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Otto Porter saves Wizards after starters log heavy minutes -- again

Otto Porter saves Wizards after starters log heavy minutes -- again

BROOKLYN -- The effort didn't show up until the overtime period for the Wizards, when Otto Porter grabbed three offensive rebounds en route to six points in a hard-fought 114-110 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.

But this is the type of game that coach Scott Brooks was hoping to avoid after they had to go to an extra session Monday in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

John Wall, who played 44 minutes in that game, logged 46 vs. the Nets. He was 7-for-24. Bradley Beal played 41 after being on the floor for 45 two nights ago. Marcin Gortat, their oldest player at 32 who is playing a career-high in minutes, also played 41 after being on the court for 38.

"The last game he had to play those type of minutes. he played a lot of minutes tonight," Brooks said of Wall. "Maybe three or four too many (in regulation) and then we went to overtime. Can't sit him there. Our medical staff, our coaching staff are cognziant of our guys' minutes and we're real happy with the job we do monitoring their practice times and pre-practice times  and pregame workouts. The load is not just on the minutes played. Its easy (to point at) because it's out there. But we do a lot of stuff behind the sceens. His game minutes, he's averaging 36.5, he can handle it."

Sheldon McClellan, Andrew Nicholson, Daniel Ochefu and Marcus Thornton didn't play but this was the perfect chance for them to get some run. It wasn't to be as the Wizards squandered a 13-point lead in the first half and a seven-point lead to end the third quarter. 

"We didn't do a good job of stopping the penetration tonight. We didn't do a good job on the ball. We didn't do a good job on the screens but we made enough plays to win the game," Brooks said. "We gambled because we wanted to go for steals for layups and then we didn't box out. They got offensive rebounds. That was the game. They gave them the chance every time we had the lead."

The Wizards (31-21) had Tuesday's practice called off following a harrowing game with Cleveland. That could be the case Thursday, though practice is scheduled, after another prolonged outing. 

Porter put back a missed layup from Beal for a 105-104 lead in overtime and rebounded a miss by Wall for a 107-106 lead. He then cleaned up a miss from Beal and drew a foul to make both free throws to lead 109-107 to break a tie for the final time.

The Wizards would never trail again. Porter started as the "stretch" power forward because Markieff Morris (right calf) was out.

Wall and Beal were driving a lot because Brooklyn gave them mismatches with their constant switching. Beal had 14 points in the first quarter but cooled. Wall did get to the foul line 10 times in the second half where he made eight of them.

"We were attacking. We didn't get rewarded but Otto did a good job cleaning it up and getting offensive rebounds," said Brooks, who was hit with a technical foul for the second game in a row after Wall and Beal combined for zero first-half free throws. "Otto makes a lot of winning basketball plays. But defensively, boxing out, the critical parts of the game we didn't do that well tonight as well as we have been doing it."

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' narrow win over Nets]

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Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

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USA TODAY Sports

Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

Before meeting with local basketball media following his pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards on Thursday at Capital One Arena, George Washington forward Yuta Watanabe first addressed a swath of reporters from his home country of Japan. Then, while he talked to the American contingent, cameras from Japanese news outlets trailed him from a distance, documenting even the media part of his experience.

Watanabe, who played four years for the Colonials in Foggy Bottom, is now chasing an NBA dream with an entire country's hope on his shoulders. He is aiming to become just the second Japanese-born player to reach basketball's pinnacle.

It's a responsibility he carries with pride.

"I know there was only one Japanese player who played in the NBA like a long time ago, so he was the only one," Watanabe said. "If I can make it, I know that’s a really big thing in Japan. That would make young guys come to the U.S. and play basketball in the U.S. I want to be one of the pioneers for younger guys."

The only player to make the NBA from Japan in the history of the league was Yuta Tabuse, who appeared in four games for the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-05 season. Four games, that's it. If Watanabe can carve out an extended career in the NBA, it would be a first for Japan, which like many countries outside of the United States has begun to produce more basketball talent in recent decades as the game has expanded globally.

Watanabe grew up in Miki, Kagawa, a town in the southwest of Japan. He had American basketball idols growing up, including Kobe Bryant who was the NBA's biggest star when Watanabe was a kid.

Now, as Watanabe has set his sights on the NBA, he has focused on others to model his game after. He said he watches film of Jazz forward Joe Ingles because he sees similarities in their game.

"I see myself trying to be like him. He’s a lefty, a great shooter and a great defender. I’ve been watching his tape a lot," Watanabe said.

Watanabe has also been consulting with Hawks forward Joe Cavanaugh, his former teammate at George Washington. Cavanaugh went undrafted last summer, but caught on in Atlanta and appeared in 39 games as a rookie.

Watanabe's best bet may be a similar path. He is currently not projected to be drafted, but there are many avenues to the NBA, as Cavanaugh has shown. He was signed for 2017 training camp by the Hawks, then cut. Then, he inked a two-way contract which was later converted to a regular contract.

Along the way, Cavanaugh spent much of his time with the Erie Bayhawks of the G-League. Watanabe may have to go that route to make the NBA. For now, he's trying to prove what he's capable of and that has not been easy. The Wizards were his second workout and Watanabe isn't happy with his performance thus far.

He is dealing with an ankle injury that has affected his conditioning, he said, and his shots haven't been falling.

"To be honest, I didn’t shoot well. I didn’t really do well in the 1-on-1s or 3-on-3. I know I have to do better on that if I want to make an NBA team," he said.

Watanabe, who stands at 6-foot-9, said he also needs to get stronger. If defense is going to be his calling card, he can't be pushed around by bigger players in the NBA.

"I know I can defend one through four. Today, I didn’t shoot well but I know I can shoot and I can handle the ball, I can pass. I think versatility is one of my strengths," he said.

The Wizards could use depth at the small forward position and will be in the market for a host of undrafted guys to fill out their summer league team and new G-League team. Perhaps Watanabe will land in one of those spots.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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