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Will Okafor and Seraphin team up against Jazz?


Will Okafor and Seraphin team up against Jazz?

If the 0-7 Wizards hope to avoid matching their worst start in franchise history tonight against the Utah Jazz at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN] they might have to take a few bumps and bruises in the process.

“This is a huge team,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “This is going to be probably the most physical team in the league. That’s probably what we have to be focused on. It’s going to be a physical game.”

With Al Jefferson [6-foot-10, 289 pounds], Derrick Favors [6-10, 248] and Paul Millsap [6-8, 253] the Jazz are capable of throwing some weight under the basket. That could prompt Wittman to try something he hasn’t so far this season – playing Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin at the same time.

One way or another the Wizards will need to find a way to contain Millsap, who is averaging 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds on the Jazz’ current toad trip, and Jefferson, who leads the Jazz with 18.5 points a game and is averaging 9.2 rebounds a game.

Jefferson has scored 1,000 or more points in each of his last six seasons and has seven double-double this season. He’s reached double-doubles in each of his last three games against the Wizards, including a season-high 34 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-100 win in Utah on Feb. 17.

 “He could score the ball coming out of the crib,” Wittman joked.

The Jazz are 3-0 at home this season but just 1-6 on the road. The Wizards are playing at Verizon Center for just the third time this season. Last season they were 11-22 on their home court.

“We haven’t been home since Oct. 2,” said Wittman, conveniently forgetting home losses to the Celtics and Bucks on Nov. 3 and Nov. 9. “That’s what it feels like. It’s always nice to get here and be in the city and be in your own bed a little bit. That’s always good.”

Wittman will be looking to create more offense from a team that is averaging just 88 points a game and is led by rookie Bradley Beal, who is averaging 11.6 points but has just 16 points in his last two games while shooting just 4-for-25.

The Wizards are hoping the arrival of free-agent point guard Shaun Livingston [6-foot-7, 175 pounds] will help spark an offense that has cracked 100 points just once this season.

“Shaun is very talented,” teammate Cartier Martin said. “He’s a bigger guard. He can handle the ball. He’ll allow us to put a bigger guard on a point guard to kind of scramble up the other team’s offense. He also knows the game. He’s been in a lot of different places and he knows the game well. I’m sure his presence will be a big help.”

Livingston, who averaged 9.3 points a game the season before dislocating his left kneecap midway through the 2007-08 season, is expected to rotate in and out with starter A.J. Price.

"He was all-world before his knee injury, to be honest with you,” Price said. “He’s a good point guard -- not one of those guys they try to turn into a point guard. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time.”


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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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