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Could the Nets' depleted roster help the Wizards' playoff chances?

Could the Nets' depleted roster help the Wizards' playoff chances?

With about a month to go before the 2019-20 NBA season resumes in Orlando, Florida, players continue to weigh whether they want to play inside the Disney bubble.

We've seen players like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley opt-out due to personal reasons, leaving their teams to figure out how to replace them for a stretch run toward the playoffs. Perhaps no team has born the burden of players choosing to forego the rest of the season more than the Brooklyn Nets. 

Already without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving due to season-ending injuries, the Nets lost Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan over the last week. Chandler opted out of the bubble for personal reasons and Jordan announced his decision not to go after testing positive for COVID-19. Spencer Dinwiddie also tested positive and is unsure whether to go to Orlando. 

This leaves Brooklyn without its two superstars and if Dinwiddie opts out along with Chandler and Jordan, three key rotation players. Given the Nets are just half-a-game up on the Magic for seventh in the East and six games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards, could their depleted roster actually help Washington sneak into the postseason?

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As the Wizards learned for a stretch in December and January, losing five of your top nine guys is quite the challenge to overcome.

The Nets' most common lineup that doesn't consist of Irving, Durant, Dinwiddie, Chandler and Jordan has only played a total of 26 minutes. The lineup includes Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot, Taurean Prince and Chris Chiozza. Over a small sample size, that group scored 80.4 points per 100 possessions and had a net rating of -8.7. Their second-most used lineup has 12 minutes of playing time together and they posted a -2.5 net rating.

Brooklyn's starting five -- and Dinwiddie could always elect to go and change this completely -- figures to be Chiozza, LeVert, Joe Harris Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen. Not a bad group by any means, but their depth will be significantly thinner than the rest of the teams in the bubble. Considering the increased chance of injury after a long layoff and the possibility of a player contracting the virus, this is all troubling to think about for the Nets. 

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The Wizards meanwhile, only have to draw within four games of the eighth seed in the East to force a play-in scenario. Bertans is their second-best player, but they still have Bradley Beal and, as of this moment, the rest of their roster on board for the bubble. The Wizards will play the Nets in the second of their eight-game slate (8/2 at 2 p.m.) in a matchup that could have a major impact on how the rest of the East shakes out. 

Once Bertans decided against finishing the season, many believed the Wizards were unlikely to make the playoffs. That may still ring true, but the situation in Brooklyn has added a level of uncertainty to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. 

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Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Playing basketball in your driveway, that is relatable. Doing so to prepare for NBA games while in the middle of a league shutdown due to a worldwide pandemic; well, that is unusual.

But for Wizards center Moe Wagner, training during quarantine required some creativity before the team reopened their practice facility in early June. First, he rented out the townhouse below his to set up a workout space. It was vacant, allowing Wagner to use training equipment with enough space for a 7-footer to move around.

"We set up a little gym," Wagner said.

Wagner's schedule was regimented by Zoom workouts hosted by the Wizards trainers and coaching staff. But eventually, that wasn't enough.

Wagner had his brother, Franz, with him. Franz plays for the University of Michigan, where Wagner starred before becoming a first round draft pick in 2018.

"Eventually my brother and I got a little eager to shoot a ball, so my agent had us sent a basketball hoop for outside which we built. It took us like three days," Wagner explained.

"We played a little bit in the garage in the middle of the city. It was kind of an absurd situation, but you will take what you can get, I guess."

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The garage Wagner and his brother played in was without a roof. They are common in Washington, D.C., especially in Northeast. So, it was technically a garage but more like a walled off driveway.

"[We] set it up in my back alley. Every time a car drives by, you have to wait. Obviously, it's very old school. You're going back to the roots a little bit. But after six weeks of not touching a ball, you're like 'we've gotta do something, man.' I'm a professional basketball player and I haven't touched a basketball in six weeks. That ain't right," Wagner said.

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Waiting when cars drive by makes sense. Driveways are big enough for kids to shoot around in. But Wagner requires a bit more range to spread out and practice NBA threes.

Wagner indicated he did not shoot a ball for roughly six weeks. That would mean he set the hoop up around the end of April. If that is the case, he was likely more fortunate than many other young players who went longer without being able to shoot.

That's the big variable with the league's hiatus; who had the resources to train, either to just stay sharp or potentially even improve. Wagner was able to keep working on his game, it just took a good deal of creativity. 

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Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Before the Wizards begin their eight-game schedule to close out the regular season on July 31, they will have three exhibition games to get warmed up in Orlando.

They will start July 22 against the Denver Nuggets and also play the Lakers and Clippers. Those are the three top seeds in the Western Conference.

Here is a look at their three-game set:

7/22: Nuggets, 3:30 pm ET
7/25: Clippers, 8 pm ET
7/27: Lakers, 3 pm ET

The question here, of course, is whether the stars will play given these games won't count. In a usual preseason, the answer would probably be 'no.' But in this case, with each team only having three games to find their rhythm before games start, and after months off, it is anyone's guess.

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It wouldn't be surprising if the Wizards did see some combination of Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The biggest question mark would be that Lakers game since it is the last exhibition game for both teams. Maybe James and/or Davis sit with two games already under their belt and an opening night meeting with the Clippers awaiting.

Either way, the Wizards will get a look at some of the NBA's best teams before they kick things off for real. And this also means they will be playing games nine days ahead of their regular season. There are now just under three weeks to go until the Wizards return to the court.

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