Its been eight months since Emeka Okafor last played in anNBA game and the Wizards 6-foot-10 center cant wait another day.Its been a long time, saidOkafor, who will make his Wizards debut Thursday night at Verizon Centeragainst the New York Knicks. I mean, just getting back into the flow. Practiceis one thing, games are a completely different thing.The Wizards are hoping theirhome preseason debut is a lot better than their preseason opener on Sunday,when they committed 20 turnovers in a 100-88 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.What needs to be better in Game 2?A little bit of everything, really, Wizards coach RandyWittman said. The whole thing.Obviously, turnovers is going to be a big thing for ourteam. We cant have individuals with six turnovers in a game no matter who it is.Forward Trevor Ariza committed a team-high six turnovers in theloss to the Bobcats.If we can eliminatehalf those 20 individual ones, were pretty much where we need to be,Wittman said. Weve got to get it done. Rebounding and execution. Passing theball. I think we held it a little too much in the first game. Its what weve workedon the last couple days, ball movement.Wittman said he expects to see gradual improvement from histeam, which has been without John Wall and Nene since the start of trainingcamp. The arrival of Okafor should help that process. He missed the final 39games of last season with a knee injury and was traded from New Orleans to the Wizards on June 20 alongwith Ariza.The first game looked likea first game, Okafor said. It was a bit sloppy. Transition killed us. It justlooked like some guys trying to get it together. But its the first game so itsnot the end of the world.Okafor said hed like fansto show a little patience with the Wizards as they try to learn each othersgames and the new system installed by Wittman. Wed like to see it come sooner rather than later, he said.Im just curious to see game-by-game improvement. Its going to be a littlebit of ebb and flow. But were all moving in the right direction so far.
The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.
It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.
"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.
Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.
Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.
Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.
With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.
"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."
As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.
Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.
Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.
"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.
"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."
Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.
Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.
"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."
Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:
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On Thursday the NBA revealed the All-NBA teams for the 2017-18 season.
Not surprisingly, Bradley Beal and John Wall did not make it to one of the three five-player teams. Of the two superstars, only Wall has been recognized once in his career.
What is surprising is that neither Beal nor Wall received a single vote in the whole process, especially Beal.
The 2017-18 season was without question the best in Beal’s career. He played in all 82 games, coming right off of the heals of his All-Star recognition. Beal seems to agree in his snubbing, tweeting this minutes after the teams were announced:
LOL— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 24, 2018
Looking at the list of players who made the top three teams, it shouldn’t be an issue, but these three guys got more votes than the Wizards' duo combined: Steven Adams, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard. It is not surprising that Beal and Wall did not make an All-NBA team. It is odd that Beal didn’t receive a vote.
Here is a list of the full All-NBA Teams:
ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM:
LeBron James (Cavaliers), James Harden (Rockets), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), Kevin Durant (Warriors)
ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM:
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Joel Embiid (76ers), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors)
ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM:
Stephen Curry (Warriors), Victor Oladipo (Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Paul George (Thunder)
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