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Wall dealing with strain from shoulder and turnovers against Hawks


Wall dealing with strain from shoulder and turnovers against Hawks

John Wall and the Wizards know too many turnovers put a strain on their offense against the Hawks this season. Facing Atlanta in the playoffs with a right shoulder strain is just something the point guard knows he must deal with starting with Game 1 on Sunday.

Wall and the Wizards headed to Atlanta Saturday afternoon after wrapping up one final practice at the Verizon Center. Washington hasn't played since finishing off a 4-0 series sweep against the Toronto Raptors with a rousing 125-96 victory last Sunday. That's given the team time to tighten up their game, prep for the top-seeded Hawks and rest. Wall suffered a shoulder injury during the opening game against the Raptors. Not that his performance suffered. The All-Star averaged 19.6 points and 14.0 assists over the final three games.

"It's all right. It (will) be all right," Wall said of his right shoulder. "I have a little strain in it and it's something I have to deal with, but you make no excuses when you're in the playoffs."

The Wizards were direct when discussing their turnover woes against the Hawks this season. Washington averaged 17.5 turnovers in the four games compared to 10.8 for Atlanta.

"Doesn’t matter if we’re playing Atlanta or Toronto or whoever, that’s not a good number for us to have," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "The big thing in this series is to get shots. That’s what our mentality’s got to be, to get a shot every time down the floor."

Getting up shots starts with the point guard and Wall struggled maintaining possession against the Hawks. He committed a whopping 6.8 turnovers per game. That's three more than his regular season average and the most for Wall against any team this season. Typically matched up directly against fellow All-Star guard Jeff Teague, Wall had games with seven, eight and 10 (in a win) turnovers against Atlanta this season. 

"They're just great with their hands," he said of the Hawks defenders. "You have to make simple reads against them in pick-and-roll situations. When you get into the paint, they're all using their hands to swipe down on the ball."

The turnovers don't just take away shot attempts for Washington, but also fuels Atlanta's offensive push, leading to open 3-point looks. The Hawks attempted 26.2 shots from beyond the arc during the regular season and ranked second with a 38 percent clip.

"They feed off their defense to get them going in transition," Wall noted. "That's when they find (Kyle) Korver and DeMarre) Carroll and all those guys to make open shots."

The Wizards still had stretches with too many turnovers against the Raptors, but so much else worked it didn't matter. Washington harassed Toronto's perimeter threats defensively and drained plenty of shots from deep with Wall spearheading the effort on both ends of the court.

"I think we're just playing more confident," Wall said about whether the Wizards are a different team compared to the one the Hawks handled. "I think whenever we play defense and we're not turning the ball over a lot, contest shots, rebound the ball as a group, I think we're a tough team."

[MORE WIZARDS: Playoff preview: Wizards-Hawks matchup set]

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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.