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Wizards given chance to speak their minds

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Wizards given chance to speak their minds

Maybe Randy Wittman was tired of hearing his own voice.

Maybe he thought his players could provide a different perspective on how to fix a season that has started with 12 straight losses.

Whatever his rationale, the Wizards’ 53-year-old head coach decided on Tuesday to close his locker room doors, open the floor to his players and hear their suggestions.

“I always want a dialogue with my players,” Wittman said. “If they see things that can be done differently they’ve got to speak up. … I want to hear their reasoning for if we're not doing something the right way. Is there a better way for them that they can see?”

Asked what advice his players gave, Wittman smiled and said, “I ain’t telling you.”

“He came in the locker room and began talking and said, ‘What do you guys feel?’” Wizards 19-year-old rookie Bradley Beal said after Tuesday’s practice at Verizon Center.

“Martell [Webster] stepped up on the floor and told him, ‘You can’t take responsibility for everything because you’re not the one playing.’”

Beal said players seemed to welcome the opportunity to have their voices heard.

“It gets it off our chest,” Beal said. “We’re holding stuff in and sometimes you feel like, well, you can’t [challenge] the coach. You don’t feel comfortable saying it to him. But we actually got the opportunity to tell him what we need to do and how we need to do it, basically, and I think we’re doing a great job of getting that out.”

Bradley said Tuesday’s clearing of the air must have been effective because the Wizards went out and had one of their most spirited practices of the season in preparation for Wednesday night’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, who fell to 6-8 with Monday night’s 108-101 loss in Detroit.       

Wittman said his meeting with the players involved more than just airing out opinions.

There was also a film session in which Wittman stopped the tape and asked his players what they need to do before hitting the Play button.

“I can stop the film and ask a player what he's supposed to do as this play is coming up, and he'll tell me exactly what he's supposed to do,” Wittman said, “and then you roll the film and we don't do it.

“Now, you're not going to play a perfect game, I totally understand that, but we’ve got to be more on the other side.”

Wittman’s biggest beef with the Wizards’ 118-92 loss was their lack of defensive execution. The Spurs shot 56.2 from the field and 56.5 percent from beyond the arc because many of those shots were uncontested.

The Spurs’ superior ball movement was characterized by their 32-14 advantage in assists.

Of the Wizards’ next five opponents, the Trail Blazers are the only team with a losing record. Portland ranks 29th in the NBA in points surrendered per game [102.4], while the Wizards are last in the league in points scored per game [90].

Beal, who shot just 4-for-13 Monday night, said the Wizards need to erase that 26-point loss from their memories and let go of the pressures associated with winning their first game. Only 12 teams in NBA history have started a season 0-12. Beal  said that before joining the Wizards, he’d never been on a team that lost more than four games in a row.

“You see when we’re down the stretch we feel as though we have to get it,” he said. “It’s right there in our hands and sometimes we do too much and we end up letting it slip away.

“It’s still a long year. We’re 0-12 but we still have confidence and faith in ourselves to make a run.”

 

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Associated Press

Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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