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Wizards put their record where their mouths are


Wizards put their record where their mouths are

The Wizards’ first victory of the 2012-13 season was significant for a variety of reasons.

Most notably, it took an incredible amount of pressure off coach Randy Wittman, who was beginning to run out of ways to motivate his players after opening the season with 12 straight losses.

But it is worth noting that it took a 26-point loss to the seasoned San Antonio Spurs for the Wizards to understand what they were missing and what they needed to change.

“After we lost to San Antonio, we just basically came together and said, ‘We need turn this around for ourselves. Not for anybody else, but for ourselves,’” forward Chris Singleton said Wednesday night after the Wizards’ 84-82 win over Portland.

“We don’t want to go down in history as one of the worst teams ever and so we’re just going to work our butt off.”

Following that blowout loss to the Spurs, Wittman let his players speak their minds. He wanted their opinions on things they thought they could do better and things the coaching staff could do differently.

“I just feel like he let us be basketball players,” Singleton said. “At the beginning of the season we were all hesitant to say anything. Now, he’s trying to tell us since we’re out there on the court that we should be the ones talking, not him or the other coaches coming back into the huddle and correcting everything. We have to correct ourselves if we’re going to get better.”

Wittman said he took the same approach at halftime Wednesday night. The Wizards and Blazers entered the intermission in a 43-43 tie and Wittman wanted to know what his players had to say about adjustments that needed to be made.

“I let them talk,” he said. “What is positive on the floor? What’s giving us trouble? Tell me. That’s the process we’re trying to get. I want our young guys to understand, yeah, this cross screen is giving us trouble; what can I do?

“Sometimes you hear it [from a coach], but you’re not listening. … I can draw it up on that chalk board and it looks good on the dang on chalk board. But you’ve got to be able to do it on the floor. And if we’ve got guys that have a way to tweak it and make it better for them, they are the ones that can do it and I’m always for that interaction from my players.”

Often lost in the evaluation of the Wizards’ early troubles is the fact that six of their 13 players were not on the roster last season and five of their six starters are playing for the first time under Wittman. Add the fact the Wizards have not had star point guard John Wall and have had Nene for just three games and you have a team still trying to find an identity.

Nene emphasized after Wednesday night’s win that the Wizards are still “very young and immature” and that it may take time for them to play to their potential.

With a Friday night visit to New York to face the 10-4 Knicks followed by a Tuesday night showdown at home against the 10-3 Miami Heat, the 1-12 Wizards will need to be quick studies if they hope to avoid falling deeper in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I don’t think that we can relax,” Trevor Ariza said. “We’re only 1-12.  We just gotta keep working hard every day and keep trying to get better.”

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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