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Spurs stand as Wizards fall


Spurs stand as Wizards fall

The Spurs are an experienced and confident crew. They've grown accustomed to winning over the years without taking any game for granted. Offensively, San Antonio's sharing is caring style leads to exquisite basketball. At the center of it all, a fundamentally stable core group and desirable continuity.

In other words, everything the Wizards are not, not now anyway. San Antonio's 118-92 win in Washington, the Spurs 13th straight over the Wizards and sixth consecutive in the Verizon Center, illuminated the differences. The 12-3 versus 0-12 records do as well.

Tim Duncan's future Hall of Fame resume, one constantly updated with All-Star chapters, started 15 seasons ago. The last 10 included Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the mix.

John Wall is the longest tenured Wizard and the injured point guard hasn't played a second in this his third season.

The Spurs returned their entire core from last season's Western Conference regular season championship team. Not just the big three, but their top 10 players. Everyone on the roster except newbie Nando De Colo played for San Antonio last season. Against Washington, key contributors Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard were inactive.

The Wizards have seven new players this season alone and since the start of last season, nine. Only John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton opened with Washington in 2011-12. Nobody from that half-dozen has played more than two full seasons.

San Antonio's four-time championship winning coach Gregg Popovich has been pulling the strings on the Spurs bench since 1996. Wizards coach Randy Wittman has been at his current job for 61 games.

"We've been together for so many years and they're so new, trying to figure it out," Ginobili said after the Spurs eighth road win in nine games this season. "The core knowledge is completely different to theirs. They have a lot of rookies and new guys. We are opposites in that regard. That doesn't mean on any given they can't surprise and beat you. I'm glad we played the game we did."

After his team's most lopsided defeat of the season, Wizards' coach Randy Wittman said, “I would like for us to be able to play like that one day. Obviously Popovich and that team have been together for a long time and they know each other very well."

The Spurs drained 13 of 23 three-pointers, shot well over 50 percent from the field in both halves and netted 32 assists, all leading to its season-high point total.

"Credit to them. They carved us up pretty good tonight and we kind of succumbed to it," Wittman said. "Thirty-two assists on 45 baskets, that's the way the game should be played. Hopefully we can take a page out of that for the future.”

The Spurs won with seven players scoring in double figures and the bench outpointing the starters. They won coming off a double-overtime game Sunday in Toronto. Monday night in Washington, game four of a six-game road swing. So far, all W's.

"Overall a great job," said Ginobili, who contributed 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes. "Everybody contributed, we were responsible, we worked hard. We really moved the ball."

On the court, the Spurs move the ball with care and purpose, preferably by the pass rather than the dribble.

"That's always the game plan, to share the ball, get the best shot you possibly can," said Spurs forward Matt Bonner. "We did that tonight, going from a good shot to a great shot, lots of hockey assists. It was a lot of fun.

Especially playing without their top two playmakers in Wall and Nene, the Wizards tend to pound the rock and in turn slow the flow. Against San Antonio, Washington had 14 assists, one off its season low.

“It’s a learning process," said Wittman. "We are trying to get them to play with movement and passing rather than dribbling. Its habits that we are continuously trying to break.”

Bonner's effectiveness epitomizes the differences between the rosters. Unlike his counterparts in Washington, Bonner joined San Antonio as a plug-and-play guy and given time to adapt. The system existed, his role evident.

"I had Robert Horry who was kind of the guy who played my position with to the Spurs," Bonner said. "Had a year or two to kind of transition, kind of learn under him. He was always giving me tips and coaching me on and off the court."

On the other side, Wittman is in constant tinker mode, looking five, any five players to use.

With its fourth different starting lineup of the season, Washington went toe to toe with San Antonio early, trailing 50-48 with three minutes remaining in the first half. The Spurs closed the second quarter with 10 straight points, extended the run to 20-4 after halftime. The surge "kind of took our will away," Wittman said.

Webster said of the Spurs, "They’re constantly in a rhythm. A veteran team like that they understand. They have guys on that team who have been around this league and have tons of experience who can flip that switch because they know."

"That’s what we want to get to. That starts with work and trust and buying into the system. I think once we do that we’ll be a fun team to watch.”

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Marcin Gortat

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Marcin Gortat's season...

Player: Marcin Gortat

Position: Center

Age: 34

2017-18 salary: $12.8 million

2017-18 stats: 82 G, 25.3 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51.8 FG%, 67.5 FT%, 51.8 eFG%, 112 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 10/18 vs. Sixers - 16 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, assist, 7-for-12 FG

Season review: Marcin Gortat is self-aware enough to know that what happened to him in 2017-18 was inevitable in many ways. He even publicly called it before the season.

