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Dwight Howard feels his game is still changing and adapting to NBA's new era

Dwight Howard feels his game is still changing and adapting to NBA's new era

Dwight Howard has the potential to solve several of the Wizards' problems and add new dimensions to their team, most notably with his ability to block shots and play above the rim on offense. But, much like his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, Howard has shortcomings in his game that are increasingly magnified as playing styles in the NBA change.

Howard has been living in the paint since he was drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in 2004, but much has changed about the center position in the decade-and-a-half since. Many teams favor a different brand of big men, ones that can shoot and guard smaller players on defense. 

The Wizards have a stated goal to play more positionless basketball, to have lineups where they can switch from spot to spot and match the versatility of their opponents. Howard doesn't exactly help that cause.

He himself knows the game has changed.

"When I came into the league, I was playing against the [Shaquille O'Neals], the Alonzo Mournings and Jermaine O'Neals. It was more of the physical, I'm going to see who the strongest guy in the paint. It was like an arm wrestling match for the big guys. Nowadays, it's not the same game," Howard said.

Howard, though, believes he is still adding to his game, even at 32 years old. He has posted many videos on Instagram of his workouts this offseason and some have included shooting threes and off the dribble jumpers around the free throw line.

Doing something on a practice court is very different than bringing it to an actual NBA game. He may never get to showcase those skills for the Wizards, but that won't stop him from trying.

"It's grown since I've been in the NBA," he said. "It's evolve or die or get left behind. For me, I plan on playing this game for another good eight years. In order for me to do that, I really have to change my game. It started last season. Last season was probably the most confident I've been in my career as far as just doing everything on the floor; handling the ball, shooting, being more of an offensive threat in iso situations and stuff like that. I'm going to continue to work on that stuff."

Howard attempted only seven threes last season and that tied a career-high. It's unlikely to expect his range to even stretch past the free throw line, given his track record and the Wizards' litany of outside shooters.

It will be up to head coach Scott Brooks how Howard is used and he thinks the eight-time All-Star is just fine the way he is.

"Definitely,  the game has changed, but a lot of times with that change it still remains the same. You need a big and when you have a talented big, you use him," Brooks said. "He brings a skillset and a talent that only a few guys in the league that can do."

Brooks went on to mention how a lot of the best big men in the league are young and still learning, perhaps a reference to Joel Embiid of the Sixers, who many figure to be a force in the Eastern Conference for years to come. In the East, there are a host of versatile young bigs between Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks, Myles Turner of the Pacers and Lauri Markkanen of the Bulls. The Western Conference has even more of them between Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves, Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets and DeAndre Ayton of the Suns.

Those players represent a new age of basketball where big men can shoot threes, switch onto forwards and guards if needed and even attack the paint off the dribble. Some call them unicorns and they are phasing out guys who play Howard's style.

Brooks has spoken glowingly about his evolving roster in recent years and the newfound ability to play with small-ball lineups. He has talked about going even smaller in the future as the team continues to add players with positional versatility like Tomas Satoransky and Troy Brown, Jr.

Howard may throw a wrench into those plans. For Brooks, the biggest adjustment will be on defense.

"The challenge is how you're going to be able to guard smaller guys, but the smaller players have trouble guarding smaller players. There's a lot of good shooters in this league that open up a lot of difficult situations to be in. My job is to figure it out and his job is to perform in a night in and night out basis," Brooks said.

Offensively, Howard will likely be tasked with simply taking what Gortat did to the next level. He is better than Gortat at finishing around the rim and can probably take on a larger scoring role in the offense.

That said, he will need to replace what Gortat did uniquely well and that is being the table-setter for John Wall in the pick-and-roll. For as much grief as Gortat received over the years, he was one of the best in the NBA at freeing up his teammates. That takes both skill and commitment, knowing it isn't the flashiest part of the sport.

"My whole focus is to do whatever on this team is needed," Howard said. "I know how to set screens. That's not something I need practice on. I've been doing it my whole life. I know that me setting screens and rolling and doing whatever is asked is going to open up the paint and threes for everybody else."

There are reasons to believe Howard can help take the Wizards to new heights on both ends of the floor. But he does come with limitations and the Wizards will have to manage those as they add him into the mix.

Tyler Byrum contributed to this report

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Wizards' Bryant, McRae hope to make most of second chance in G-League

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Capital City Go-Go

Wizards' Bryant, McRae hope to make most of second chance in G-League

The NBA's G-League for many represents a second chance and that is the case for two Wizards players entering the 2018-19 season, the first for the Capital City Go-Go.

Center Thomas Bryant is on the Wizards' roster, but will likely spend much of his time with the Go-Go. Guard Jordan McRae is on a two-way contract and will also be there plenty. The two were in Congress Heights on Saturday representing the Wizards' G-League affiliate as their new arena was introduced to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Bryant, 21, joined the Wizards organization back in July on the second day of free agency. He had been cut by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Wizards claimed him, adding another young prospect to their roster.

"If you get waived by a team, you don't feel too good about it. But when the Wizards picked me up right after, I felt great about it," Bryant said.

The 6-foot-10 big man was a second round pick last summer. He played in 15 games with the Lakers at the NBA level and 37 games with their G-League affiliate.

Bryant was one of the standouts for the Wizards' Summer League team in Las Vegas. In the time since, he has been working out with Rico Hines in L.A.

Bryant said he hopes his improving outside shot and physical conditioning can help him succeed with the Wizards this season.

McRae, 27, is just eight months removed from having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He also spent all of last season away from the NBA, either playing overseas or working his way back from injury.

He sees the Wizards as an opportunity to revive his career.

"After taking a year off, the Wizards are believing in me and trusting me to be the player that I was or be better. I'm just looking forward to it and I'm honored to be here," he said.

McRae has been training in Atlanta at P3 Peak Performance Project. They oversaw his rehab from surgery and have helped him get ready for this season.

Like Bryant, McRae has been in Washington getting to know his knew teammates in recent days. McRae, though, has a history with some of them having played against Bradley Beal going back to college and having played with Markieff Morris with the Suns. He has also worked out with Otto Porter, Jr. during the offseason.

McRae sees the Wizards as a decent chance to earn playing time, or at least better than his previous stop. He played the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with the Cavaliers and won a championship ring in 2016.

McRae earned some hardware and got to see LeBron James, Kyrie Iriving and Kevin Love make history, but he was in a reduced role.

"I'm just looking forward to a consistent opportunity. Being in Cleveland for two years was tough. Now I feel like here will be more of an opportunity and I want to make the best of it," he said.

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Former Wizards PG Tim Frazier joins Bucks training camp roster

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USA Todeay

Former Wizards PG Tim Frazier joins Bucks training camp roster

Former Wizards point guard Tim Frazier has joined the Milwaukee Bucks' 20-man roster for training camp.

Frazier, who spent last season in Washington, might actually have a shot at making the full 15-man roster behind Milwaukee's two true point guards, Eric Bledsoe and Matthew Dellavedova.

With Washington, he appeared in 59 games - 11 starts - and averaged 3.0 points, 3.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game. 

Frazier played at Penn State, and over the course of his NBA career, has averaged of 5.2 points, 4.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 186 career games, per a team relase.

At 6-foot-1, Frazier is joining his fifth team in five seasons.

The Bucks will hold their first day of training camp Tuesday, and their first preseason game is scheduled for Oct. 3 against the Chicago Bulls.

The Wizards host the Bucks on February 2, and then travel to Milwaukee four days later.