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Morning tip: Wizards could be running out of time to turn around season

Morning tip: Wizards could be running out of time to turn around season

After the Denver Nuggets left Verizon Center the last time, Jared Dudley slammed the door shut in the locker room to hold a players-only meeting for the Wizards. 

His message at that time, to paraphrase: We've got to help each other because they aren't going to do it.

By "they," Dudley was referring to the coaching staff led by Randy Wittman, who was fired after a 41-41 season that was contentious early and often as the Wizards struggled just to get to .500.

The Wizards were 20-24 and hemorraghing points. They hadn't acquired Markieff Morris in a trade, and Dudley was the starting stretch power forward logging more minutes than he anticipated and unable to defend starters at his position one-on-one. 

RELATED: Film study: Defensive collapse in Magic loss

Today, the Wizards are 7-13 and coming off a demoralizing loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, 124-116, after John Wall's career-high 52 points. A lot of the personnel has changed and problems are the same, but the attitudes towards the coaching staff appear to have shifted180 degrees.

Scott Brooks has his work cut out for him as he has mixed and matched his lineups repeatedly and has yet to find sustained success with a bench that's limited on both ends of the floor. His stars, Wall and Bradley Beal, are playing heavy minutes. So is his oldest player, Marcin Gortat, at 32. How much more bending can be done until something breaks?

“We have to be able to sustain the sense of urgency, possession by possession, we haven't been able to do that," Brooks said Monday. "Our guys need to come out better with the defensive disposition, of just being solid with understanding the principles of guarding your man, understanding the principles of contesting the shot, and also understanding the principles of blocking out. We've all learned that from the day we started playing, but we have to be able to do that consistently throughout the game to give us the best chance to win."

Offensively challenged teams such as the Magic have hurt them all season. The Philadelphia 76ers scored 109 in a win, minus Joel Embiid and with Jahlil Okafor playing on a minutes restriction. The five-win Brooklyn Nets dropped in 113 in a loss. The Miami Heat scored a season-high 114 in a victory. The New York Knicks scored 112, and 47 of those points were allowed in the fourth quarter alone. The Magic had 40 in the second quarter to blow Monday's game open. 

“The 40 points in the second quarter, it's unacceptable," Brooks said. "Offensively, 116 points on your home court, you should not lose that game, and we've done that a few times now.” 

After a stretch of games vs. the likes ot the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs twice, games like tonight's with the Nuggets should end up in the win colum if the Wizards hope to be in contention for a playoff seed.

That was everyone's feeling coming into the season, including Brooks. The quarter pole will be here with 21 games played following Thursday's game. 

MORE WIZARDS: Was John Wall right to call out his teammates?

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John Wall shares fear of being pulled over by police, experiences growing up with racial discrimination

John Wall shares fear of being pulled over by police, experiences growing up with racial discrimination

As people around the country continue to protest police brutality and racial injustices against black people, athletes continue to add their powerful voices and experiences to the cause.

Wizards guard John Wall joined in the conversation, discussing the fear he continues to have about being pulled over by the police. For many black Americans, the reality of racial discrimination makes the mere thought of being pulled over more daunting than it should be. Apparently that anxiety doesn’t dissipate just because you’re a star athlete.

“If I get pulled over right now, I’m terrified,” Wall said on Thursday’s episode of The Athletic’s “Hoops, Adjacent” podcast. “To be realistic. If I’m in a dark area, or a back street, I’m not stopping. I’ll go to a high-speed chase to get to a spot where it’s a grocery store, or somewhere where there’s a lot of lights at, because that’s how terrifying it is.”

To some, it may be jarring to hear a recognizable, millionaire athlete discuss his fear of the police, but the money and acclaim don't provide a shield from racism. And for many black people, the fear is instilled at a young age, either through personal experiences or those of people with the same skin color. In the age of camera phones, more and more incidents are being recorded for the world to see.

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George Floyd was suffocated and killed by a white police officer in Minnesota who put a knee to his neck for over eight minutes. Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times and killed in her own home by police in Louisville. Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death by a white father and son while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood.

“You’re telling me if I want to be a black kid to jog in a neighborhood, and I say, ‘Ok, I want to cut through this white neighborhood, this rich neighborhood,’ and then all of a sudden, I’m targeted to get killed?” Wall continued. “Because I don’t belong there? Those are the kind of things I grew up with, like you wouldn’t go to this side of town where you wasn’t allowed. Why? We breathe the same air.”

Wall, who grew up in Raleigh, N.C., said the constant acts of racial discrimination have been frustrating and that all people want to see is justice. 

“I feel like this has been going on for decades, been going on for so much longer than the time I’ve been on this earth,” he said. “But if we didn’t have social media or camera phones right now, we wouldn’t be able to see this act going on.”

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver confident one positive COVID-19 diagnosis won't derail NBA's return plan

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confident one positive COVID-19 diagnosis won't derail NBA's return plan

The NBA now has a concrete plan to return to action, but there are still obstacles that will need solving when play resumes. One of the most important will be the health and safety of players amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the league will need to know how to handle the possibility of a positive COVID-19 virus diagnosis. With a large number of individuals destined to be in close proximity in Orlando, could one player testing positive derail the entire plan? Would that team then have to be eliminated due to the potential risk they carry?

According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, that will not be the case.

“The answer is we don’t believe we would need to," Silver told Charles Barkley on TNT's Inside the NBA, referring to the idea of having to eliminate a team due to a positive coronavirus result.

Silver's confidence stems from the vast amount of research and preparation the league has done to get to this stage in the return process. Not only have NBA officials detailed plans of action, but SIlver and others are working closely with health experts in Florida to make sure things go smoothly.

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Based on what they've heard so far, one positive test won't be the end-all for the NBA. If a player were to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the league knows the exact procedure to keep others safe.

“The view is that if we are testing every day and we are able to trace, in essence, the contacts the player has had," Silver said. "We are able to, in essence, contain that player and separate that from his team.”

The commissioner explained that the NBA is continuing to test on a daily basis, and that won't change anytime soon. The threat of coronavirus impacting the league's return is strong, but Silver and the NBA are confident that they'll be able to overcome any issues and have the season play out in a safe manner.

"The belief is we would not have to shut down if a single player tested positive," Silver said. 

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