He was one year older, with Ian Mahinmi healthy and in the rotation, and with the NBA continuing to move towards small-ball and big men who can play on the perimeter. As a result, Gortat saw his role in the Wizards rotation pared down noticeably.

Though he still started all 82 games, his minutes went down from 31.2 per game the year before the 25.3. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who played the majority of the season coming off the bench, logged more minutes than Gortat, though he was a starter.

Gortat's minutes were his fewest since the 2009-10 season, when he was a 25-year-old bench player for the Orlando Magic. His numbers this season followed suit. Gortat's points and rebounds per game were both the lowest since that 2009-10 campaign.

Gortat averaged a career-best 10.4 rebounds per game in 2016-17, but the minutes had a direct effect on his volume of boards. He pulled in 2.4 less per game this season despite his rebound percentage (17.0) being close to his career average (17.5). That career average, by the way, is 30th-best all-time an eighth among active players.

Not getting the same opportunities he had in years past, plus public misunderstandings with teammates, combined to make for a frustrating year for Gortat. He said on the Wizards Tipoff podcast midseason it was the worst year of his career. Gortat, though, did continue to make an impact setting screens for the Wizards and he rallied to finish relatively strong.

He had several solid outings in the playoffs, including his 16 points in Game 3 and his 12 rebounds in Game 5. The question is whether that is the last time we will see Gortat in a Wizards uniform.

Washington has played with the idea of trading Gortat for a while now. He popped up in rumors around the trade deadline in February, but remained on the roster. Now he has an expiring contract working in his favor, making it a bit more likely he gets dealt.

Gortat knows his future in Washington is uncertain, though he said following the season he would like to stay. It would not be surprising to him or anyone if he were traded this summer. If not, he's got one year left with the Wizards and could very well have his role decreased even more.

Potential to improve: Rim protection, midrange shooting, free throw percentage

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s season...

Player: Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Position: Small forward

Age: 22

2017-18 salary: $2.1 million

2017-18 stats: 81 G, 27.5 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 40.3 FG%, 34.1 3P%, 82.0 FT%, 48.2 eFG%, 106 ORtg, 109 DRtg

Best game: 3/21 at Spurs - 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 9-for-17 FG, 3-for-6 3PT

Season review: The first half of Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s 2017-18 season went very differently than the second half. Through 46 games to begin the year, Oubre shot 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from the perimeter. Oubre then shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three in his last 35 games to close the regular season. That included a stretch from March 25 through April 5 in which he shot 2-for-35 from long range and 23-for-77 (29.9%) overall in seven games.

As his head coach described, Oubre had a tale of two seasons. By mid-January it appeared to be a breakout year, as he was scoring consistently and shooting at a high percentage. He was even limiting his mistakes on defense. Then, his shot went away and Oubre could never quite regain it.

All in all, Oubre's season represented a step forward. He proved he could be a top-six player in a playoff rotation and had extended stretches of success he can draw confidence from in the future.

Now Oubre enters his biggest offseason yet as a basketball player. He has just one year left on his rookie scale contract and will be in line for a considerable raise if he keeps developing. If Oubre takes even a slight step forward, he will make big money in his next contract. If he takes a major leap forward, like Otto Porter did when he was in the same position in 2016-17, he could earn way more money than the Wizards can afford as currently constructed.

That dynamic gives the Wizards a decision to make this summer on Oubre's future. He has significant trade value at this point, given his upside and his contract. He is due to make just $3.2 million next season and will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. If they don't see a long-term future for him in Washington, trading him this offseason should not be ruled out.

It figures to be a busy summer for the Wizards and when it comes to Oubre there are a lot of factors in play. If they want financial flexibility, another option would be to deal Porter or another frontcourt starter and roll with Oubre as a less expensive option. Though his season was inconsistent, Oubre has shown enough to warrant consideration as a starter.

Regardless of what the Wizards decide, Oubre himself is in good shape. If he keeps getting better, he will earn a nice deal whether it's in Washington or somewhere else. He just needs to find consistency on both ends of the floor. 

He can do that on offense by tightening up his ball-handling and improving his ability to get to the rim. That would allow him to circumnavigate the type of shooting struggles that held him back late in the year.

Defensively, he has all the natural ability needed to be an elite player. He just needs to limit the gambles he takes that turn into blown assignments or unnecessary fouls.

Potential to improve: Consistency, efficiency, ball-handling


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