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Wizards-Wolves preview: Corral those kids


Wizards-Wolves preview: Corral those kids

Matchup: Washington Wizards (35-36) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (23-48)

When: Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. (TV: CSN+, CSNmidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra) 

Season series: Washington won the previous meeting, 104-98 in Minnesota on March 3. 

Recent: The Wizards split a home-and-home set with the Hawks. Wednesday's 122-101 loss snapped a season-high five-game winning streak. The Timberwolves won 113-104 over the Kings on Wednesday, but have lost eight of 12. 

What to know

When last we met: John Wall recorded one of his umpteen double-doubles in the win earlier this month over Minnesota, but it wasn't the starters who fueled the victory. "Our bench played really well against Minnesota," Garrett Temple recalled. Fine, maybe it's cheating to say the Wizards bench led the way considering usual starter Bradley Beal (team-high 26 points) was part of it. Still facts are facts and those facts include Alan Anderson scoring 18 points and sinking four 3-pointers. "Double A came in and had a big game. He hit some outside shots," Temple noted.

We'll see if Anderson (ankle, groin) returns to the lineup after missing the last two games. Whether the swingman plays or not, following a similar overall formula of focusing defensively on Rookie off the Year favorite Karl-Anthony Towns while limiting their desired up-tempo style.  "We kept them out of transition and really limited Towns," Temple stated. "The bigs did a good job on Towns." The young big scored 14 points, four below his season average.

The chase: Losing to the Hawks combined with a Pistons win dropped Washington to 2 1/2 games behind Detroit (38-34) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The good news lies with the Chicago Bulls (36-35) getting swept by the New York Knicks in a home-and-home scenario. The Pistons, winners of four straight, remain on their lengthy homestand, but the competition starts picking up beginning with Friday's matchup against the Charlotte Hornets. 

Beyond what the others are doing, Washington must take care of business in its final home game before opening a five-game road trip Sunday at the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Timberwolves: Towns didn't rock the Wizards in the first meeting, but the 6-foot-10 rookie is rolling over opponents of late. Showing no signs of hitting a rookie wall, Towns is averaging 27.3 points over last three games while shooting 60.3 percent from the field. NBA Dunk champion Zach LaVine is showing he's more than just a high-riser by sinking 18 of 34 3-pointers over his last five games. Defensively, Minnesota allows 105.7 points per game. Even though the wins aren't there yet, the talented kids are hanging tough. Their last three losses, including earlier this week against Golden State, have been decided by five points or less.

[RELATED: NBA opens door to moving 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte]

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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.


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Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season


Mystics' Kristi Toliver joins Wizards coaching staff for 2018-19 season

It's certainly not uncommon for professional athletes to make the transition into coaching following their playing days. We have seen more and more of this in recent years throughout sports, especially with younger coaches getting the chance to lead teams. 

What is uncommon is when a professional athlete begins their quest for life after playing while they're still playing. 

Washington Mystics veteran guard Kristi Toliver is joining the Wizards' coaching staff, the team announced Tuesday. 

The news comes after the 10-year WNBA pro got her feet wet on the Wizards' bench during Vegas Summer League play in July. 

Along with Elena Delle Donne, Toliver helped lead the Mystics to the 2018 WNBA Finals, before ultimately falling to the Seattle Storm. 

The 31-year-old was drafted third overall by Chicago in 2009 after leading her Maryland Terrapins to a national championship in 2006. 

Toliver will serve as an assistant coach and focus on player development for head coach Scott Brooks. 

Coach Brooks also welcomes Robert Pack and Ryan Richman to the front of the bench. Pack served as assistant coach under Brooks for two seasons during their Oklahoma City Thunder days while Richman led the team during summer leage play and is entering his fifth year in Washington. 

The Wizards open their 2018-19 regular season Thursday against the Miami Heat inside Capital One Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.