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Wizards: Nene is 'the guy no one can guard' in this series


Wizards: Nene is 'the guy no one can guard' in this series

Similar to what coach Randy Wittman had to do with John Wall in the middle of the playoffs last season when he struggled, the same took place with Nene in this second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. 

"We talked. Listen, it's been talked about," Wittman said after Sunday's practice, explaining what led to Nene's outburst of 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Saturday's 103-101 Game 3 victory vs. Atlanta. "That's part of coaching. He made a conscious effort."

Game 4 is tonight at Verizon Center and the Wizards, who are undefeated in three home playoff games, have a chance to take a stranglehold on the No. 1 team in the East.

Nene had a renewed focus and made the Hawks pay. They had to start Pero Antic in place of Paul Millsap, who had flu-like symptoms. Nene feasted as he made six consecutive field goals during a stretch in the first half. Along with Marcin Gortat's 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, the duo was unstoppable against the undersized opponent. 

Nene shot 0-for-9 for just two points in the first two games of the series. He had just seven total rebounds and six turnovers.

"We don't get lost in numbers. I get lost in aggression," Wittman said. "His 17 were good but is it always going to be 17? I hope but maybe not. But his aggression has to be the same. He's going to find people if they double. He's going to kick the ball out, get fouled. Our bigs were much more in tune to running the floor early to get set up for quick feeds in transition to attack."

For his part, Nene has remained surly. He has heard the criticism of his play, accepted a reduced role in the offense which has allowed Gortat more touches and overcome right knee and foot soreness all season.

"It was hard but I learned from adversity," Nene said in a curt tone. "I just trying to be me."

Rather than smiling about his performance, the 7-footer scowled and then stormed out of the locker room. 

"Nene put his stamp on the game early in the paint, started the game with a left-hand hook, started to get to the free throw line, really putting the  pressure on their bigs," said Drew Gooden, his primary backup. "We're a deep team. You can't just put the onus on Nene if he plays good or plays bad. We're deep. We got guys to step in and have our teammates' backs. If he doesn't have it going one night, we have faith in other guys to get it done for us. When he's playing like that we're definitely a better team."

Ramon Sessions, who has replaced the injured John Wall (left wrist) as the starting point guard, kept feeding him.

"The big fella was rolling, got us going, it brought smiles to everybody's face. That was the plan," Sessions said. "Not just scoring the ball, he made good passes, passing out of double-teams. When the big guy is going like that is tough no matter who's out there on the court really."

Bradley Beal wants to see more of this Nene, who averaged 11 rebounds in the first two games of a first-round series sweep of the Toronto Raptors. It was Nene's play that set the tone and led to Gortat shooting 74.3%. 

"That's the Nene we need each and every game, the guy no one can guard no matter who you put on him," Beal said. "He's going to score. He's going to make plays."

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Report suggests Barack Obama is trying to recruit Masai Ujiri to Wizards

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Report suggests Barack Obama is trying to recruit Masai Ujiri to Wizards

The Wizards are reportedly preparing to make Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri a massive offer to run Washington's NBA franchise. And they may have some big-time help recruiting him to D.C. 

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is trying to persuade Ujiri to leave the NBA champions to join the Wizards, according to The Athletic's Ethan Strauss. 

"I hear Barack Obama's a part of that whole Masai recruitment to D.C.," Strauss said on a recent episode of the "Back To Back" podcast. "I've heard Obama wants Masai in D.C. Obama wants to do something with basketball."

Obama and Ujiri are close friends. Obama was in attendance at Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, while Ujiri attended the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2015 when Obama was in office. 

The Wizards' potential offer for Ujiri is reportedly for six years, $60 million, and could possibly include an ownership stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment and other responsibilities within the company, sources have told NBC Sports Washington. 

And hey, it doesn't hurt to have the former Commander in Chief making your sales pitch.


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Sekou Doumbouya visits Wizards hoping to sell them on his defense

Sekou Doumbouya visits Wizards hoping to sell them on his defense

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hosted one of their final prospect workouts in anticipation of the June 20 NBA Draft on Friday, as six players battled in three-on-three drills with every member of Washington's front office and coaching staff in sight. But behind the glass wall of the dining lounge at the Wizards' practice facility at St. Elizabeth's was the player everyone wanted to see.

Sekou Doumbouya, who is projected to land in the lottery on draft night, made a visit to Washington to speak with Wizards personnel. He did not participate in the workout, but through face-to-face interviews gave the Wizards an up-close look at a player who may or may not be on the board when they are on the clock with the ninth overall pick.

Doumbouya is the youngest player in the draft at just 18 years old, with his birthday not until late December. He is originally from Guinea but played professional basketball in France. Given his age and the fact he played in a second-tier league before making the leap to the NBA, Doumbouya holds some mystery as a prospect.

In his meetings with teams, Doumbouya has tried to hammer home one point in particular.

"My defense," he said. "I can play everywhere [because] if you play defense, you can play everywhere in the league."

Defense certainly stands out when it comes to Doumbouya's potential. He is 6-foot-9 with a reported 7-foot-2 wingspan. At his age, he could keep growing. And at that size, he has the mobility to guard multiple positions, force turnovers and maybe even block some shots.

The Wizards need help with just about every area of their defense. They were 27th in defensive rating last season and 29th in points allowed. They couldn't defend the perimeter or the lane, allowing the fourth-highest three-point percentage (37%) and the fifth-most three-point makes (12.1/g), while also allowing more field goals within five feet of the rim than any team (22.1/g) and the third-highest percentage (64.2%) in that range. 

Doumbouya projects as the type of defensive anchor who could help in a variety of ways. He could step out to guard three-point shooters while also clogging lanes to the basket with his length.

The questions for Doumbouya center around how NBA-ready he is at his age and experience, and what his ceiling will ultimately be on the offensive end. Doumbouya, though, believes he can be especially effective in transition.

"Fastbreak," he said when listing his strengths. "I love running [the floor]."

Whether Doumbouya will be available at the ninth pick depends on who you ask. Most mock drafts have him at nine or lower, but his athleticism and versatility could entice a team that picks before the Wizards.

The Hawks, whom Doumbouya met with the day after seeing the Wizards, are a team to watch. They have the eighth, 10th and 17th picks in the first round, so they can afford to take a risk. They could snag Doumbouya at No. 8, then go with a safer pick or two with their other selections.

But there is a very good chance Doumbouya is the best player available when the Wizards get set to make their pick. If he does, defense will be his biggest selling point.