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Wizards can't get it done in Brooklyn, fall to Nets


Wizards can't get it done in Brooklyn, fall to Nets

Competitive throughout and leading early in the fourth quarter, the Washington Wizards fell behind for good following an Andray Blatche-keyed 13-3 run and lost 98-88 to the Nets in the first game played at the new Barclays Center.

Also new, Emeka Okafor making his Wizards debut. Not new, Bradley Beal showing he belongs and flashing that textbook jumper even though it faltered in the fourth. New, Andray Blatche's slimmer frame. Not new, the 6-foot-11 forward scoring in bunches, though he'd never done so for a team besides the Wizards, until now...

Stats: Martell Webster paced five double-digit scorers with 18 points, sinking all 10 of his free throw opportunities. Beal sank his first three shots and finished with 13 points, followed by 12 each from Okafor and Jordan Crawford. Trevor Ariza added 10 points.

The Wizards dramatically curbed their turnovers, committing only eight. Three came via Shelvin Mack, who went without a turnover during the first three games. Offensively Washington shot 39 percent (32-of-82) from the field while the Nets sank half of their attempts (39-of-78). Center Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points while Blatche scored 16.

Beal: Squaring off against the Nets newly acquired All-Star guard Joe Johnson (14 points), the Florida rookie more than held his own on both ends of the court, especially in the first half. Beal expertly came off screens set by Okafor and finished plays with textbook jumpers, showing he is indeed well versed in the art of catch-and-shoot. Not only did he run around Johnson when the Wizards had the ball, Bell hung tough defending the taller guard and noted scorer. As the game progressed, Beal's shot began misfiring - wayward on seven of his final nine attempts - but he played without committing a turnover and grabbed four rebounds.

Crawford: Nobody is going to describe the Wizards other rising third-year guard's game as textbook, but Crawford flashed a much better off-the-ball game than in previous seasons, running off picks and executing offensively. He also made some nice passes, including a touch feed to a streaking Trevor Ariza for a dunk, and committed only one turnover. After the fast break dish, Phil Chenier said on-air, "I tell you what, it's fun watching Jordan Crawford play, just play basketball." Simple point, but one understood by anyone who's watched the volume shooter's wild play the past two seasons.

Blatche: Come on, we knew this was coming. Looking svelte (one on-site estimate had him down 20 pounds since we last saw him) after his Wizards era ended with a string of DNP-conditioning, Blatche ran the court and muscled his way past Washington's big men, knocking down 8-of-13 shots with eight rebounds in 23 minutes. The can guy score, he had motivation facing his old team and for a good chunk of the game the Wizards had Shavlik Randolph and Earl Barron on the court. Perfect storm, Blatche took advantage of it, scoring 10 points in the fourth including the go-ahead putback with 8:45 left that gave Brooklyn the lead for good at 77-76.

Okafor: The veteran center, who missed the previous game with food poisoning, played 28 minutes and finished with six rebounds while making 6-of-11 shots. Of his first five attempts, three came within the basket's shadow. He made all three, including a nice hook. The other attempts came from the foul line area. They missed and not in a "in-and-out" kind of way. Okafor also missed all four of his free throw attempts. This is essentially what you can look forward from him offensively. Ideally, Okafor stays around the rim and lets Nene and Kevin Seraphin handle the 10-15 footers. Of course...

And the bonus...Nene and Seraphin both missed the game, leaving the primary center minutes to Okafor. Seraphin, who suffered a calf injury five minutes into Saturday's win at Cleveland, is also out for the Wizards game Wednesday at Toronto. Chris Singleton (right shoulder contusion) sat out for the second straight game. Guess it also needs to be said, John Wall did not play...Jan Vesely showed some of that assertive game his coach is looking for, but he also committed five fouls and was scoreless in 27 minutes...New York native A.J. Price (five points) committed a hard foul on Deron Williams in the final minute after losing the ball on the other end following contact. Based on the postgame chatter, this should be an interesting matchup to watch when the teams next hook up - assuming Price is on the court. Yes, the Wizards point guard battle remains in flux.

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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.