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Scott Brooks' experimentation with three-guard lineups works for Wizards

Scott Brooks' experimentation with three-guard lineups works for Wizards

The success that the Wizards have found with Otto Porter playing as a stretch four is a direct result of the three-guard lineups rolled out by coach Scott Brooks. 

After trying to shuffle the deck with a second unit that couldn't get in sync in an 0-3 start, Brooks found something in the 95-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks last week. In the third quarter, he substituted Tomas Satoransky for Markieff Morris with 6:12 left. The lineup featured John Wall, Bradley Beal, Satoransky, Porter and Marcin Gortat.

When Wall left at 3:13, he was replaced by Marcus Thornton to keep the look. And then Morris returned for Gortat in the middle. If Satoransky, a rookie, develops a reliable jumper -- the part of his game that needs the most development -- it can be even more successful.

It helps Brooks achieve the spacing that he wants on offense which had been problematic. 


"We can space the floor out with shooters which allow John to get into the paint. Everybody's out on the shooters," Porter said. "It helps him create for himself, for Marcin or if they sink in we get kickouts."

For Porter, he's able to improvise pending everyone else's movement and how the defense opts to defend. When Wall or Beal are on the court, the attention they get when the defense loads to the ball naturally creates lanes and avenues for the slip action (See Film Study session on Porter).

"It's just reading John or reading whoever has the ball. The big thing we want to do is we want to get movement," Porter said. "You don't want to get stuck in a spot just watching. Constantly moving, constant interaction with the defense, reading. When we're moving, it allows us, if the shot goes up, to be in position to rebound. It helps everybody.

"We don't ever want to be dictated to. It's hard for you to dictate what I'm going to do If I continue moving. You don't know what I'm going to do. Or if Brad continues to move the defense doesn't know how to react to it. If they do it's a second too late. You're already open. I'm more about moving. Coach Brooks is allowing me to get movement."

And a side effect of all of this is what it does for Trey Burke, too. He had been a disaster until recently, unable to get the Wizards in their offense as Wall's backup. He wasn't getting clean looks, either. He had an explosion in the blowout of the Celtics with 18 points off the bench. He was 7-for-9, including 3 of 4 on threes.

All of Burke's seven made field goals came with him being off the ball or getting it back and taking advantage of bigs switching onto guards on the perimeter. Thornton made the push to set up Burke for his first field goal and the next one came on a handoff from Andrew Nicholson. Burke had a three off another push by Thornton and he gave it up early on the next make and got it back when switches were forced. And the switch occurred again to give Burke a more favorable matchup.

"The pressure of him running the team every possession, it wears on you. Every time down the court on both ends you have to guard the point guard. All the time pick-and-rolls are being set  so you have to be locked in on both ends," Brooks said. "So when you have more ballhandlers, more playmakers on the floor I think it eases the burden on all the guys. And Tomas, with his size and athleticism, he can guard multiple players. Trey, I liked the way he played. He doesn't necessarily have to run a pick-and-roll. I don't know if he even scored on an initial pick-and-roll. That's what we're getting (through) to him. He can run our action and if it comes back to him after three or four passes, it's better for him and it's better for our team."


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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.