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Wizards-Heat a mismatch of epic proportions


Wizards-Heat a mismatch of epic proportions

On paper, it’s a mismatch of epic proportions.

The defending champion Miami Heat, who are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the best record in the NBA [11-3], pay their first visit to Verizon Center Tuesday night against the last-place Wizards, who own the NBA’s worst record at 1-13.

The numbers speak for themselves.

The Heat rank second in the NBA with 104.6 points per game; the Wizards are last at 89.4. The Heat rank first in the league in shooting percentage [49.5] and 3-point shooting [42.5]; the Wizards are last in shooting percentage [40.3] and rank 27th from long range [30.2].

In fact, the Heat’s four leading scorers – LeBron James [24.7 points], Dwyane Wade [19.5], Chris Bosh [19.3] and Ray Allen [13.3] – are all averaging more points than the Wizards’ leading scorer, Jordan Crawford [13.1].

So, how does Randy Wittman plan on taking down the mighty Heat in front of what promises to be an arena full of crazed LeBron fans? With a stone and a slingshot, perhaps?

Actually, Wittman believes that if the Wizards can knock down their open shots, eliminate turnovers and rebound the ball, they can keep pace with the defending champions.

“If we don’t, it’s going to be difficult, there’s no two ways about it,” Wittman said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

With James and Wade leading the way, the Heat loves to push the pace and Wizards rookie Bradley Beal says the Wiz need to embrace that.

“They're probably the fastest team I’ve ever seen in my life,” Beal said. “We're just going to stay with the game plan. We're going to try to take things away from them and turn them into jump shooters.”

Beal said the Wizards don’t mind getting into a track meet with the Heat, saying they are just as capable of playing a transition games.

“We don't want to play halfcourt,” he said. “We love to play fast. It’s going to be a fast game, I can guarantee you that. It may get a little sloppy at times with guys just going up and down the floor.

“We're not going to change the way we play for them. We're going to stick to what we're doing and make them try to stop us as well. We're not going to back down. We're going to come at them hard.”

If the Wizards hope to keep pace with the Heat, they’ll need to avoid turnovers while creating a slew of them with hawkish team defense. The Wizards are averaging 16.2 turnovers per game, compared to the Heat’s 13.9.

“If you don’t turn it over you’ve got a good chance, absolutely,” Wittman said. “You’ve got two guys -- Wade and LeBron – and LeBron, with the size he is, if he gets his hands on a turnover, you’re not stopping it. Sam with Dwyane. That has to be our No. 1 objective: taking care of the ball.”

Without John Wall for the 15th straight game and with Nene playing only a limited role, the Wizards are going to need herculean defensive efforts by Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin if they hope to contain the Heat’s physical presence down low.

Swingman Martell Webster said the Wizards can’t get intimidated by the star power of the Heat or the disparity of the two teams’ records. At least not of they want to climb out of the 1-13 valley they dug for themselves.

“We’ve got to treat every game like we’re playing defending champions,” Webster said. “That’s how the great teams play. We’re not going to win every game, but if you’re preparing yourself like you’re going to war, Game 7 of the playoffs, more times than not, you’re going to go out and compete and leave with a win.

“That’s how our mind and our preparation has to be from here on out. We don’t have that luxury of turning the switch on and off, cruising through games. We can’t do that. We have to go out like we’re playing the Miami Heat every game.”

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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.