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New max player Bradley Beal sees co-leadership role with John Wall

New max player Bradley Beal sees co-leadership role with John Wall

LAS VEGAS – The team dynamic will be extremely different for the Wizards in 2016-17, but at the head of the table it’ll remain John Wall and Bradley Beal. Or is that Bradley Beal and John Wall?

Beal, who has had an injury-plagued four seasons and yet to be an All-Star, has signed his five-year, $128 million max offer. Wall, long considered the team’s best player and three-time All-Star who played through so much discomfort that he required surgery to both knees this offseason, is entering the third year of a five-year deal that totals $80 million.

“It’s everybody’s team. I don’t really think about it. It’s John and it’s my team,” said Beal to CSNmidatlantic.com after he watched the Wizards play at summer league. “We are the leaders of the team. It’s not about money. That doesn’t matter.

“In three years he’s going to make more money than me, too. It’s not going to matter. We’re both cornerstones of the franchise. We’re both leaders.”

Beal came up for a new deal during a time when the salary cap jumped from $70 million to $94 million. Whereas Wall signed in 2013 as an extension under a $58.7 million cap and wasn’t allowed to become a restricted free agent, Beal became one on a market that was thin on shooting guards. Like Wall, he'll have to grow into those big shoes.

The roster has had a lot of turnover, with the Wizards opting to get younger rather than hold on to veterans such as Jared Dudley, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Nene and Drew Gooden. They also have a new coach in Scott Brooks who is noted for developing younger players better than previous coach Randy Wittman.

“It’s different. We have a lot of new guys on the staff, a new system but I’m looking forward to it, being around coach Brooks. I’m getting a great feel for him,” Beal said. “We got some great character guys and great role players for us.”

Beal was a No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012. He has had to deal with living up to that standard. He has been on center stage in two playoff runs, including with Wall out with a broken wrist and he carried the extra load successfully then. The expectations that come with a max contract don’t feel any different.

“It’s always going to be pressure. It’s kind of automatic. It’s a two-way relationship,” Beal said. “They put the trust in me to bless me with a max contract. I have to be able to produce on the floor. It’s that simple. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it done.”

The Wizards were 41-41 last season and Wall and Beal admitted they didn't do as good of a job as they could've as leaders. Without the security blanket of a Dudley, who called a players-only meeting in January when the season went south, who will be the one to take charge? The roster has gotten significantly younger and is filled with role players so Andrew Nicholson, Trey Burke, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith will look to them.

Wall will be 26 in September. Beal is just 23.

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Five observations from Wizards' 125-124 overtime win over the Blazers, including Markieff Morris' career night

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USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 125-124 overtime win over the Blazers, including Markieff Morris' career night

The Washington Wizards beat the Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 in overtime on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Wild game, huge win: Though it was just the third game of the regular season, it felt like the Wizards needed this one. They had just lost their first two games to teams missing key players and battling through the second nights of back-to-backs. And up next is the defending-champion Warriors.

Lose this one and the Wizards could have put themselves in a very tough early season hole, but they rallied to overcome a sluggish offensive start to the second half to secure their first victory of the season.

Considering the alternative, this was about as important a win could be this early in the year.

Oubre showed some life: The shots finally started falling for Kelly Oubre Jr. After shooting just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 for three in his first two games, Oubre broke out with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 3-for-3 from three in this one. He also added six rebounds, a steal and a block.

To his credit, Oubre didn't force anything out of frustration after the way he started the season. He began the night by calmly knocking down a three from the slot, then attacking the rim for a shot off the glass a play later. Oubre was aggressive getting into the lane and scored with both hands.

This was, quite easily, Oubre's best performance so far in 2018-19, including the preseason. He was active deflecting the ball on defense and played controlled, intelligent basketball on offense. 

There were many plays he made that won't show up in the box score that helped lead the Wizards to their win; deflections, a huge charge taken in the final minutes of overtime. He was absolutely locked in.

Now, there were some lowlights. Oubre let several players get by him too easily, including Evan Turner and Jake Layman. Oubre has the tools to stay in front of those guys. But all in all, Oubre made a big difference in this game and that was good to see.

Morris balled out: While Oubre had his best game in the past few weeks, Markieff Morris may have had his best performance in a Wizards uniform. The Wizards forward exploded for 28 points in 25 minutes with nine rebounds, a block and a steal. He set a career-high with six threes made on 10 attempts.

Two of Morris' threes came in overtime, including one with 38.5 seconds left to put the Wizards up by four. His role in closing out the win in Portland brought back memories of his game-winner in the same building in March of 2017.

Morris is one of the biggest wild cards on the Wizards because it's not always clear which version of him they are going to get. When he's at his best, he's hitting outside shots and playing physical defense. He did that and more on Monday night.

With Dwight Howard out, the Wizards need Morris to step up. Though he didn't exactly do that in their first two games, Morris came to play in this one.

Beal went off early: This game was billed as the return of Bradley Beal to the Moda Center where he dropped a career-high 51 points last December. It took him a bit to get going, but once he did, Beal caught fire and scored at a pace that for a while was reminiscent of that amazing night.

Beal had 19 points in the first half on 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-4 from three. But then he cooled off a bit in the second half and finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and one block. He had zero turnovers.

Beal has now scored at least 25 points in five straight games against the Blazers. Clearly, he likes playing in Portland but one reason for his success against them may deal with C.J. McCollum. 

Beyond the fact facing one of the best shooting guards in the NBA may bring the best out of him, Beal is a tough cover for McCollum because he's more athletic. He's a tick faster and can get higher on his jumpshot. 

McCollum is an underrated defender, but Beal kept him off balance with well-timed pump fakes and consistently got open off screens. Beal's points were mostly within the rhythm of the offense. He was moving consistently without the ball and using the smallest of separation to get his shots off.

Beal also deserves credit for his defense against McCollum. The Blazers star was limited to 13 points on 5-for-25 from the field and 1-for-9 from three. 

Damian Lillard also had a rough shooting night. He had 29 points, but on 7-for-21 from the field and 2-for-10 from three. Many of his points came at the free throw line where he went 13-for-15, 13 of his attempts in the first half.

Two centers are now hurt: The day began with head coach Scott Brooks sharing some bad news about Howard, who not only did not make the trip with the Wizards but is likely to miss at least several more games. Not too long into this game, they lost their backup center, too.

Ian Mahinmi was subbed out after getting two quick fouls and never returned. He went to the locker room to get treated with back spasms, leaving the Wizards perilously thin at the center position. They had to rely on Jason Smith and using forwards Markieff Morris and Jeff Green in small-ball lineups. Thomas Bryant still didn't get the nod.

Back spasms do not sound serious, but any time Mahinmi is unavailable puts a strain on the Wizards. It brings into focus the fact the Wizards have not one, but two roster spots currently vacant. 

 

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Wizards vs Blazers featured Moe Harkless' impressive Chappelle Show themed Halloween costume

Wizards vs Blazers featured Moe Harkless' impressive Chappelle Show themed Halloween costume

The Portland Trail Blazers are setting the bar high for NBA Halloween. 

Maurice Harkless made his arrival in style turning a corner dressed as Tyrone Biggums from the American sketch comedy television series "Chapelle's Show." 

But it got better. Bosnia native and seven-footer Jusuf Nurkic turned the corner as Beast from Walt Disney's classic romance film Beauty and the Beast. 

The bar has been set. 

Washington looks for its first win tonight after falling to 0-2 right out of the gate, while Portland aims for a 3-0 start after defeating the Spurs 121-108 Saturday night. 

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