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Perimeter shooting woes: Addressed, but fixed?

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Perimeter shooting woes: Addressed, but fixed?

When a team finishes with the second-worst record in the NBA, pointing to a single area as the primary weakness is perhaps oversimplifying matters.Then again, the Wizards perimeter shooting was certainly more clang than swish much of last season; Only the Kings and Bobcats shot worse from beyond the arc. After trading away Nick Young, Washington lacked a knock down threat among its true top options - and even one proved not enough.With a series of moves made this offseason, Washington attempted to turn open looks from distance into more than an iffy proposition. The Wizards selected Bradley Beal, he of the textbook shooting form, with the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. They retained leading 3-point shooter Cartier Martin, a late season addition who is now on board from day one. Free agentsignee Martell Webster is a career 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc.Whether all three see enough minutes to help the cause, that's another story and one that will play out starting Tuesday with training camp tipping off at George Mason.Of the three, Beal's status within the primary rotation appears most secure. Granted there are the expected inconsistencies that come with 19-year-old rookies and a potential starting lineup battle with Jordan Crawford looms. However, considering Crawford and all of the other primary guards on the current roster shot under 30 percent from 3-point range last season, the 6-foot-4 guard won't sit because of a few misses.Deemed the premier shooter at his position coming out of high school, Beal's 3-point accuracy (33.9) wavered during his one season at Florida, but he sank 12 of 26 attempts (46.1 percent) from beyond the arc over his final five games. That touch proved lacking during much of the Las Vegas Summer League, though Beal proved capable of scoring in other ways during those five July games. Playing with John Wall should help Beal's professional transition - once the point guard returns from an expected two-month injury absence. The path playing time path for swingmen Martin, he of the journeyman resume, and Webster, a 25-year-old a year removed from back surgery, is less obvious. Martinmade 38.7 percent of his 3's in 17 games last season.Webster drained 42 percent of his looks from distance during the 2010-11 season. The issue isn't their marksman credentials, but when and where to use them. Both can play in the backcourt, but likely not at the expense of sitting Crawford or Beal. Line them up at small forward? Sure, but Trevor Ariza has dibs on the starting slot and Chris Singleton started 51 games in that spot last season. Trevor Booker and perhaps Jan Vesely could also see serve in that slot seeing as Nene, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin figure to gobble up major minutes inside.Coach Randy Wittman enjoys plenty of lineup flexibility, certainly more than he did after taking over during last season. Yet if the goal is to put multiple shooters on the court - and based on the current outlook - that means some combination of Beal, Martin and Webster must be part of the Wizards primary rotation. That means Singleton, Vesely and others on the potentially deep roster might not see the court as often. If that's what it takes to stop witnessing one long miss after another, Wittman might not have a choice.Ben Standig blogs about the Wizards, Redskinsand the D.C.area college basketball scene for CSNwashington. You can reach him by email at bstandig@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Benstandig.

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Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

There were times when Trevor Ariza felt compelled to let everyone know how he viewed his role in the NBA.

One such occasion came the day after the Wizards concluded the 2013 season, one in which Ariza mainly served as a reserve. 

“Well, I’m a starter. I’m going to let you know that right now,” said a forceful Ariza at the time. “I’m a team player, but I’m a starter. That’s what kept me going. That’s what kept me focused; knowing that I’m a starting three in this league, and nobody’s going to change that. Or nobody’s going to change that mentality, I should say.”

Others bought in. Ariza hasn’t come off the bench since. He started 474 consecutive games including 61 during the playoffs. That streak began the following season in Washington.

"It was nothing personal, nothing against my teammates," Ariza told a reporter one year later as the 2013-14 campaign concluded with a second-round playoff appearance.  "I thought [the Wizards] were going in a different direction.”

The belief proved prescient. After helping Washington reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Ariza entered free agency in the summer of 2014. With the Wizards’ plotting a Kevin Durant future and near-term fixes, he signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets. 

Four years later, Washington’s direction had them seeking a reunion. The Wizards officially acquired the 6-foot-8 forward Monday from the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

There’s no confusion over Ariza’s role this time.

The Wizards, 12-18 through 30 games, have struggled in numerous ways. They misfire on 3-pointers to the point coach Scott Brooks recently half-joked he no longer assumed the matter fixable. Opponents comfortably drain deep shots against Washington. Starts are slow. Cohesion lacks. 

Adding Ariza serves to address these matters even if just a short-term fix.

“He’s a great player. He’s a champion,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who also played with Ariza during Los Angeles’ 2009 championship season, on Sunday. “He knows what it takes to win. … [Trevor] can guard multiple positions. He knocks down big shots. He makes winning plays.”

