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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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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.