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Takeaways from Wizards' overtime loss to Grizzlies

Takeaways from Wizards' overtime loss to Grizzlies

The hard work it required for the Wizards to get back into the game with the Memphis Grizzlies after trailing by 15 early was shattered by the three-point shooting of center Marc Gasol, who forced overtime with a long ball and closed it out there with two more.

The Wizards (0-2) led by as many as eight and 100-97 after two free throws from John Wall. But Gasol drilled a three about a foot outside the three-point arc for the extra period where the Grizzlies prevailed 112-103 Sunday at FedEx Forum.

There, the Wizards failed to score until 17.7 seconds remained in the extra period when Marcus Thornton made a three-pointer. 

Memphis (2-1) was led by Mike Conley (24 points, 13 assists), Zach Randolph (22 points, seven rebounds), Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (18 points).

Wall had his second double-double (22 points, 13 assists) and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 12 rebounds) had his first of the season. 

  • The tied turned with 3:17 left, with Wall's Flagrant 1 foul on Carter, whacking him across the head to stop a transition layup. The Wizards led 96-88 but Carter made two free throws, the Grizzlies got the ball and Conley drained a stepback three-pointer to change the momentum. 

 

  • Wall, who had a career-high 12 technical fouls last season, drew his first at 7:19 of the second quarter after he didn’t get whistles on consecutive drives to the basket and he missed. The good thing for the Wizards is he didn’t get discouraged and he finished 8-for-19. His ability to get into the defense put them in scramble mode and allowed for trailers to swoop in for point-blank finishes. Wall had consecutive three-point plays in the last two minutes of the first half.

 

  • The Wizards shot 4-for-22 from three-point range, a major weakness in their arsenal despite how well they shot at times in the preseason. Bradley Beal (14 points) was 2-for-8 and Otto Porter (13 points) missed all five of his attempts. 

 

  • Gasol made three three-point shots all of last season. He went 4-for-6 in this game. He made two more in overtime for a 107-100 lead and again for 112-100. The 7-footer had never made more than three in a season. Having Gortat have to step out that far from the basket to defend put him in a tough spot.

 

  • Beal wasn't restricted by foul trouble in this game and played 39 minutes. His stat line remains mostly empty. He had just three rebounds and one assist though his attacks on the basket with the dribble remain. He still is making creative finishes around the rim and breaking down defenders with his hesitation dribble, but 5-for-17 won't get it done. 

 

  • Wall had the final shot to win it in regulation but only got an off-balance look that had no prayer because Conley didn't allow him to turn the corner. Those end-of-game possessions for the Wizards have been problematic before Brooks' arrival. When asked after the game why he didn't use a timeout, Brooks said it was because he had a veteran group that he trusted. Some coaches call timeout no matter what. Others take the temperature of their team and try to catch the defense on its heels. Most of the time, Wall will end up taking the shot in that situation and it's a low percentage one. And whistles in that situation are unlikely. 

[RELATED: Steve Buckhantz gets Phil Chenier a Memphis birthday present]

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

Lloyd Ferguson had always been infatuated with sneakers. He had long been interested in painting and abstract art. It wasn't until he was 17-years-old that he realized his biggest passions in life could converge and someday become his livelihood.

It was 2011 and the annual event Sneaker Con had stopped in Washington, D.C. Ferguson, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., came across a vendor table with customized shoes. An artist was taking popular designs from Nike, Adidas and other brands and turning them into unique and entirely original concepts.

Ferguson approached the artist and found out all he could in terms of the process and the necessary supplies to make similar shoes of his own. A seed had been planted for years later when Ferguson would make his own mark in sneaker art and become who many now know as Swaggy Picasso.

Let's rewind a bit. Before Ferguson knew customized sneakers would be a realistic path, basketball was his biggest passion. He was good at it, enough to play at Wheaton High School and later at Montgomery College. It also became a connection to his mother who passed away when he was just 13-years-old. 

Much of Ferguson's childhood was affected by the deteriorating health of his mom, who had a stroke when he was seven and as a result became paralyzed from the waist down. He often visited her while she recovered in a nursing home and, as her condition worsened, he remained linked to her through his success in the sport.

"I wanted to make my mom happy because that was the last thing she saw me doing when I was a kid. I carried that on for her," Ferguson said. "It's just been hard. I just used the things that make me happy to get me through it."

Playing college basketball was an important achievement for Ferguson, but it was short-lived. He eventually turned to art classes and as he regained those skills, he circled back to that day at Sneaker Con and how shoes were the perfect canvas. 

He started by cleaning and repainting shoes for friends and soon realized executing his own designs could be more fulfilling creatively and more lucrative. Several years in, Ferguson is starting to make a name for himself.

His Instagram account @SwaggyPicasso has allowed him to get exposure for his work. The first one that popped online was a Maryland flag-themed pair of Jordan Taxi 12s. One thing led to another, and now Lakers guard Josh Hart has an order on the way inspired by New Jersey-based artist Kaws.

"Ever since then, I've been going H.A.M. with all the painting and it's been amazing," Ferguson said.

Ferguson says his projects can take anywhere between five hours to two days. They require an extensive preparation process before the painting even begins. He will either sketch the concept on the shoe itself or on paper and go from there.

Ferguson's workshop is in his home in Silver Spring where he lives with the pastor of his church. He tries to do two shoes per day and will often stay up until the early hours of the morning to put in the finishing touches of his designs.

"I wake up every morning as the happiest man alive because I'm using my abilities and then putting it on the things that I love most which is shoes. It's just amazing," he said.

Swaggy Picasso is just starting to blow up and and all of it is overwhelming. He next  hopes to design shoes for Wizards players like John Wall and Bradley Beal and many more NBA stars. 

He is also designing a pair of shoes for NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, set to debut on Thursday night's broadcast of the Wizards' season opener against the Miami Heat. Ferguson will attend the game and plans to wear a unique design himself, a pair of Yeezys inspired by the Batman villain 'The Joker.'

With a love for basketball and sneakers, the NBA is the logical destination for Ferguson's work. He wants to create one-of-a-kind shoes for NBA players for a living and someday open his own shop where sneaker heads can walk in and get their own custom designs.

Ferguson appears well on his way to reaching those goals, but at only 23 is now just enjoying the journey.

"I never knew I would get this far or that people would notice me," he said. "It's still mind-blowing because it's like this is really happening."

A full feature video on Ferguson's life and work is available exclusively in the new MyTeams app. Click here to download it

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