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Singleton implementing aggressive approach

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Singleton implementing aggressive approach

Nobody needs to tell Chris Singleton the transition from college to the professional basketball ranks can be a rocky one. Peruse footage from his nightly battles last season against NBA heavyweights for the confidence-shaking proof.

The small forward with a reputation for defense during his days at Florida State went from being an ACC stalwart to an NBA rookie tasked with guarding the likes of point-producing icons Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. The pair of NBA All-Stars and scores of other league veterans took no pity on the new guy thrust into the starting lineup earlier than desired by the rebuilding and injury-plagued Wizards.

Seven games into last season, Washington hosted Anthony and the Knicks. The Olympian and noted scoring machine torched the locals for 37 points in a winning effort including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Much of Anthony's net-singeing exploits came at Singleton's expense.

After that abrupt "Welcome to the NBA" moment, Singleton tangled with Pierce. Without Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen in the lineup, the future Hall of Famer assertively tallied 34 points and 10 assists while directing the Celtics to a victory in Washington. Once again, it was Singleton finding himself on the wrong end of an NBA superstar looking to do harm.

"This is the NBA. I should have known that coming in," Singleton said. "I didn't know they were going to come at me like they did. I think they looked before the game and were like "who's the new kid," saw the "R" besides my name. They brought everything at me.

"I'm glad they did that. I'm ready for whatever."

As it turns out, the next "whatever" involves a battle for playing in a suddenly crowded Wizards frontcourt, particularly at the small forward position. Singleton started 51 games in that spot last season and became the first Washington rookie in 20 seasons to play every regular season game. Despite putting up credible numbers - 4.6 points, 3.5 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc - Singleton harshly graded his first season a "D" shortly before heading off for the summer.

Now, after playing with the Wizards entry in the Las Vegas Summer League, training and taking classes at Florida State, Singleton is ready to prove lessons have been learned.

"I worked on my shot, being a lot more aggressive. That's one thing I tried to showcase in summer league. Every time I step on the court, I try to be the most aggressive player on the court," said the 6-foot-9 Singleton, who described is training camp-ready physique as "more lean now, more fit. I'm still strong like I was last year."

In the rising second-year forward's mind, being more aggressive means not shying away from ball handling duties, that means "I can't let people drive past me."

It also means gearing up for competition on the wing where the Wizards added likely starter Trevor Ariza and 3-point threat Martell Webster. Washington also retained free agent swingman Cartier Martin.

"I embrace it," Singleton said of the preseason tussle for minutes. "The front office did what they said they would, they brought in more players. We're deep at a lot of positions. I think that's going to be good for us, everybody is going to leave everything on the court."

Fellow second-year players Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack are in similar spots. This is how the pro life works. Singleton knows this now. He's ready to show the kid is wide-eyed no more.

"You got to kill or be killed in this league," said the metaphorically speaking Singleton. "There are only like 400 (NBA players) each year and its constantly rotating, 60 more each year. You have to go out there and play. I think I'm ready to do that."

Now he just has to beat out others on his own team for that opportunity.

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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

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USA Today Sports

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”

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Ian Mahinmi's first ever 3-pointer a fun, proud moment for Wizards

Ian Mahinmi's first ever 3-pointer a fun, proud moment for Wizards

Ian Mahinmi is in the middle of his 11th NBA season. He has appeared in 623 total games, including the playoffs. Yet, until Wednesday night, he had never made a single three-point shot in an NBA game that counted.

With just over a minute left in the first half of the Wizards' win over the Cavs, Mahinmi stepped back behind the line in the weakside corner. John Wall drove to the elbow to collapse the defense and fired him a pass. Wide open, Mahinmi rose and released like he had done it many times before.

Technically, he had. Mahinmi has been working on his three-point shot persistently. At the end of every Wizards practice, he can be seen going around the horn popping threes.

In practice, Mahinmi makes long range shots consistently. Head coach Scott Brooks has put the number at around 70 out of 100 on his best days. Mahinmi even made a few this preseason, suggesting it might actually happen in a regular season game this year.

Sure enough, it did.

"It's something I work on. I work on threes and especially from the corners. It's good to see one finally go in," Mahinmi said.

Mahinmi had attempted two threes already this season. One clanged off the side off the backboard. The second rolled in and out of the rim.

Mahimni said the second attempt was actually a designed play to get him a three-point look. On this one, Wall called his number again.

Mahinmi said Wall told him to go to the corner. The team was up 20 points and it was late in the first half. 

The stars had aligned. It just seemed like the right time.

"Obviously, I was looking for it," Mahinmi said. "If the ball comes my way, I'm shooting it."

Brooks has expressed confidence in Mahinmi's outside shooting ability for months now. And he reiterated after Wednesday's game that Mahinmi has the green light.

"I want Ian to shoot threes if he's open," Brooks said. "He practices that every day. We see it go in every day. The league is changing. It's not just a small-ball league for the smalls."

That last point was not lost on others around the Wizards locker room. When Mahinmi entered the league in 2007, centers were expected to camp around the rim. He was asked to block shots and play with his back to the basket. 

In the decade-plus since, new species of big men have flowed into the NBA. Many of them hit threes, leap high above the rim and break down defenders off the dribble.

Mahinmi, though fully-developed at 32 years old, isn't letting that stop him. He has added a three-point shot that opponents have to at least know is possible to go in.

"He's adapted to the game and that's not easy at his position because they try to kick fives out of the league," guard Bradley Beal said.

No one expects Mahinmi to all of a sudden become Dirk Nowitzki and hit threes all the time. It was a small moment that probably won't mean much in the big picture.

Still, it was a reason for him and his teammates to celebrate.

"I'm glad to see him do that," center Dwight Howard said. "I'm so happy for him."

 

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