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Wizards feel 0-3 start isn't reflective of how good they are

Wizards feel 0-3 start isn't reflective of how good they are

The Wizards' 2016-17 is off to an inauspicious start with three straight losses, including their 113-103 defeat to the Toronto Raptors in their home opener on Wednesday night. In each of the three games the Wizards have played they have fallen to teams that made the playoffs the year before. And in all three games the Wizards had a chance to win.

In their season opener against the Hawks, they had a one-point lead with under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In their overtime loss to the Grizzlies, they were up eight with less than four minutes in regulation. And on Wednesday, they were tied with the Raptors with just over six minutes remaining before DeMar DeRozan went off and sealed their fate.

A made shot here or a defensive stop there could have easily changed where the Wizards stand right now. But now they sit 0-3 with another matchup against the Hawks (3-1) set for Friday.

"It's still early. Don't count us out," forward Otto Porter said. "But at the same time, we need to take and learn from these early games and try to fix things. Especially closing games like that, we've gotta find some way to push over the top."

Wednesday's loss to Toronto followed comments made by center Marcin Gortat that the Wizards were facing a must-win situation after dropping their first two games on the road. That reflected the team's sense of urgency, though others would not have chosen those same exact words.

"We're alright. We're fine. I don't know why he said it was a must-win. We want to win the home opener, yeah, but it's not a must-win," point guard John Wall said. "We've gotta find a way to get out of this slump and we can't do it with nobody but the 15 or 16 guys in this locker room and the coaching staff."

The feeling among Wizards players is that their 0-3 record doesn't accurately portray what they are capable of as a team. This is a squad that made the playoffs in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and last season finished a respectable 41-41. They expect to win and still be playing well beyond the regular season.

"It don't reflect us. This is not the kind of start we want to get out to. We worked hard in training camp, we worked hard in practice. This is not a testament to what our team is," Wall said. 

"Only we can get out of it and show people what we really are. We've gotta compete and go out there and win. We're not going to be a team that can outscore people. We can score the ball, but when we defend and rebound the ball, we're a great team. Until we start doing that for 48 minutes, we'll stay in this slump that we're in."

Like Wall, shooting guard Bradley Beal is not letting the losses start to weigh on him quite yet.

"We're still positive. It's still early. We wanted this game bad and nobody's happy. I think that's a positive in itself. I think overall as a team, our spirits are still good. It's still early. We need to focus more and I think we're going to be ready on Friday," he said.

The Wizards have already faced three teams that made last year's postseason and moving forward it won't get much easier. Four of their next five games are against playoff teams, including the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers. 

[RELATED: Wizards didn't defend like it was 'must win' vs. Raptors]

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

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NBCSW

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

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