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Wizards plan: Don't get caught up in Knicks coaching drama

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Wizards plan: Don't get caught up in Knicks coaching drama

Matchup: Washington Wizards (22-27) at New York Knicks (23-31)

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

Season series: New York leads 1-0. Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points in New York's 117-110 victory in Washington on Halloween.

Streaks: Including Saturday's 108-104 loss at Charlotte, Washington has dropped eight of 11 since Jan. 16 -- and yet New York is even worse lately. The Knicks have lost five in a row and 9 of 10.

Three things to know:

That's their problem: Even though the Knicks are much improved over last season's debacle, the organization (Phil Jackson) fired head coach Derek Fisher Monday after 1 1/2 seasons. Kurt Rambis takes over as interim coach with the first game coming against the Wizards. Not that Rambis, who bombed in previous head coaching jobs, will fix this, but such change can lead to dramatic turns, at least in the short term. With two games left before the All-Star, the Wizards cannot afford to get caught up in whatever emotions are transpiring on the other bench. "With the situation that happened [Monday] with Derek Fisher,  a lot of times with situations like that especially the game after teams come out playing hard and playing with a chip on their shoulder," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "We got to make sure we know who we're going up against." 

The Wizards are going against the Knicks and the Bucks before going their separate ways for the long break. The going for a playoff becomes much tougher if they don't win these games. Washington is tied for 10th in the East and three games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot. "It's unfortunate they're losing their coach," Wizards forward Jared Dudley said. "We just got to worry about us and try to get into a good rhythm before we go into the break. It's a big game us. Probably a big game for them."

Wing and a prayer: Carmelo Anthony torches most opponents. He certainly did so against the Wizards in the initial meeting this season. The thing is, he's hardly the only small forward or shooting guard that's found scoring success against Washington. "We've had trouble with wings that can score throughout the whole year, that put a lot of pressure. [on our defense]," Dudley said.  However, based on recent outings, Anthony might not be the wing to fear, though he really is. Over his last 10 games, Anthony is only shooting 33.3 percent from the field. In three games in February, that drops to 28.3. He sat out Friday's game against Memphis with a sore left knee, but scored 21 points on 7 of 19 shooting in Sunday's 101-96 loss to Denver. Meanwhile, wing guard Arron Afflalo (17.8 ppg over last four games) and rookie dynamo Kristaps Porzingis (19 ppg, 11.5 rebounds, four blocks last two games) have stepped up.

Garden Party: The Knicks won in Washington this season, but the Wizards fare quite nicely in New York, entering this contest with a four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden. John Wall averaged 17.5 points on 54 percent shooting with 9.0 assists in two games in New York last season. The Knicks have lost four straight home games.

RELATED: Morning tip: Maybe Wizards just don't have 'it'

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Keldon Johnson

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USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Keldon Johnson

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Keldon Johnson

School: Kentucky
Position: Guard
Age: 19 (turns 21 in October)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 216
Wingspan: 6-9
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG% (4.6/10.1), 38.1 3PT% (1.2/3.2), 70.3 FT%

Player comparison: Gary Harris, Jerome Robinson

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 15th, Bleacher Report 8th, Sports Illustrated 23rd, Ringer 21st

5 things to know:

*Johnson is considered the best NBA prospect in this year's class from the University of Kentucky. Though the Wildcats usually churn out top-10 picks, he is projected to go somewhere in the back end of the lottery or in the 20s. His teammates Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington are expected to go late in the first round.

*Johnson is an athletic, slashing wing who is quick up and down the floor. His highlights are filled with fastbreak dunks and agile plays around the basket. Johnson, though, didn't participate in the vertical leap measurement at the combine, so there is some mystery there.

*He has a solid outside shot. Johnson made 38.2 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts per game, which is impressive especially for a freshman. He appears to have smooth mechanics on his jumper and a quick release. Johnson, though, like most young players has to develop his ability to shoot off the dribble.

*Johnson plays with a lot of passion and is known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. He brings tons of energy to both ends of the floor and that is a good sign for his potential at the next level.

*Johnson has a few local connections. He is from Chesterfield, VA, just south of Richmond. He went to high school at Oak Hill Academy in southwestern Virginia. His brother, Kaleb, plays basketball for Georgetown University. And his other brother, Kyle, played at Old Dominion.

Fit with Wizards: Johnson happens to play the one position the Wizards have solidified, at least in their starting lineup with Bradley Beal. However, they could use more guard depth in general and Beal needs some help behind him.

The Wizards thought they had solved that with Austin Rivers this past season and that didn't work out. The result was Beal leading the NBA in minutes played in the second straight year he appeared in all 82 games.

Iron Man streaks are great, but not ideal for a guy who has a history of leg injuries and a long career ahead of him. Johnson is the type of player who could take some pressure off of Beal and possibly play with him at the three-spot. He would also add shooting, which the Wizards need.

The question would be if he is good enough to pick ninth overall and if that need is enough to justify at that spot. The answer is probably not, but Johnson seems like a guy who could soar up draft boards once workouts begin.

Best highlight video:

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Bradley Beal was the first guard cut from the All-NBA teams

Bradley Beal was the first guard cut from the All-NBA teams

Bradley Beal missed out on an All-NBA selection, and therefore, qualification for a supermax contract. Voting tallies show he received the most votes among guards that missed the cut. 

That's small consolation for the only player to average 25 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists this year, but still not make the All-NBA team. 

Here's a look at just how close Beal came to Kemba Walker, the last guard to sneak in. 

Walker (51 points) beat out Beal (34 points) more narrowly than at any other position. Klay Thompson received 27 points. 

It's rare air to be ranked so closely with guards like Walker and three-time champion Thompson.

Still, that hardly makes up for the earning potential the Wizards star missed out on this summer.

Damian Lillard, who was drafted in the same year as Beal, made second team All-NBA and qualified for a $191 million supermax contract from the Trail Blazers. 

That's a big-money difference for a very close voting tally.

On the flip side, that could mean the Wizards can afford to hang onto Beal. They would have had a difficult time offering him a supermax contract given their current salary cap situation. 

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