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Scott Brooks, Wizards players take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

Scott Brooks, Wizards players take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

With their 104-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the Wizards improved to 22-19 overall through 41 games, the exact midpoint of the 2016-17 season. They play again the next night in New York, so there will be little time for reflection of how they got here. But after beating the Grizzlies, head coach Scott Brooks and several of his players took a look back and a look ahead.

After beginning the season 2-8, they are now three games over .500. What have they liked about their season so far, and what do they still believe can be improved?

Brooks went into extensive detail.

“I didn’t like our start; I liked the last part of the first half, where we’ve played a much better since December. The thing I liked about the start [is that] we didn’t give in to a tough start, we kept battling and figuring out ways to get better – we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.

"I think Kelly [Oubre] has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto [Porter] has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John [Wall] and Brad [Beal], I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us. I think at home, we’ve figured that out, but we have to figure out how to do it on the road.”

Guard Bradley Beal agreed with Brooks, that he was most pleased with how the Wizards rebounded from their dreadful start. 

“I like how we fought through adversity. I think we didn't give up on our slow start. We battled back and now we're over .500 now but just imagine if we were playing the way we were supposed to the first couple of games, our record would probably be a lot different. Definitely proud of the way we've been playing, the way we bounced back. We definitely can get better at playing great defense for 48 minutes, being locked in for 48 minutes. Just making sure we continue to respect our opponents and be prepared for every game moving forward.” 

[RELATED: CMills asks why Wall, Beal don't get more national attention]

Otto Porter gave a few reasons why he thinks they are playing better now than before.

“Back then it was early. We were still figuring each other out. New coaches, new players. Right now, we are starting to figure things out. We are confident in ourselves, playing for each other, playing hard and just rolling with it... Just, I guess figuring out things defensively. Everybody is on the same page. Offensively, just letting the game come to us. Moving the ball, and knowing that we want to be a defensive team," he said.

Improving away from the Verizon Center was a common theme in the answers from players. The Wizards are now 18-6 at home, while only the Golden State Warriors have more home wins. On the road, the Wizards are only 4-13 with the Nets the only NBA team featuring less road victories.

That's enough to give them the fifth seed in the East, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.

“We have a lot we can improve on: just closing out games, playing for a full 48-minutes, moving the ball at times when we get stagnant, but I like the effort that we gave," guard John Wall said of the first half of the season. "The way that we started the season, the way we had a great month of December, and we're playing well right now. It's great to take care of home court, just want to for the second half of the season improve on the road. If we can find a way to improve on the road I feel like we could have a better record. To be in the situation we are now, the way that we started the season, you can't ask for more.”

The Wizards were in a reflective mood, but Marcin Gortat put it bluntly where he thinks the Wizards are currently at.

“[The 22-19 record means] nothing. We have to continue to do what we do. We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road," he said.

[RELATED: Grizzlies pay for ignoring Otto Porter]

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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.

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Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

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USA TODAY SPORTS

Why (and how) your NBA Cares Community Assist Award vote should go to Bradley Beal

Voting has officially begun for the season-long NBA Community Assist Award, and Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal is a finalist. 

Chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel, the award honors a player’s strong commitment to positively impacting his community through sustained efforts over the course of the season.

In December, Beal visited Ron Brown College Preparatory High school in D.C. to give away two pairs of shoes to every member of the JV and varsity basketball teams.

It didn't stop there. Beal took his role as a mentor to the next level by checking in with the kids multiple times a month to make sure they are on the right track in both athletics and their academic studies.

Later on in February, Beal invited 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum.

The seven-year NBA veteran also made a point to donate game tickets to community groups and toys to the Salvation Army during the holiday season. 

Here's some key information about the voting process: 

  1. Voting begins: Wednesday, April 24th at 12:01 p.m.
  2. Voting ends: Sunday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m.
  3. How does voting work? Through the above date range, every tweet posted using both of the hashtags #BradleyBeal and #NBACommunityAssist counts as one vote.
  4. Retweets of tweets using the above hashtags also count as one vote

This all comes following another All-Star season that saw the 25-year-old finish with career-highs in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0), and assists (5.5). He played in all 82 regular-season games. 

The winning player will receive $25,000 to their charity of choice, a donation from the NBA and Kaiser Permanente.

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