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Takeaways from Wizards' hard-fought win over Hornets

Takeaways from Wizards' hard-fought win over Hornets

What changed for the Wizards after going down by 10 points early in the third quarter and playing short-handed against the best team in the Southeast Division on Wednesday night? Defense.

They turned the tide by being a more physical team, which they were not in a loss to the Miami Heat two nights prior, in a 109-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets in front of 13,447 at Verizon Center.

The Wizards (10-14) had six players in double figures before the third quarter ended and John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) led the way. Wall also had a career-high of seven steals and set the franchise record for career steals along the way (793).

Wall was followed by Bradley Beal (20 points, nine assists), Kelly Oubre (15 points, six rebounds, two steals), Marcin Gortat (16 points, 12 rebounds, two steals) and Otto Porter (10 points, five rebounds).

Charlotte (14-12) was led by Nic Batum (20 points, eight assists) but he didn’t have much help outside of Kemba Walker (17 points, nine assists) and Cody Zeller (18 points). Marco Belinelli (16 points) came off the bench to spark them when they trailed in the fourth, but the Hornets could never regain the lead. Walker's tying three-pointer rimmed out at the final buzzer.

-- The Wizards were more aggressive in the pick-and-roll coverage, especially Gortat, which threw off Walker’s execution. Gortat didn't get stuck in-between. When he had to contain on Walker, he did so aggressively and prevented the pass over the top to the roller. While they got a few buckets early, the coverage posed problems. Walker tried to split a trap of the ball late but Gortat poked it away to put the Wizards in transition where they had a 20-5 edge in points.

-- Gortat posted up Zeller early. While Zeller is an athletic center who can face up from mid-range, he’s not strong enough to defend for long periods under the basket. Zeller had four fouls by 1:42 of the third as a result. He had a minimal impact on the boards with just two rebounds, an area that the Wizards dominated 41-33.

-- A 10-0 run by the Hornets to open the third quarter broke the game open for a 66-56 lead. It came after Beal made his first shot of the game, a three, to tie the score at 10:12. But the Wizards locked down defensively and cut the deficit to 67-65 with 6:12 left behind hustle plays, defense and creating turnovers by Charlotte. The Hornets had seven in the third that produced 10 points for Washington which was credited with five steals. It was a 38-point third for an 87-77 lead entering the fourth. 

--The second unit did its job for the second game in a row. The Wizards trailed 30-26 entering the second quarter, Jason Smith (season-high 12 points, seven rebounds) had a steal and a layup and Marcus Thornton (five points) had a three and a layup to tie the score at 33. In regards to plus-minus ratings, three of the Wizards were on the positive and Andrew Nicholson was even. Smith reached double figures for the first time this season. And Smith's jumper when the Hornets cut the deficit to 91-85 in the fourth was clutch.

--The absence of Markieff Morris, who was a late scratch because of a sore left foot, meant more time than usual for Smith (19 minutes) and Nicholson (0 points in 5 minutes) but it didn’t result in Tomas Satoransky getting off the bench. The rookie point guard has played some at small forward this season in three-guard lineups because he’s 6-7.

-- Belinelli was stuck on Wall in an isolation and was beaten to the rim. Wall putback his own miss and the two had words as the Wizards went up 99-93. But Wall was assessed his sixth technical foul of the season in the process. 


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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.