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As Wizards wait on one Montrose Christian product, they work out another

As Wizards wait on one Montrose Christian product, they work out another

The Wizards are starting the process of bringing in members of the 2016 NBA Draft class for workouts. Any insight into the prospects and how they could help a Washington roster with possibly 9-10 spots open won't come from seeing the workouts as they are not open for the media this year. However, in some cases, including Wednesday's initial workout, the players will be rather familiar and therefore I'll post some thoughts as we go through the process. First up:

Prospect: Kevin Larsen

College: George Washington

Measurables: 6-foot-10, 273 lbs

Class: Senior

Stats: Averaged 12.3 points, team-high 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists. 

Strengths: When focused, Larsen turned into a dominant offensive threat for the Colonials, especially during the run to GW's NIT championship. He scored at least 16 points in four of five NIT games including 18 in the title win over Valparaiso. Whether at the low or high post, the offense often ran through the big man, who coach Mike Lonergan the team's best passer for most of his four seasons. Larsen effectively used his sturdy frame to score inside and attack the boards. The Denmark native/Montrose Christian product led the Colonals in 3-point shooting at 47.2% (17 of 36). 

Weaknesses: Inconsistencies with his game could be maddening, particulary when the team needed points. Whether a case of being too deferential or not, Larsen had a tendency to disappear at times. The under-the-basket big man is not a great athlete and possesses unimpressive wingspan (measured 6'9" at Portsmouth Invitational) for a center. Never averaged more than 1.0 blocked shot per game. Cited Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and more recently DeMarcus Cousins as his favorite basketball players, a trio few coaches would love.

Outlook: Larsen would be an interesting D-League candidate -- if the Wizards had that option -- and late round pick -- if the NBA would expand beyond two rounds. Strong basketball instincts are hard to come by and he's got that. With some added strength and attitude, there's some junior Nene upside. However, the athletic limitations will hold him back unless he can develop the other parts of hs game. The Wizards need some backups behind starting center Marcin Gortat and could look to add players like Larsen to their summer league roster for a longer look.

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For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

WASHINGTON -- Dwight Howard’s official return to the Wizards practice facility came with a new job description: Mentor.

“Since he can’t be on the practice court or the game floor, he’s going to have to share his wisdom,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 14-year veteran.

Howard stepped onto Washington’s practice court Thursday for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Nov. 30. The veteran center began his rehab work in his native Atlanta before rejoining the team.

“He feels great. Said he has no pain,” Brooks said of Howard. “That’s good. That’s part of the process.”

For now Howard remains limited to non-contact work and is perhaps weeks away from game action.

Brooks intends on putting him to work regardless by having Howard impart his NBA insight onto Washington’s young big men, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

“The guy has a lot of experience. A lot of years under his belt,” Brooks said of Howard, an eight-time All-Star. “Now he has the ability to be around our guys every day. [Bryant and Portis] have to be a sponge. They have to pick everything up.”

Bryant, 21, replaced the injured Howard as Washington’s starting center. The Wizards acquired Portis, 24, on Feb. 6 in a multi-player trade that sent Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls. Bryant and Portis, both restricted free agents this summer, represent Washington’s best interior options now and perhaps key building blocks going forward.

“You get better in this league by being around good veteran players that want to share their knowledge,” Brooks said, “and Dwight is going to be a guy that’s going to be able to do that for the next how many weeks until he gets on the court.”

Basic movements – sitting, for example – were issues for Howard pre-surgery. Brooks said he was not sure how much running Howard would do this week. He will start on the court solo. Eventually, a coach or three will work with Howard for 5-on-0 drills. Full contact practice with teammates comes later.

Howard was seen shooting free throws after practice concluded. Injured players are not required to speak with the media until participating during an official practice.

For now, the coach took pleasure in welcoming the projected opening game starter back to town.

“It was good to see him, good to have him back,” Brooks said. “He did some treatments and then did some work on the court, light shooting. That’s about it. It’s good to have him back. He has a good way about him. He’s always positive, always has a good spirit about him.”

Integrating the low-post presence into the small-ball approach Brooks leaned with Howard sidelined becomes a curious topic. That’s for later, perhaps weeks away, as the coach suggested. The playoff-pushing Wizards must forge on without Howard, who has played in only nine games this season.

Washington (24-34), 11th in the Eastern Conference and three games back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot, has 24 games remaining in the regular season.

Howard will stay behind when the team opens the post-All-Star-break phase Friday at Charlotte, but likely travels with the team going forward, Brooks said.

“He’s happy to be back,” Brooks said of Howard. “Now it’s just a phase of getting him on the court. I don’t know how long that’s going to be.”

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Scott Brooks on Zion's shoe explosion: 'I've seen it many times'

Scott Brooks on Zion's shoe explosion: 'I've seen it many times'

When Zion Williamson's shoe exploded in the Duke-North Carolina game on Wednesday night, the video quickly caught fire on Twitter, spreading far and wide as fans all over reacted to something most had never seen before. Shoe technology has reached a point where someone basically running through their seams is almost unheard of.

That is, unless you are a professional athlete or around them all the time. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and forward Jabari Parker each said it's not as uncommon as those reacting on social media may have believed.

"There's a lot of powerful athletes and I've seen it many times throughout my career," said Brooks, who was a 10-year NBA veteran player before joining the coaching ranks.

Parker, 23 and in his fourth NBA season, has both seen it and experienced it.

"It happened to me in practice, but the shoes that I had were much older," Parker said. "It's usually like older shoes. But yeah, that's a first for a new shoe."

Williamson is a star freshman at Duke, not unlike Parker once was. He went second overall in the 2014 NBA Draft after one year with the Blue Devils. Parker was in a similar position, playing out one season in the college ranks before jumping to the pros, as most expect Williamson to do.

That one year in college can carry some risk. Fortunately, Williamson appears to have avoided serious injury. But the now-infamous play certainly reminded everyone that one split-second can change everything, especially for an athlete with millions of dollars and what his hopefully a long NBA career in his future.

Parker has twice torn his ACL, so he is no stranger to serious knee injuries. He could tell right away that Williamson wasn't seriously hurt.

"Just looking at it, I didn't think it was that bad. His body really stayed in line, he didn't really go outside of himself. He just slipped," Parker said.

And after processing it all, Parker wasn't all that surprised Williamson would break through a shoe. Parker has done it and so have others he has played with. And though he's around explosive athletes all the time, Williamson is on a different level.

"He's like a Bo Jackson-like athlete. He'll break through his gear, that's how powerful he is," Parker said. "You've gotta remember that. It's not a matter of his body being weak in spots, it's about the product that he's using around him."
 

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