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Wizards-Grizzlies preview: Big matchup on Beale Street?


Wizards-Grizzlies preview: Big matchup on Beale Street?

Matchup: Washington Wizards (10-12) at Dallas Mavericks (13-12)

When: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. (TV: CSN+, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra) 

When last we met: First meeting this season. Washington swept the two-game series last season including a rare win in Memphis, 92-83 on April 4. The Wizards had lost nine straight at FedEx Forum. 

Streaks: With Saturday's 114-11 victory at Dallas Saturday, the Wizards have won three of their last four road games with all the W's coming against teams with winning records. ...While Washington blew a big lead but held on for the win, Memphis fell 100-97 Sunday at Miami despite holding a 16-point cushion. Now the Grizzlies are back home, where they've lost four of six. 

Three things to watch

1. Randolph the reserve: As the NBA moved heavily into small lineups last season, the Wizards and Grizzlies were two teams that remained traditional. Washington started Marcin Gortat and Nene inside while Memphis sported the potent combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Wizards shook things up from the start this season with Nene coming off the bench in favor of Kris Humphries, a perimeter shooting threat. Jared Dudley now occupies that role for Washington. Meanwhile the Grizzlies have now followed suit as Randolph came off the bench Sunday against the Heat. Matt Barnes moved into the starting lineup with former Georgetown star Jeff Green shifting to the stretch-4 role. Despite the loss, the move paid off offensively as Memphis shot 51 percent from the field.

2. Point-producing Porter: Without injured guard Bradley Beal, Washington needed an offensive boost somewhere. Against the Mavs, it came from Otto Porter, who scored a career-high 28 points. Beal won't be back until after Christmas at the earliest so the Wizards need this aggressive version of Porter to hang around. The Wizards are 4-1 this season when he scores at least 17 points.

3. Point guard battle:  Mike Conley isn't always mentioned along the elite floor leaders, but the Grizzlies' guard is among the better two-way options in the league. His steady presence along with the Gasol-Randolph pair inside have carried the Grizzlies in recent seasons. Based on numbers, John Wall rises to this specific challenge. In six meetings dating back to 2011, the Wizards' All-Star is averaging 22.7 points, 8.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and a stunning 41.2 percent on 3-pointers. Of course, Conley's side won four of those six games. His 17.8 points and 7.7 assists helped the cause.

MORE WIZARDS: Is Bradley Beal worth max money?

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season


Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.