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Morning tip: Wizards pay homage to Paul Pierce

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Morning tip: Wizards pay homage to Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce, like a stud freshman college basketball player, was one-and-done with the Wizards. He may have bolted in free agency for his hometown Los Angeles Clippers to end what will be a Hall-of-Fame career, but his former teammates aren't trying to forget him. They're forever grateful for his teachings -- more by example than taking any particular player under his wing -- en route to an Eastern Conference semifinals appearance that was filled with memories that will never fade. 

"Just confidence," Otto Porter, who is expected to succeed Pierce as the starting small forward, said on what he takes away from the experience. "Always keep that. That’s one thing I learned."

Pierce never was in short supply. He will be 38 when the season starts and will save his body, much like he did in Washington, for the postseason. He talked the talk before the Wizards played the Toronto Raptors in the first round, went in their house and made every big shot down the stretch as the Wizards swept them in four games after struggling against them in the regular season. Pierce hit the winning shot at the buzzer in Game 3 vs. the Hawks. His desperation, final shot in the elimination Game 6 went in and appeared to send it into overtime but came a fraction of a second too late.

“Professional. I mean that in all aspects. As a father off the court, as a lead by example guy, leading vocally. He did it all," said Martell Webster, who mostly watched from the bench but marveled at Pierce's stage presence. "He’s one bad man as he showed. His last shot here went in. … I took a lot from him. He’s a man that approached the game with the most professionalism. I’m happy for him. Everybody asks me, ‘Isn’t it messed up Paul left?’ I’m like, ‘No. It’s not. When do you get to end your career in your hometown on a championship contending team?' I’m happy for him. He’s straight chilling. There’s not a lot of pressure on him at all."

Marcin Gortat was giddy when Pierce joined the Wizards last season. He appeared heartbroken when he left. 

“We definitely lost a great leader, a great basketball mind. A great finisher in the fourth quarter," Gortat said. "You got to give it up to him. He was making a lot of big-time shots."

So what did Gortat learn? His anecdotes, as expected, were amusing.

"You’re not allowed to wear LeBron James shoes to practice. You have to be two hours before practice to lift. To warm up you got to do jump rope. If Paul Pierce does 10 reps in the bench press, you’ve got to do 11. … I wish to learn the trash talk in a game but I don’t have the bling-bling on my finger so I can’t do it. He’s special. There’s not to many persons in this league who got over 20,000 points.

"‘Pass the ball to me, even if you have a dunk. I scored 20,000-plus points in this league so you know where the ball has to go.’ So I’ll remember that. I learned a lot. Thirty-eight years old, he was here two hours before practice, jumping rope, staying on the treadmill, doing everything. Incredible work ethic. Incredible basketball IQ. It was fun to play with him."

Bradley Beal quickly responded "trash-talking" when asked about Pierce's impact on him. After a quick laugh, he turned serious. 

"His work ethic. I think the biggest thing he has that I want to get was his killer instinct, his swagger. He feels to this day he’s the best player on the floor. That’s what you have to have to be an elite two guard in the league, or an elite player period," said Beal, entering his fourth season and hoping to finally emerge as an All-Star if he can stay healthy. "He’s always the first one in the gym, the last one to leave. He’s in his 17th, 18th year and he’s still doing it."

It was Beal who fed Pierce in that Game 3 vs. the Hawks. Pierce waved him off and stepped back to bank in the shot over a double-team. Who will take that responsibility with Pierce gone?

“Me," Beal said. "For sure.”

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Markieff Morris

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Markieff Morris' season...

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2017-18 salary: $8 million

2017-18 stats: 73 G, 27.0 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 48.0 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 53.6 eFG%, 116 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 12/1 vs. Pistons - 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, zero turnovers, 10-for-16 FG, 2-for-3 3PT

Season review: It took quite a while for Markieff Morris to get healthy in the 2017-18 season. He was sidelined to begin last offseason with the ankle injury he suffered against the Celtics in the playoffs, then in September had surgery on both his abdomen and groin. The sports hernia surgery was known, while the groin procedure was revealed once the season was over.

Morris only missed nine games in the entire season, but took time to find his rhythm early. He averaged just 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14 games in the month of November. He picked it up after that, though he never quite reached the level we saw from him in 2016-17 in terms of volume production.

Morris played less minutes, took less shots, scored fewer points and grabbed less rebounds than the season before. On the other hand, he was more efficient than ever. Morris shot 48 percent from the field, his best since 2013-14, and posted career-highs in three-point percentage (36.7) and effective field-goal percentage (53.6). 

The Wizards could use more scoring from Morris moving forward, especially at times when one of their primary options is injured, as was the case in 2017-18 when John Wall missed 41 games. An active and engaged Morris changes everything for the Wizards. 

When Morris scored 15 points or more this season, the Wizards went 15-8. The season before, they went 22-9 when he got to the 15-point mark. 

It's a bit difficult to project Morris' role for the 2018-19 season at this point, given the fact he's entering a contract year and the most logical area for the Wizards to make significant changes (if they choose to) is in their frontcourt. Also, as Morris discussed in his exit interview, he knows more time at center in small-ball sets could be in his future.

Regardless of what happens with the team, it's a huge summer for Morris individually. If he sets himself up well for a big year in 2018-19, he could earn a nice payday in what might be his last long-term contract given his age.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, screens, scoring

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Marcin Gortat, C

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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