Those traits were in plain sight during his first stint in Washington. Ariza’s reputation was different. He played for six teams during his first nine seasons. The journeyman perception included sidecar mention when the Wizards acquired him and Emeka Okafor from New Orleans in 2012. 

Despite Ariza’s productive run in Washington, the Wizards had contingency plans. Ariza lost his starting job that first season in Washington to Martell Webster, who signed a contract extension the following offseason. 

During that summer of 2013, the Wizards also selected Otto Porter third overall in the NBA Draft. Paul Pierce signed almost immediately after Ariza latched on with Houston in 2014.

Drew Gooden, a 14-year NBA veteran, played in Washington during the 2013-14 season when Ariza shot a career-best 40.7 percent on 3-pointers.

“Yeah we missed Trevor, but we added Paul Pierce, a Hall of Famer. He was great for us,” Gooden, now part of NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast team, said. “[Ariza’s value] wasn’t as noticeable at the time until he started winning in Houston.”

Ariza’s 3-and-D work keyed Houston’s 2018 Western Conference Finals appearance. Analysts note what Ariza bolting this offseason to Phoenix for a one-year, $15 million contract meant to his former team when assessing the Rockets’ struggles this season.

“You saw how he made Houston kind of gel,” Gooden said. 

The league’s evolution toward deep shooters and those capable of defending the arc increased Ariza’s value. Playing two slender forwards together like Ariza and Otto Porter seemed far-fetched in 2014. That’s exactly the Wizards’ plan once Porter returns from his knee injury.

Despite a statistical drop in 26 games with Phoenix (37.9 field goal percentage), the Wizards weren’t alone in coveting Ariza this time. Other teams including the Lakers were reportedly in the mix when Washington swooped in.

“I think all NBA teams look at themselves and think they could be that much better with Trevor Ariza on their team,” Gooden said.

Part of Ariza’s local appeal involves helping former teammates John Wall and Bradley Beal elevate their performances. The Wizards go as their star backcourt goes. Just like most aspects of this frustrating season, their work hasn’t been good enough.

"We needed a change," Beal said of the team broadly. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

“It’s always great to add a guy like Trevor back, one of the best veterans and teammates I had,” Wall said. “We know what he brings to the table.”

Leadership is expected from the new oldest player on the roster. Don’t expect demonstrative acts. 

“How hard he works after practice. How he takes care of his body. His leadership will be shown out on the court,” Gooden said. “When younger players see this, it’s going to be a template of an actual true pro.”

Ariza long ago believed his traits meant NBA starter. He never shied away from putting in the work to prove his point.

“I just always had confidence in myself,” Ariza said in 2014. “I always know that I have to work for everything. Nothing is ever going to be given to you period. With that in mind, I just worked hard and told myself that I was going to do everything to be the player that I think I am.”

That’s precisely the approach current Wizards desire. They made their move. The subtleties of Ariza’s game no longer require self-promotion.

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Washington Wizards to re-sign guard Chasson Randle, while Suns release Austin Rivers

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Washington Wizards to re-sign guard Chasson Randle, while Suns release Austin Rivers

The Wizards are expected to re-sign guard Chasson Randle to a non-guaranteed contract ahead of Tuesday's road game against the Atlanta Hawks, a source confirms with NBC Sports Washington.

Washington's roster dropped to 13 players after Saturday's trade that sent Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to the Phoenix Suns for Trevor Ariza. Teams are required to have a minimum of 14 players.

The 6-foot-2 Randle participated in the Wizards' training camp and later signed with Washington on Oct. 30. He never played for the Wizards and was released on Nov. 12. Meanwhile, Randle, 25, spent time with Washington's G-League team, averaging 23.1 points in seven games for the Capital City Go-Go.

Right now the Wizards lack guard depth behind John Wall, Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky following the trade. While first-round pick Troy Brown, seldom used this season, could receive more minutes, Randle offers specific point guard depth.

News of Randle's addition came on the heels of an ESPN report that the Suns have agreed to release Rivers, who averaged 7.2 points in 29 games with the Wizards. The veteran's $12.6 million salary was necessary for the purposes of the trade for Ariza, but Rivers' playing style and approach entering a contract year seemed poorly suited for a young Phoenix team. 

Rivers can sign with another team once he clears waivers. Though Washington has another open roster available, per league rules, Rivers cannot re-sign with the Wizards. He never quite clicked in Washington anyway after coming off a career season with the Clippers.

The Washington Post first reported Randle's signing.

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