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With Wizards' playoff seed official, should their starters play or rest?

With Wizards' playoff seed official, should their starters play or rest?

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- To rest and prepare for the playoffs or go for their first 50-win season in four decades will be answered soon by Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who will hold shootaround Monday morning at The Palace.

The Wizards (48-32) are locked into the fourth spot in the East with nothing to play for but the benchmark which could go alongside their first division title in 38 years. It'll be the Detroit Pistons final game at the venue which they've played at since the 1988-89 season.

But the bigger issue for the Wizards isn't rest. It's playing well. They've played badly as soon as they ended their weeklong All-Star vacation, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz in abysmmal performances.

That supposedly was because of too much rest.

Then when the Wizards began a five-game road trip 4-0, they lost four of their next five. 

That allegedly was because of fatigue. 

"It's very rare in my opinion," Brooks said recently of the need to rest otherwise healthy players in an 82-game seson. "You're talking basketball. It's 32 minutes a night. This is not hard work. This is fun. Rest? To me, rest is a good night's sleep."

Brooks has a difficult decision because while it won't hurt to allow John Wall and Bradley Beal, among others, to get a breather then they're out of step with the other starters.

There will be a few days between the end of the regular season and the start of the first round of the playoffs where Brooks can squeeze in practices. He has been lenient with his team in the second half of the season and has cut practice time to compensate for the road trips and back-to-back sets at the end. 

"The rest thing, it's blown out of proportion in my opinion," Brooks said. "You're talking about a game that we love. We do it every day in the summer. These players play every day in the summer for two hours. Some of them go back at night and play another hour-and-a-half working on their game individually. So the rest, I get it certain cases. If you're banged up and your body needs to recuperate and get healthy, absolutely. We have to do that. To me if you're just resting as a badge of honor I don't kow if that's the right thing to do."

Otto Porter (back spasms) and Markieff Morris (ankle) have sat, but Wall and Beal haven't been healthier this late in a season in their careers. Marcin Gortat, at 32 the oldest on the roster, had been logging heavy minutes but has recently seen his court time decrease to about 23 minutes in his last 15 appearances.

It would be surprising to see Wall and Beal play much more than 30 minutes, but these are games where Brooks might feel more comfortable in experimenting with new combinations or tweaks in the play-calling for the postseason run. He can do both: Cut their minutes but fine-tune his key players while getting role players more work. 

What's the good of resting starters for the playoffs if they return to play with the same disconnect that they've shown at times on the offensive end and repeatedly on the defensive end?

Brooks has his team's pulse better than anyone. He sees things and knows things about them that no one else will. If he thinks his starters need to play, it's rather arrogant to suggest from the armchairs across America that he's wrong.

The Golden State Warriors didn't lose the NBA title last year because they went for 73 wins. They lost because they were undisciplined with a 3-1 series lead, Steph Curry threw a brainless behind-the-back pass at the end of Game 7 that went out of bounds and before that Draymond Green got suspended for stupid after kicking LeBron James. Only when they lost came the convenient narrative that they ran out of gas going for the single-season wins record.

Given how many things Brooks has gotten right in what's a 48-win season thus far, a height that no one projected before the season began, he has earned that benefit of the doubt. And if they want to go for 50, so be it.

If the Wizards lose a series, it's going to be because the other team was better. It won't be because they didn't take off tonight vs. Detroit and Wednesday in Miami.  

[RELATED: Whiteside accidentally earned Gortat career milestone]

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Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Coming off a nail-biting win over Donovan Mitchell in the first round, Rui Hachimura lost to Suns star Devin Booker in the quarterfinals of the NBA 2K Players Tournament Thursday night. 

The Wizards' rookie forward played with the Clippers, while Booker went with the Mavericks. Not only did Hachimura have the more talented team in this matchup, but it looked like he had a coach sitting near him the whole time too. 

Hachimura's biggest challenge in this one was finding easy points against Booker's defense. Booker did a good job using his center to close down driving lanes while leaving Hachimura's big men wide open in the corner.

The Clippers bigs aren't great outside shooters, so outside of a few surprising makes from Montrezl Harrell, it was a rough night offensively. Hachimura tried to go with a small-ball lineup with Marcus Morris at the center spot, but then he started giving up way too many offensive rebounds. 

On the flip side when Hachimura tried to do the same thing to Booker, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber were able to knock those shots down. That left the door open for Luka Doncic to get open looks and that's how Booker eventually pulled away in the second half. 

It was a good run for Hachimura in the tournament. He knocked off the four-seed in Mitchell and delivered one of the more memorable moments of the first round. He just ran into a buzzsaw in Booker, who may have a decent chance to win the whole thing. 

The semifinals and finals of the 2K Players Tournament will begin on Saturday. 

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GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

With the NBA season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the extra free time has given teams an opportunity to reflect on the first 64 games of the 2019-20 campaign. 

Whichever direction the league decides to go with returning to play, the 2020 NBA draft and free agency period loom large once the season is over. For the Wizards, they have a pair of key players set to hit the open market: Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier. 

John Wall's return significantly elevates expectations surrounding the Wizards next season and will make the team's offseason decision-making process that much more important. In the case of Napier and Bertans, Washington's general manager Tommy Sheppard talked highly of both in a Q&A with Dave Johnson Thursday

"I think with [Napier and Bertans], when we acquired them not as rentals we acquired them to stay here," Sheppard said. "I think the players that we acquired, they're here to show that they can be here for the future. With Davis and Shabazz, they showed enough to us that certainly we would love to retain them. We plan to."

What Sheppard had to say about Bertans isn't necessarily new. He maintained the stance all year that the Wizards intended to keep Bertans this summer and held true to it when Washington reportedly turned down offers including first-round picks at the trade deadline. 

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Napier's future with the team, on the other hand, has not been talked about publicly by someone like Sheppard. The Wizards acquired him from the Nuggets in exchange for Jordan McRae at the trade deadline and the six-year veteran appeared in 15 games for Washington before the season was suspended. 

Napier started eight games and averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.1% from the field and 38.1% from three. Based on production alone, it's not that surprising Sheppard wants to bring the former UConn star back. 

However, if the Wizards can re-sign Napier this summer, they'd have quite a lot of viable point guards on their roster going into next season. Wall will be back and Ish Smith will be in the final year of his two-year contract.

Napier would figure to be either the third point guard or Washington's backup shooting guard depending on how you look at things. Then you have to ask how comfortable you are with Napier potentially taking minutes away from Jerome Robinson and ball-handling opportunities from Troy Brown Jr., both young wings the Wizards need to take a step forward next year. 

But shooting and playmaking are at a premium in the NBA today, and as defensively challenged as an Ish Smith-Shabazz Napier backcourt would be off the bench, there's no doubt Washington's second unit would be able to put up a ton of points. 

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