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With Morris out, Smith and Oubre step up in Wizards' win

With Morris out, Smith and Oubre step up in Wizards' win

The contingency plan was already well in place before the Wizards determined Markieff Morris would not be available on Wednesday night due to a sore left foot. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who has emerged lately as the Wizards' best bench player, would start in Morris' place and was told so at morning shootaround. The Wizards would go small and roll with a lineup that has served them well in recent weeks.

Though they were prepared, however, that did not make it any easier going up against a Charlotte Hornets team that won 48 games last season and currently sits sixth in the Eastern Conference at 14-12. They are tall - with four 7-footers in their regular rotation - and deep. Missing one big man could spell trouble and Morris' absence was on top of Ian Mahinmi already being out.

The Wizards were able to overcome all that and beat the Hornets 109-106 in large part due to Oubre's play, as well as the best game of the season so far for reserve big man Jason Smith. With Morris out, Smith got meaningful minutes and he came through when needed.

Oubre finished with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and two steals in 40 minutes. Oubre scored nine in the second half, including a big three-pointer with 6:31 left in the third that came in the middle of a game-changing 21-11 run to close the quarter.

"Kelly's been on a nice run as of late. He's doing something that I've expected him to do," guard Bradley Beal said. "He's grown into a great player who can shoot the ball well and put it on the floor. He's a lot more relaxed and the game is slowing down for him. It's great to have him emerge as the player that we need him to be."

Oubre said being in the starting lineup didn't change his mindset. He wanted to continue to focus on defense and play within the system on offense.

The two work hand-in-hand. With 1:10 left in the first quarter, Oubre picked off a steal and finished on the other end with a towering slam. It was the fourth straight game he turned a steal into two points on the other end all by himself.

"Just letting my defense lead to offense. That kind of gets me going. It kind of is a confidence booster for me. Just being aggressive, being in the passing lane, being one step ahead of the offense and it's been successful so I'm going to keep staying aggressive," he said.

Oubre has put up consistent numbers over the last nine games, beginning with a breakthrough performance against the Kings on Nov. 28. For Smith, that breakthrough may have occurred on Wednesday night.

The eight-year veteran scored a season-high 12 points to go along with seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in 18 minutes. It was the first time he's reached double-figures as a member of the Wizards since signing with Washington this past summer as a free agent.

"I thought that Jason was a big part of our win tonight," Brooks said. "He didn't make his shots earlier in the season and that's what he's been able to do for a lot of years in this league. You knew it would come sooner or later. Unfortunately he had a mini-slump to start the season. Everyone goes through it, whether it's starting out or in the middle of the season. Some players have a couple of them. But I think he has a nice rhythm. He's one of the best midrange shooting bigs in the league. That's what we have him for."

Three of Smith's rebounds came on the offensive end and on two of them he promptly scored. They were "energy plays," as Smith described them, and the veteran hopes to make many more as this season goes on.

"I think for me it's really about making things second nature. In the beginning of the season it was about figuring out the plays. I was thinking a little bit too much out there. That's normal. Coming to a new team, you want to make sure that you know things. Once you know things and they become second nature, it all becomes easier," Smith said.

[RELATED: WALL ON STEALS MARK: 'I'VE GOT A LOT MORE YEARS HERE']

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‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

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Capital City Go-Go

‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

The Washington Wizards G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, held their second open local player tryouts at the Entertainment and Sports Arena Saturday morning in Southeast D.C.

Over 100 hopefuls filed into the arena with plans to impress Go-Go General Manager, Pop Mensah-Bonsu, head coach Ryan Richman, and his staff. 

Although each player in attendance has a unique path that’s led them here, they all shared one simple, yet intricate goal:

One shot in the G League. 

Adam Stanford, a prospect from California, traveled on a red eye to make the tryout on a less-than-ideal amount of sleep.

“My plane left at midnight from LAX, I had a two-hour layover in Denver, made it to Reagan National at five, checked into my hotel at six, took an hour nap and then Ubered here for tryouts,”  he said. 

“If I made this team it’d be big. Not just for me but for everyone who knows what I’ve been through from college to now.” 

Stanford is a 6-foot-4 wing from Campbellsville University, where he averaged 7 points, 5 rebounds, and was an academic All-American. 

Even with his positive outlook on the process, and an impressive showing Saturday morning, Stanford’s name wasn’t called for a follow-up workout later in the afternoon. 

The harsh reality that your chances are extremely slim to make a G League roster from an open tryout can be a tough pill to swallow, but as a guy who’s been on the opposite end of the chopping block, Mensah-Bonsu had an immense amount of respect for those who showed up to compete Saturday.

“Personally it’s tough because I never wanted to be that guy to read out the numbers of those who did make the team, and skip over those who didn’t,” Mensah-Bonsu said, “it’s heartbreaking. We always anticipate what the DMV has to offer in terms of the wealth of talent in this area.

"I was pleasantly surprised because we ended up selecting 15 guys to stick around for the afternoon portion, but going into this we were only planning to pick five.” 

Those who made the cut won’t be announced until a later date, which leaves the larger point of how those who were passed on respond?

The all-time leading scorer in Peach Sun Belt Conference history, Detrek Browning, was in attendance Saturday and put on a show. His combination of quickness, deep range shooting ability, and a knack for loose balls/putbacks captured the attention of every media member in attendance. 

However, his name wasn’t called for the next round of tryouts. 

Still, in a state of shock, he delivered words of encouragement not just for his self, but others to turn to after a similar letdown. 

“I for sure thought I was going to get a place here, but you just gotta focus and move on,” Browning said. “I quit my job in June to focus on basketball and it’s been paying off. I’ve seen my game increase exponentially.

“I did my best and that’s what matters,” he added. “I appreciate them not picking me up, it’s just going to make me work even harder.”

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Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Most MVP award winners thank coaches, parents and anyone who helped them become great. Elena Delle Donne is not most people.

The Washington Mystic's superstar forward had a lot to be thankful for after receiving the second MVP honors of her career, creating a long list on Twitter. Some injury-preventing accessory manufacturers made their way high up on her list.

Delle Donne became the first woman player to shoot 50/40/90 splits over the course of an entire WNBA season this year, but she was perhaps more grateful for the apparrel that allowed her to stay on the court: her knee brace and face mask. 

The Delaware native often deflects praise onto her teammates and coaches when receiving accolades, but when EDD's knee is being held together by her bulky brace and her nose is feeling protected after a fracture earlier in the season, they definitely deserve the thanks. 

She had a gruesome knee scare in a Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs last season, and even missed some early season games this year in recovery. Still, Delle Donne wouldn't let her knee keep her out of action, as her 31 regular season starts were the most games she's played since 2015. It's been evident she's had an edge all season to help her Washington Mystics get back to the Finals, and this time finish the job. 

Delle Donne's face mask has also been somewhat of a fashion trend in recent weeks with star athletes around the District. Wizards all-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal along with Redskins runing back Derrius Guice, all wore the face masks in solidarity when they came to support the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Despite Delle Donne's nose having been fully recovered, she's kept the face mask on during games for style and reassurance. Considering these ailments, it's impressive Delle Donne's shooting touch not only hasn't been affected, but instead has improved. 

After a Game 2 win over the Las Vegas Aces, Delle Donne and Co. have the opportunity to make their season mantra come true and #RunItBack to a second straight WNBA Finals appearance. 

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