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Southeast division roundup: MKG energizing Charlotte


Southeast division roundup: MKG energizing Charlotte

*The next two opponents on the Wizards' schedule met Saturday night in Charlotte. Washington is hoping for a better fate than the visiting Dallas Mavericks, 101-97 losers in overtime against the Bobcats. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist energized the Bobcats first-ever win in 17 games against the Mavericks by exploding for 25 points and 12 rebounds. Drafted one spot ahead of Wizards rookie Bradley Beal, the Bobcats assertive 6-foot-7 small forward remains raw offensively, but made 8 of 12 shots and reached the foul line 10 times against Dallas. Not sure how much the two former SEC stars will guard each other Tuesday night in Charlotte (2-3), but a potential Chris Singleton-MKG battle has overly aggressive defensive battle written all over it.

*All eyes in the NBA world Monday night will focus on the goings on in Houston where the Miami Heat's Big 3 meet the Rockets newly established backcourt of James Harden, the league's second-leading scorer, and Jeremy Lin. If past is prologue, the defending league champions should if nothing else make the duo worked extremely hard offensively. Last season when the world was witnessing the height of "Linsanity," the Heat held the then New York Knicks guard to eight points on 1 of 11 shooting. During the five-game NBA Finals against Oklahoma City and Harden, Miami (5-2) held the bearded wing guard to 37.5 percent shooting and 12.4 points. Now we get to see how LeBron James and crew defense the intriguing pair as a unit. Get your popcorn ready.

*Remember when the Orlando Magic opened the season with consecutive wins and stood atop the division standings? So adorable! Yeah, talk about your outlier situations. The Dwight Howard/Stan Van Gundy-less squad has since dropped four straight including a staggering 39-point debacle at home Friday against Brooklyn. Two days later in the rematch, the Magic kept it close, but still fell 82-74. Without the injured Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, points have been at a premium as Orlando (2-4) ranks last in the NBA (87.8), one spot behind Washington.

*The first of a four-game road swing took Atlanta (2-3) to the City of Angels for a meeting against former Hawk Jamal Crawford on Sunday night. Crawford and the Clippers bench proved devilish with 35 points, becoming the first reserves to outscore the Hawks backups this season. Atlanta did themselves no favors with 22 turnovers, which led to 24 points for Los Angeles. With the loss, Miami became the only Southeast division squad with a winning record. Not a major shocker, but...

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Blazers, as John Wall and Damian Lillard square off

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trail Blazers. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Schedule heats up

The Wizards really needed that one on Friday night. Though the Nets, even without Caris LeVert, aren't an easy out, the Wizards wanted to fully take advantage of a soft spot of their schedule. It's tough to lose to the Nets when you consider the road ahead.

The Wizards play seven straight games against teams at .500 or better. That includes a road game against the Raptors, who are tied for the league's best record. They also see the Rockets, the Pelicans twice and play at the Sixers. It all begins Sunday against the Blazers, who are tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA.


Most of the Wizards' games this season have been lopsided one way or the other, and usually in the direction they would not prefer. But they have played a few close games and their most entertaining one happened to come against this same Blazers team.

The Wizards and Blazers went to overtime on Oct. 22 in Portland. The Wizards forced the extra period thanks to a three by Bradley Beal, and they won thanks to Otto Porter Jr. blocking Damian Lillard's shot in the closing seconds. 

The Wizards and Blazers have played some classics in recent years. Markieff Morris beat them with a game-winning three two years ago and last season Beal dropped 50 at the Moda Center. The matchup between both teams' star guards seems to bring the best out in everyone.

Howard vs. Nurkic

Much of the focus in this matchup is always on John Wall and Beal vs. Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but there will be a lot of action in the paint with Dwight Howard going up against Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers are one of the best rebounding teams in the game and Nurkic, who pulls in 10.7 per game, is a big reason why. Nurkic also averages 15.5 points.

Howard is coming off his best game as a Wizard. He had 25 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets on Friday night. He was hurt when the teams first met in Portland.

Both are bruisers around the rim who don't stretch the floor with outside shots. It should be a physical battle on Sunday night.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."