Whether it's against LeBron James or one of his teammates in practice, Deni Avdija has zero plans of backing down from a challenge on the court.
The Wizards' rookie wing played in his first game against James on Monday night, a player who was winning MVP awards when Avdija was just eight years old. Nevertheless, Avdija stepped up in crunch time of a close game and forced multiple key stops on the best player in the world.
"I'm not afraid of anybody, so I'm just gonna take the challenge every time," Avdija said after the game. "For me, the player I'm guarding, I take seriously [as an] equal. Just stepped up, took the challenge and played my defense. I guess he had a hard time so that's good."
Avdija's defense and toughness on the wing have been the primary reasons for the amount of playing time he's received from head coach Scott Brooks. His gifts as a playmaker and his improved shooting stroke from his time with Maccabi Tel Aviv got him drafted No. 9 overall, but his willingness to scratch and claw on the defensive end is what's getting him on the floor in big moments.
"I thought Deni came out and struggled in the first half," Brooks said. "I don't know if it's playing the Lakers for the first time, playing against LeBron for the first time, but I thought in the second half he bounced back, he competed, he challenged, he got rebounds, he made some shots."
The NBA doesn't let up, however, and after arguably the Wizards' best win of the year, they have to turn around and play Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers Tuesday night on the second night of a back-to-back. The Clippers have an explosive offense led by two of the best wings in the game, so Washington will likely need more from Avdija on the defensive end if they're going to extend their winning streak to six games.
Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 9 p.m. on Tuesday for full coverage of the Wizards' next game against the Los Angeles Clippers