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After starting season in good health, Ian Mahinmi is dealing with right knee injury

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After starting season in good health, Ian Mahinmi is dealing with right knee injury

Just when it looked like Ian Mahinmi was turning a corner, the Wizards center has been sidelined with a right knee strain and his status is up in the air for Tuesday's game at the Brooklyn Nets.

Mahinmi didn't participate in the Wizards' practice on Monday, according to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, and will be evaluated pregame.

Mahinmi has yet to miss a game this season, one of six players to appear in all 26 of the Wizards' games. Last year, he played in only 31 of their 82 games due to injuries.

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Those injuries included a host of knee problems. Mahinmi had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee last October. After that he developed tendinitis in his right knee and underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment in both knees in December. Mahinmi also had a left calf strain in April that caused him to miss games in the playoffs. He then had a minor procedure involving his meniscus in his left knee early in the summer.

Mahinmi has avoided the injury bug this season so far and in recent weeks has improved his play. He set season-highs in points in each of the past two games with 10 points and eight rebounds against the Suns and 14 points and three assists against the Clippers. In his last 10 games, Mahinmi is +53 and averaging 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game.

If Mahinmi can't go, that should open the door for Jason Smith to get some playing time, based on how head coach Scott Brooks treated Mahinmi's absences last season. But it would also mean heavier minutes for starting center Marcin Gortat.

The Wizards have a back-to-back set of games coming up at the Nets on Tuesday and then at home against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, something to keep in mind as they determine his status.

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless. 

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Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

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Otto Porter Jr.'s strong history against Warriors may give Wizards fighting chance

The Wizards have shown no indication recently they are willing to bow down to anyone and accept their fate as a team depleted by injuries with the odds stacked against them. So, even as they get set to face the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, they can't be counted out, even if it seems a near impossible task for them to upset the two-time reigning champs.

In order to pull off the win, they will need many guys to step up, but perhaps none more than Otto Porter Jr., regardless of whether he's currently a bench player or not. For whatever reason, Porter has had some of the best games of his career against Golden State. 

Porter has scored 29 points or more in five career games and two of them came last season against the Warriors. He had nearly identical games of 29 points and 10 rebounds and shot a combined 10-for-18 (55.6%) from three. 

In five games against the Warriors going back to Feb. of 2017, Porter is averaging 19.4 points while shooting 56.8 percent from long range. He has nine steals compared to just two turnovers during that stretch.

The Wizards won just one of those games, as they have one win against the Warriors since 2014 and only two since 2010. But the Warriors have had no answer for Porter while his teammate Bradley Beal has been a much different story.

In their last meeting on Oct. 24, Beal had 23 points in 19 minutes but bruised his sternum and was limited in a 22-point defeat. In their final match-up last year, Beal was held to only eight points in 37 minutes on 3-for-15 from the field with five turnovers. It was one of the worst offensive nights Beal has had in years.

The other game between the teams last season featured Beal getting ejected for a fight with Draymond Green. He left with only four points.

Beal may find better luck this time around, now that he's reached another level as a scorer. He's averaging a career-best 24.7 points on the year and 29.6 points in his last eight games.

But it could very well come down to Porter leading the way. He has been on fire lately, shooting 47.7 percent from three while averaging 16.8 points during the Wizards' recent stretch of seven wins in 10 games. He also leads the team in defensive rating (99.1) since this run began on Dec. 29, while the Wizards' bench has posted the best +/- in the NBA.

In order to beat the heavily-favorited Warriors, the Wizards will need a collective effort and probably a big game from Beal. But if history is any indication, Porter will hold up his end of the bargain.

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