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Morning tip: As the Wizards turn, rotations remain a step slow


Morning tip: As the Wizards turn, rotations remain a step slow

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The headway that the Wizards thought they'd made with their players-only meeting took a boot to the skull. Maybe their heart-to-heart with each other inspired them enough to beat the likes of the .500 Houston Rockets but they're not even close to the level of a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Monday, the Thunder torched them early. The Wizards made a move several times by getting stops and easy buckets on offense but ultimately it wasn't enough. Their help defense was late. Their rotations were slow. One hundred and fourteen points later, they had their 25th loss of the season. 

"They came out and scored easy," said John Wall, who was isolated in the mid-post to open the game on the first three possessions by Russell Westbrook. "When we got opportunities to get them to miss some shots they got each offensive rebound. We were always playing from behind. ... We just couldn't get over the hump."

Westbrook passed the first time and got Serge Ibaka a jump shot in the lane. The next two were shots by Westbrook inside of 10 feet that were good. He had a triple-double after three quarters and finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. 

"They're at their best when he's play facilitator," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "He's going to get his points in transitions and random plays but when he's looking to pass and get his teammates involved, that's when they're tough to beat. That's why rotations need to be great. We were getting the ball out of his hands but we weren't able to get to the guys on the weak side or contest (Steven) Adams or Serge and those guys."

Durant was 9 of 18, Ibaka shot 8 of 12, Westbrook 8 of 13, Adams 4 of 5 and Enes Kanter 4 of 7. Oklahoma City dominated them inside the paint, 53-27 on overall rebounds and 18-2 with second-chance points. 

"They scored 36 points in the first quarter. They got anywhere they wanted. Those points weren't even off offensive rebounds," said Jared Dudley, who called the players-only meeting after a 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets to address their defensive woes. "They were isolations. Durant, Westbrook getting buckets and us not really adapting to it once they score a couple. We needed to trap, we were late on it. We were timid from the beginning. When that happens with a team that's coming to end the game in the first quarter it sets the whole tone. From then on, we were playing an uphill battle."

Now that the Wizards are back to a pace-and-space team, the offensive side of what's taking place isn't a concern anymore. They're top five in the NBA in pace. It's all about figuring out their defense.

"We're not good enough defensively or have a lockdown defender where we can let someone go one-on-one on an island so you got to know the traps, know the rotations," Dudley said. "That's something we were timid doing early and really didn't do a good job throughout the whole game."

RELATED: Buzz surrounding Kevin Durant quickly fades, as do Wizards

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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.


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Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

Wizards and Mystics join Game Growers to help boost girls participation in sports

The Washington Wizards and Mystics join in on Nike’s NBA and WNBA Game Growers program. The Game Growers program is meant to provide eighth grade girls with the skills and assets they need in order to grow their participation in sports in their communities. 

With this new program, the Wizards and Mystics can contribute to expanding the game of basketball for young DMV girls. Along with that, the Washington Mystics just won the WNBA Championships, this is perfect timing for them to introduce the sport to the next generation.

Today, the Game Growers Program officially was put into action, on a YouTube video stream. The video stream had Las Vegas Aces forward A’Ja Wilson, actress Sky Katz, the Director of Operations for the Women’s National Basketball Players Association Terri Jackson featuring in it. They discussed the advantages of being an athlete beyond going professional and encourage girls to apply.

In order for the future basketball stars to get in on the action, they must apply to GameGrowers.com by submitting their ideas on how to grow the game of basketball in their communities. The application opened today and will close on November 15, 2019. The winners will be made public in December 2019. 

By January 2020 two girls will join alongside the Wizards and Mystics in going to Training Camp at Nike’s World Headquarters in Washington County, Oregon. This event won’t only be run by Nike and professional basketball players, but will also have GENYOUth (a youth empowerment organization) tag along as well. At the Training Camp, the girls will have an opportunity to polish up their ideas with Nike and NBA and WNBA teams. 

If lucky, some Game Growers teams will be chosen to exhibit their ideas at the 2020 WNBA Draft, which will be in New York City this April.