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Winless Wizards need someone to step up


Winless Wizards need someone to step up

When Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld selected Bradley Beal with the third pick of the 2012 NBA draft it was with the idea that the 19-year-old rookie would complement third-year guard John Wall, not replace him.

Grunfeld had similar aspirations for A.J. Price when he signed him as a free agent.

And when Grunfeld traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza over the summer he did so with the intent of adding some muscle and scoring touch to a frontcourt anchored by Nene.

That all changed when Nene, who averaged 13.7 points last season, showed up for training camp with plantar fasciitis and Wall, who averaged 16.3 points, was found to have a stress injury to his right knee.

“We have a deep roster right now,” Grunfeld said at the time Wall’s injury was announced. “We have a lot of players in a lot of different positions.

“It’s not going to be about one player taking over what John has done. It’s about a whole team effort. I think we’re deep, we have players to pick up the slack and it’s not going to be up to just one player. It’s going to be a team effort until we get John back.”

With Nene and Wall watching from the bench, Beal, Price Okafor and Ariza have been everyday starters asked to shoulder a load that has ultimately proven too heavy to bear.

Through seven games the Wizards are the only team in the NBA without a victory, a streak they will try to end on Friday when the Utah Jazz visit Verizon Center.

The following numbers tell a quick story of the Wizards problems this season:

  •  They rank 27th in the NBA in points per game [88.1]
  • They rank 30th in points in the paint [29.4] compared to sixth last season [43]
  • They rank 29th with a point differential of 7.86
  • They rank 28th in field goal percentage [40.7] and 23rd from 3-point range [30.9]
  • They rank 20th in rebounding and have been outrebounded by an average of 44-41

But if you look closely at their individual stats, it’s hard to place a lot of blame on anyone in particular.

Beal, Price, Okafor and Ariza had not worn a Wizards jersey before this season and all four have started every game so far.

Beal, who averaged 14.8 points and 2.2 assists at the University of Florida, is leading the Wizards with 11.6 points per game, a number most fans would have been satisfied with if Wall was putting up between 20 and 25 a night.

Price is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game, which is 6.2 points more than he averaged last season with Indiana.

Meanwhile, Okafor and Ariza have seen a dip in production. Okafor is averaging 8.4 points and six rebounds a game, slightly below the 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds he averaged last season in New Orleans. And Ariza is averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds this season, well off the 10.8 and 5.2 rebounds he averaged last season

Wizards coach Randy Wittman could probably live with those numbers if Wall and Nene were in the lineup. Without them he is trying to keep the Wizards’ slow start in perspective in a season that began with playoff aspirations.

“We gotta keep fighting,” Wittman said after Wednesday night’s loss in Dallas. “We fought tonight. There have been very few nights where we haven’t. There are things we have to do better and be more consistent at. …  It’s a learning process.”





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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 



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