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Wizards losing streak extended to 11

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Wizards losing streak extended to 11

Now the heartbreak is getting too painful to bear.

Three nights after suffering their most crushing loss of the season, the Wizards were forced to digest another gut-wrenching defeat Saturday night, keeping them oh-for-November.

This time it was a heart-stopping 108-106 double overtime setback to the visiting Charlotte Bobcats. The Wizards are now an NBA-worst 0-11 – the worst start in franchise history and seven shy of matching the worst start in NBA history.

Wasted in the defeat was another herculean effort by Nene, who finished with 19 points in his second game back after missing the nine games with pain in his right heel.

Martell Webster came off the bench to lead the Wizards with a season-high 21 points, but Byron Mullens led the Bobcats with 27 and the Wizards were left to explain another last-second defeat.

Believe it or not, it could get worse for the Wizards before it gets better. Their next five opponents -- San Antonio [10-3], Portland [6-6], New York [8-3], Miami [9-3] and Atlanta [7-4] -- have a combined record of 40-19.

The Wizards had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime when Chris Singleton was fouled by Jeffery Taylor while attempting a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining and the Wizards trailing by two.

Singleton drained the first shot, but his second rattled around the rim three times before falling out. He sank his final free throw to tie the score at 99-99 and send the game into a second overtime.

The Wizards grabbed a 102-99 lead early in the second overtime on a fadeaway jumper by Nene, but a Reggie Williams 3-pointer and free throws by Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker sealed it for the Bobcats.

Bradley Beal made it close when he drilled a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds remaining to draw the Wiz within one, but Walker hit one of two in the closing seconds and Jordan Crawford’s halfcourt prayer missed the mark.

To their credit the Wizards stormed back from a late eight-point deficit and twice had a chance to win on the final possession of regulation. Martell Webster went to the line with 17.1 seconds remaining and a chance to put the Wizards ahead.

After making his first free throw, Webster missed the second, but the Wizards grabbed the rebound and Crawford’s attempt at the game-winner bounced hard off the back of the rim, sending the game into overtime at 92-92.

Wizards coach Randy Wittman went back to a starting lineup of Beal, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Crawford and Shaun Livingston.

It may not have been the quintet Wittman drew up in training camp, but all five players got on the scoresheet and received solid support from the bench as the Wizards carried a 51-50 lead into the half.

Emeka Okafor came off the bench for nine first-half points, including a three-point play off a slick behind-the-back bounce pass from Nene with 14 seconds to go in the half

The 51 first-half points the most for the Wizards this season and the lead marked just the third time all season the Wizards carried a lead into halftime.

The good vibrations of the first half vanished early in the third quarter when the Bobcats went on a 14-2 run to take a 64-53 lead. The Wizards immediately answered with their own 12-2 run that Webster finished off with a 3-pointer.

Webster finished with a team-high eight points in that third quarter as the two teams entered the fourth locked in a 72-72 tie.

 

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Markieff Morris never believed the Celtics were better than the Wizards

Markieff Morris never believed the Celtics were better than the Wizards

The Wizards were going to turn over a new leaf, talk less and let their play speak for itself.

And they almost made it through media day sticking by that pledge ... almost. 

The topic that got them off track? Surprise! The Celtics.

Okay, maybe not such a surprise after all. 

Speaking at the podium, Markieff Morris was asked about the Eastern Conference landscape now that LeBron James had vacated his throne. 

"I think we're the number one team. Raptors are going through a little bit when they changed DeMar DeRozan. So other than that, Boston has never been better than us. The record shows it, but internally we don't think they were better than us last year."

It may not be a coincidence that Morris made his comments around the same time NBA Twitter lost its collective mind about a picture of the Celtics' starting five — Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford — and how good they'd be. 

The Wizards may not have believed the Celtics were better than they were last year, but Morris does have a point about the record.

 Boston finished the regular season 55-27 and lost to the James-led Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row. 

Washington, meanwhile, finished the year 43-39 and lost to the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. 

Both the Wizards and Celtics are healthier this year and have shiny new pieces to play with, most notably Dwight Howard in Washington and Hayward in Boston. Those guys could add new life to whatever rivalry is left over from the infamous Funeral Game of 2017. 

Even if it seems like the perfect matchup for opening night, the two teams won't play each other until Dec. 12 in Washington. 

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Wizards players believe winning as a team will take care of individuals with contract uncertainty

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Wizards players believe winning as a team will take care of individuals with contract uncertainty

The Washington Wizards are set to play the 2018-19 season with seven players on expiring contracts, or in other words half of 14 spots currently held on their roster. That does not include Dwight Howard, who has a player option for next season worth just $5.6 million, so low for his standards that he might as well be entering a contract year.

That dynamic could make things interesting for the Wizards, as some guys will likely thrive with the chance to earn themselves a lot of money, while others may struggle under the pressure of an unknown financial future. The players themselves seem to be in agreement on one thing, that as long as the team wins, they won't have to worry about their own contract situation.

"I'm more focused on winning. If we win, we all gonna eat. If we don't win, it will be a tough year," forward Markieff Morris said.

"Team-first, honestly. We have to win," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "It's not about me at all. It's about this team, it's about the name on the front of my jersey. I'm not putting any weight on whatever contractual situations are going on right now."

That was the message from Morris and Oubre, both of whom have not been in this situation before. Morris had a second contract signed with the Phoenix Suns before his first one was up,  while Oubre is currently entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Veteran newcomers Austin Rivers and Jeff Green are also entering contract years, but have been through it before. Rivers acknowledged that there are some difficulties that come with the process.

"It's tough, you know what I mean? People don't realize on the outside that this is our life, this is how we feed our families," Rivers explained. 

"What I try to do is focus on the things that I can control. The only thing that I can control is how I perform and how I play. If you focus on how much you get paid or how much this guy gets paid, it messes you up in the head, honestly. It's all about timing. Some guys get lucky, some guys are liked by different teams. I think if you just go out there and hoop, then everything takes care of itself."

Green has played through a contract year in each of the past four seasons. Each time, he has done enough to earn another contract in a good situation for him.

"Honestly, [the key is] to really not think about your contract. It's something that at this moment, you can't control," Green said. "So, really you just have to focus on basketball. That's the main priority and all the rest will take care of itself when it's said and done."

Point guard John Wall has his future safe and sound with his second max contract extension still a year away from kicking in. He has never really had to worry about his next contract as a perennial All-Star.

That, however, doesn't mean Wall can't speak to the effects too many expiring contracts can have on a team. Back in the 2015-16 season, the Wizards missed the playoffs and many feel too many guys in contract years was partially to blame.

Wall brought it up quickly when asked about this year's contracts.

"This is probably the second most we’ve had. I’ve been on a team where we had about nine guys and I know what it feels like when everybody is trying to get off, get their shots and do whatever," he said. 

Wall, though, believes this year can be different because of the types of guys who are playing in contract years.

"I think with those guys they kind of understand what we are as a team. What we stand for. Keef has been here for years. Kelly has been here for years. Those guys understand what we’re trying to do. There’s no point in trying to go out there and prove a point," he said.

Wall may not be able to relate to the uncertainty of a contract year, but he can speak to the individual benefits that come from a team winning. He believes the Wizards becoming a constant in the playoffs is a big reason for the accolades he has collected over the years.

"You don’t get paid if we don’t win. You don’t become an All-Star, you don’t get accolades if you’re not winning. So it doesn’t matter what you do by yourself," he said. "I think those guys understand that.”

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