Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

Wizards walk the walk after talking plenty about Celtics

The excitement couldn't be contained by the court, so as the Wizards exited with a season-high 123 points in a blowout of the Boston Celtics, second-year forward Kelly Oubre shouted -- though not in these exact words -- "I told you so."

It was just a regular-season game, but Paul Pierce would be proud of his old team led by a mid-20s backcourt.

The Wizards (25-20) were salty over what transpired 13 days ago at TD Garden. Then, the Celtics came back to win 117-108 but played what Otto Porter called "dirty" basketball. They responded by following through on a promise to wear all back at Verizon Center, with John Wall calling it a "funeral" game.

They knocked their nemesis dead behind a game-high 31 points from Bradley Beal and Wall with 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals. And Oubre locked down Isaiah Thomas, who burned them for 20 fourth-quarter points on Jan. 11, as he was held to four points on 1-for-7 shooting this time.

"We said it in the media and it kind of blew out of proportion," said Oubre, who had 11 points as three of his four made field goals came from the three-point arc. "Everybody was behind everybody. Me and John were the faces of it. We backed it up and got the win. The Celtics are a great team and a great organization. We just gave our fans something to look forward to when they come to the house."

Because of the chatter, it was a must-win game though there's still a lot of basketball to be played. Oubre helped create it following a 109-99 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. All-black games are rare, but when they occur it's usually in the playoffs.

The N.Y. Knicks did it in a potential close-out Game 5 in 2013 and were humiliated by losing. Their coach at the time, Mike Woodson, was irate. Unknown to many at the time, the Dallas Mavericks had an all-black Game 6 for the NBA championship vs. the Miami Heat. Unlike the Knicks, they didn't let it be known but players packed only one suit for the trip when they cut short the run of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at American Airlines Arena. 

Like Pierce believed about the Toronto Raptors before the Wizards began a first-round series with them in 2015, these Wizards don't believe the Celtics are a better team. Pierce was correct. Despite their regular-season difficulty beating Toronto, they swept them 4-0. The jury is still out on this budding rivalry but the Wizards lead the season series 2-1. They beat Boston here on Nov. 9 by 25.

"The hype around the game obviously was probably bigger than normal but it wasn't moreso in the locker room," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We were focused on scouting them like we always do and we felt that we made some mistakes down the stretch the last time we played them that we wanted to correct."

RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' WIN OVER CELTICS

Wall erupted for 11 points in the third quarter, five coming after Boston had got the deficit down to 84-78. When the Wizards' lead was trimmed to 101-93 midway through the fourth quarter, Beal scored 11 of the Wizards' 13 points in a 3:30 stretch to put the game away.

Instead of Wall clashing with Jae Crowder at the end of this game, which is what happened in Boston and carried into the locker rooms, it was Marcus Smart who was arguing with his own coaching staff. 

The Wizards have won both games of a back-to-back for the second time in two weeks after not doing that previously this season. While this is only one win, given the importance they placed on this game they had to win. And though Boston laughed it off as silly, they treated it with extra importance, too.

"We are not (a tough team) and that's the problem," Smart said. "Last year, we were the team that guys hated to play against. Now this year everybody wants to play us because we are not doing everything that we used to do on the defensive end."

The Wizards have been on a roll. They scored 66 first-half points which marked the fifth time they've accomplished the feat in the last six games. Markieff Morris had his fifth double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Marcin Gortat made 7 of 8 shots for 16 points and eight rebounds. 

"It was a team thing. We just wanted to have fun," said Beal after making 12 of 18 shots. "It was nothing personal. Of course it was subliminal."

When Porter entered the locker room before the game, his Men In Black suit, complete with black shades, drew cheers from his teammates. They didn't fear the position they put themselves in, with the national attention to the outcome for this game greater than what they faced in a national TV game last week at Madison Square Garden. 

"It's going to be pressure. Yeah, I think it was," Wall said of the decision to wear all black. "They saw everything that we said and we heard what they said. I think it was just a great, clean game today. Nobody did anything dirty. To teams competed today and tried to get a win."

