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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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NBA reportedly has targeted July 31 to return to play

NBA reportedly has targeted July 31 to return to play

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has told the NBA's Board of Governors that the league has set July 31 as a target date to resume the 2019-20 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The conversation was held on Friday during a conference call that was intended to discuss several return-to-play formats and a potential timeline for resumption of the season. 

Play has been suspended in the NBA since March 11 when Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams were nearing the end of the regular season with 15-19 games remaining on their schedules. Only the Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs.

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It is not clear how the NBA plans on returning. Going straight into the playoffs like the NHL has chosen to do, finishing a condensed regular season for 72 games, a group stage World Cup format, or a play-in tournament are all options on the table.

Earlier in the week, general managers expressed their interest in expanding the playoff field from 16 to 20-24 teams. However, they appear to be split on several other key issues.

Currently, the league is in discussions to hold the rest of the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It would be a central location for all the games in a "bubble-like" environment. 

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Report: NBA general managers are in favor of 20 or more playoff teams

Report: NBA general managers are in favor of 20 or more playoff teams

While general managers are split on how the NBA should proceed with the 2020 season, there is one factor that most teams agree on: expanding the playoff field. 

In a survey sent to NBA GMs this week, 83% (25 of 30) of them voted in favor of a "Playoffs Plus" format that would have 20 or more teams in the playoffs, according to Shams Charania. However, the 30 GMs were split on whether to maintain the traditional playoff seeding (53%) or to reseed the field (47%), presumably from 1-20 based on the overall league standings

The traditional NBA's playoff format has 16 team bracket with eight teams from each conference. A format that has been in place since 1984. Adding four teams, whether the four best teams outside the playoffs or two from either conference would make the largest playoff field ever.

Expanding the playoff field would be similar to the NHL's return to play plan which had the top 12 teams in both conferences advancing straight to the playoffs. The NBA is considering a play-in format to include New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Sacramento - all Western Conference teams - according to ESPN.

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Other details seem to have less of a consensus from the decision-makers of each franchise. Here are some of the results according to Charania:

  • 53% (16) GMs want to advance directly to the NBA playoffs, 27% (8) would like an abbreviated season with a play-in
  • 60% (18) were in favor of a 72-game season. All teams had completed 63-67 games before the stoppage.
  • Non-playoff teams were split on resuming the season
  • Most GMs wanted the season to conclude by Oct. 1
  • They wanted a larger roster or more flexibility when play resumes

None of the results of the survey are set in stone. Merely they were used to gauge opinions from each team. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will talk with the league’s board of governors to discuss formats and a potential timeline on Friday. 

The Wizards are currently the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and 5.5 games out of the standard final playoff spot. In terms of the league standings, they have the 22nd-best record in the NBA.

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