBA lifestyle on the road too much in the regular season).

"The start was good. But I don't know if we as a group -- and I have to do a better job of it, No. 1 -- of the focus of what 82 games means and where you finish in that thing, can be the little thing that gets you over the hump," said Wittman, referring to the Wizards' slump going into and coming out of the All-Star break and then alluding to the Houston Rockets comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the L.A. Clippers. "Look at the game (Sunday) night: Does Houston win that series if they don't have home-court advantage? That's a legitimate question. Does finishing third rather than fifth push you over the hump? And so to do that, you've got to have a better focus for 82 games. It's a long season. I've got to do a better job as well as wanting our players to do a better job of that."


Not having home-court advantage didn't hurt the Wizards in the first round last season when they upset the Chicago Bulls in five games or this season when they swept the Toronto Raptors in four. But the competition does get tougher. This isn't college. It's not any coach's responsibility to check on grownups being paid millions to make sure they're in bed and getting proper sleep during road trips, either.

"That's the biggest thing that Witt actually told us after the game," Beal said. "Before he said anything about our loss, just imagine we could've been a top three seed if we would've just did what we were supposed to do during the regular season. We started the season doing that then we slipped up and went 2 and 12 during one stretch which hurt us. ... We got to start thinking of matchups we want to face and make it easier on ourselves." 

Wall had a sore right knee and two aching ankles. Beal had a sore right ankle and a recurring stress injury in his lower right leg. Marcin Gortat even admitted, after the Wizards were embarrassed in a 22-point loss at home to the Brooklyn Nets in January, that the post players mailed it in because they were nursing injuries. Drew Gooden told the truth about their coasting, too.

"We got complacent. We (were) up. We (were) playing well. A lot of games over .500. And then going into the All-Star break, we didn't play well," Wall said. "And then coming out of the All-Star break, we didn't play well. And coach had already preached all season those are the type of games you've got to take away -- I mean, games that teams are giving away -- to try to build up and get a higher seed. We didn't do a great job of that and we kind of can see how much home court means in the playoffs."

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."


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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.