Morris sat at his locker Jan. 11 with disgust on his face. Not only had they lost the game but the Wizards allowed them to get under their skin. They returned the favor. 

"We just wanted to be professional about it," said Morris, who picked up his sixth technical foul after tangling with Crowder on the free-throw line. "We said a lot by wearing all black. Just wanted to keep it on the court, go out there and play hard and try to get the (win)."

The Wizards don't play again until Friday at the Atlanta Hawks, a team that was their most fierce rival after their East semifinals series two years ago. A win there and they go up 2-1 in that season series, too. They play the Celtics one last time, March 20 on the road. 

Any new motivational techniques on the horizon for the Wizards?

"If that's what you all want, we'll give it to you all," Morris said. "Wear all white next game."

RELATED: 5 (10) MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WIZARDS' BIG WIN

Quick Links

Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

usatsi_9843815.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

Before meeting with local basketball media following his pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards on Thursday at Capital One Arena, George Washington forward Yuta Watanabe first addressed a swath of reporters from his home country of Japan. Then, while he talked to the American contingent, cameras from Japanese news outlets trailed him from a distance, documenting even the media part of his experience.

Watanabe, who played four years for the Colonials in Foggy Bottom, is now chasing an NBA dream with an entire country's hope on his shoulders. He is aiming to become just the second Japanese-born player to reach basketball's pinnacle.

It's a responsibility he carries with pride.

"I know there was only one Japanese player who played in the NBA like a long time ago, so he was the only one," Watanabe said. "If I can make it, I know that’s a really big thing in Japan. That would make young guys come to the U.S. and play basketball in the U.S. I want to be one of the pioneers for younger guys."

The only player to make the NBA from Japan in the history of the league was Yuta Tabuse, who appeared in four games for the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-05 season. Four games, that's it. If Watanabe can carve out an extended career in the NBA, it would be a first for Japan, which like many countries outside of the United States has begun to produce more basketball talent in recent decades as the game has expanded globally.

Watanabe grew up in Miki, Kagawa, a town in the southwest of Japan. He had American basketball idols growing up, including Kobe Bryant who was the NBA's biggest star when Watanabe was a kid.

Now, as Watanabe has set his sights on the NBA, he has focused on others to model his game after. He said he watches film of Jazz forward Joe Ingles because he sees similarities in their game.

"I see myself trying to be like him. He’s a lefty, a great shooter and a great defender. I’ve been watching his tape a lot," Watanabe said.

Watanabe has also been consulting with Hawks forward Joe Cavanaugh, his former teammate at George Washington. Cavanaugh went undrafted last summer, but caught on in Atlanta and appeared in 39 games as a rookie.

Watanabe's best bet may be a similar path. He is currently not projected to be drafted, but there are many avenues to the NBA, as Cavanaugh has shown. He was signed for 2017 training camp by the Hawks, then cut. Then, he inked a two-way contract which was later converted to a regular contract.

Along the way, Cavanaugh spent much of his time with the Erie Bayhawks of the G-League. Watanabe may have to go that route to make the NBA. For now, he's trying to prove what he's capable of and that has not been easy. The Wizards were his second workout and Watanabe isn't happy with his performance thus far.

He is dealing with an ankle injury that has affected his conditioning, he said, and his shots haven't been falling.

"To be honest, I didn’t shoot well. I didn’t really do well in the 1-on-1s or 3-on-3. I know I have to do better on that if I want to make an NBA team," he said.

Watanabe, who stands at 6-foot-9, said he also needs to get stronger. If defense is going to be his calling card, he can't be pushed around by bigger players in the NBA.

"I know I can defend one through four. Today, I didn’t shoot well but I know I can shoot and I can handle the ball, I can pass. I think versatility is one of my strengths," he said.

The Wizards could use depth at the small forward position and will be in the market for a host of undrafted guys to fill out their summer league team and new G-League team. Perhaps Watanabe will land in one of those spots.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!