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One on one: Any hope for Webster or Blair?

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One on one: Any hope for Webster or Blair?

With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.

Assuming good health on the roster, there’s a good chance that Martell Webster and DeJuan Blair are at the end of the bench, if not inactive most, nights. Of the two, which one has the best chance of making an impact this season?

J. Michael: Webster. Now, no one is expecting  him to return to the player he was a few seasons ago when he averaged a career-high 11.4 points. But all Webster has to do is make a few shots here and there. He doesn’t have to be a lockdown defender or a dribble penetrator.

The problem is there are plenty of players at his position ahead of him – Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Otto Porter and probably even rookie Kelly Oubre.

With Dudley’s offseason back surgery, that bumps up Webster for a moment in the rotation. Then factor in that coach Randy Wittman tends to side with experience over youth, so at least for a minute Webster could be above Oubre, too. Pending just how often the Wizards use small lineups, there could be mop-up minutes for him to prove that he’s back to form after a terrible 2014-15 after his third back surgery cost him half of the season.

Webster played some stretch four when he started out with the Portland Trail Blazers, so he could get time there behind Nene and Drew Gooden in the short-term. If he doesn’t produce immediately, he’ll quickly fall back. I can’t see a scenario, no matter how Blair’s peers perform, that results in him getting meaningful time on the court. He easily could be off the roster by the time the regular season tips. He could be released, and paid the balance of his contract, and another big signed at the vet minimum and the Wizards could remain below the luxury tax.

Ben Standig: First off and seeing how we rarely discuss DeJuan Blair or his performance last season, let me just start with a sincere "What the heck was that???" We knew simply by the amount of bodies available that not all the big men would receive consistent playing time, but the other five all contributed and then some. The former NCAA standout at Pittsburgh really never even had his one shining moment. That Marcin Gortat and Kevin Seraphin were healthy all season combined with Drew Gooden's presence limited the amount of minutes available at center, but 56 points over 29 games, yeesh. The game is evolving away from 6-foot-5 center's who can't play away from the basket, but Blair's physical condition may not have always been in the ballpark of NBA quality.

Ironically, there is arguably more of a direct path for minutes this season. If were talking low-post scoring, the physical Blair is the third-best option besides Gortat and Nene. The big Brazilian is serving as the backup center, but we know about his injury history. Gooden and Kris Humphries would receive first crack. Neither are interior scorers, though both possess size and far better perimeter games that work for this modern era.

Meanwhile, Webster is buried behind Otto Porter and Jared Dudley at small forward, Bradley Beal and Gary Neal at the two with Alan Anderson floating between both. That doesn't even factor in first round pick Kelly Oubre Jr. or defensive-minded Garrett Temple. Still, considering he provides desired 3-point shooting, Webster's perimeter pop gives him the edge over Blair assuming his back is right. If Blair comes into camp focused and leaner -- and, as J. Michael hints at above, comes to camp at all -- then perhaps he surprises in the rotation the way Seraphin did a year ago. Just don't bet on it. 

MORE WIZARDS: One on one: Wizards biggest roster concern is...?

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Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

Five observations from Wizards' 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic, including Jeff Green's takeover

The Washington Wizards beat the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Two in a row: The Wizards did something on Monday night they had yet to do this season. They won their second game in a row.

Now 4-9 on the season, the Wizards have some work remaining to regain respectability. But there were some encouraging signs. For instance, they won the rebounding margin for just the second time this season. They also made 13 threes.

This win, however, would have been a lot easier if they could lock down the three-point line. The Magic shot 15-for-30 from three. Perimeter defense continues to be a major blindspot for Washington.

Green dominated: Bradley Beal's comparison of Jeff Green to LeBron James all of a sudden doesn't sound so crazy.

Against the Magic, Green wasn't just good, he put the Wizards on his back and took over the game in the fourth quarter with a series of shots and defensive plays to keep Orlando at bay.

Green, who finished with 18 points in just 21 minutes, erupted for 10 points in the fourth quarter. He hit two threes in the frame and went 4-for-5 for the night. One of them bailed out Austin Rivers to beat the shot clock.

Green also had 19 points against the Heat on Friday. The veteran is playing well beyond expectations for the one-year contract he signed this summer. In the Wizards' past several games, he's given them starter production off the bench. 

Though Mike Scott was very good last season, Green is showing how he can do more because of how he can affect games defensively. It's no wonder why head coach Scott Brooks has relied on him in the fourth quarters of the last three games instead of starters.

Beal woke up late: With under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Beal was ice cold. He had nine points on 3-for-13 shooting from the field and 0-for-6 from three.

But out of a timeout, Beal woke up and, like a button was pushed, took over the game. He began by sinking a tough layup off the glass. Moments later, he got his first three to fall. 

After that, he fed Dwight Howard for an and-1 on a drive set up by a slick behind-the-back move. And seconds later, he stole an errant pass and finished with a rim-bending slam on the other end.

Beal scored seven points in a stretch of about three minutes and almost singlehandedly erased what was a 10-point deficit to take the lead. He did what we saw him do so often last year. Despite struggling for more than half the game, he never wavered and found a way to get the ball in the rim.

Beal made something of his uneven night to post 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He proved once again that opposing teams can only keep him in check for so long.

Wall is heating up: Though John Wall has long been criticized for his outside shot, many forget he set a career-high last season by shooting 37.1 percent from three on 4.1 attempts per game. That wasn't bad at all and it looks like Wall may be finding that stroke once again.

After a slow start out of the gate, Wall has been on fire from three recently. He went 2-for-3 against the Magic and is now 16-for-37 in his last seven games. That's good for 43.2 percent.

Wall may never be a lights-out marksman from long range. But he is becoming more than respectable as a perimeter threat.

Mahinmi played again: It appears that Ian Mahinmi has earned his job back. He was benched for three straight games, but has now played in each of the past two. 

Similar to the win over the Heat on Friday, Mahinmi did his part with a minimal, but noticeable impact on the game. He had a nice weakside block in the first quarter. Jarell Martin drove left and got by his man and Mahinmi helped by stepping across the lane to swat it out of bounds.

That's what they need Mahinmi to do, play defense and not get in the way on offense. When he's not affecting games on the defensive end, his other shortcomings become magnified. Through two games, he's done enough to probably stay in the rotation for the time being.

While Mahinmi is back in the rotation, Otto Porter Jr. appears to be in the relative doghouse. This was the third straight game he has sat out the fourth quarter. Markieff Morris was in the same boat for two games, but got the nod against Orlando.

Some of it is simply Brooks rolling with the hot hand. But Brooks must not like something Porter has been doing lately. The best guess is his defense, as Jonathan Simmons, among others, was getting past Porter with regularity in this one.

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Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday. The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of what the team may do next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. Considering he'll likely be back in the building, Randle returning to the Wizards roster is a consideration.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards approximately $239,000 in luxury tax payments. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.

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