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Wizards weighing their options with Markieff Morris set to miss start of regular season

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Wizards weighing their options with Markieff Morris set to miss start of regular season

Last season, as the Wizards did things as a franchise they hadn't accomplished since the 1970s, they enjoyed near perfect health with their starting lineup. This year, with still weeks to go before the season begins, that will not be the case.

Starting power forward Markieff Morris is set for a recovery timeline of six to eight weeks following the sports hernia surgery he had on Friday. That means he will miss somewhere between two weeks of the regular season or a month. Either way, that's a longer absence than any Wizards starter had last season.

The Wizards will have to adjust and the good thing is that they have time on their side. Head coach Scott Brooks doesn't have to adjust on the fly in the middle of the season. He can spend all of training camp and the preseason tinkering with his lineups to prepare for life without Morris, one of the team's most underrated players on the court and a unifying personality off of it.

"It's not the ideal situation to have one of your starting players out for an extended period of time due to surgery, but that's part of the game. You have to have that next-man-up mentality, which we have," Brooks said.

The timing of Morris' surgery is unfortunate, but there were a lot of factors in play. Morris didn't start feeling discomfort until about a month ago and in recent weeks he has been dealing with the birth of his first child and a legal case in Phoenix. The Wizards had to work around all of those things to get him under the knife.

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Brooks remains confident the Wizards can make do without Morris because he likes the options left on his roster.

"We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly [Oubre] in there. We can throw Jason [Smith] in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There's a lot of players that we can throw into the mix," Brooks said.

Based on how Brooks described it, don't be surprised if Otto Porter also gets an extended look at power forward. The Wizards found success last season with small-ball lineups playing Porter and Oubre together and that could be the play with Morris out.

"Otto definitely has the ability to play four. It's such a smaller league. In the 80s or 90s, Otto at the four probably wouldn't be the decision. But now with all the shooting fours in the league, I think he can play that position," Brooks said.

Porter, 24, is fine with that scenario. 

"I've played a lot of minutes at the position with Keef. It's a position I've played before and I think I can definitely step up and fulfill that role until he gets back. But we have guys here. Mike Scott, he can step in as a veteran guy that can come in and play the four with me also. We can go small. Coach Brooks is going to definitely evaluated the situation and put us in the best situation moving forward," Porter said.

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The question then becomes how many minutes the Wizards can rely on Porter early in the season, knowing they don't want to rush Morris back and knowing how important Porter is to their chances further down the road. He is one of their best outside shooters, rebounds well and is a versatile defender.

Under the direction of a new training staff, the Wizards closely monitored the workload of each player from games to practices to shootarounds last season. They want to keep Porter fresh and will sacrifice when needed to do so.

Getting by without Morris won't be easy on several fronts. He is valuable as a basketball player, but also as an enforcer on the court. Starting center Marcin Gortat thinks that's what the Wizards will miss about Morris as much as anything.

"He is a tough guy. We all love when he gets those technical fouls because he's pushing people, hitting people and talking to the refs. Sometimes you need that. We're going to miss that. We're definitely going to miss that," Gortat said.

Morris was not with the Wizards at media day on Monday and it's not clear when he join the team. He has a long road back, but the Wizards feel good about their options to replace him while he recovers.

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Associated Press

Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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