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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.

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Bradley Beal has strong All-Star case and a great chance for a final push

Bradley Beal has strong All-Star case and a great chance for a final push

Despite not making the 2019-20 All-Star Game as a starter, Bradley Beal still has a chance to get in as a reserve. He just may need a strong closing argument before the coaches' votes are in.

Beal has already put up impressive, All-Star caliber numbers. He is averaging 27.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and a steal per game. He's third in the East in scoring and 10th in assists.

His shooting percentages (45.2 FG%, 31.6 3PT%) are down from his career averages, but the volume is there. No player has averaged more than 27 points per game and not made the All-Star Game that season since Dominique Wilkins all the way back in 1984-85. That's 35 years.

Team success, though, does count and if Beal doesn't get in it will be widely blamed on the Wizards' record. They are currently 15-29 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Putting up points on bad teams can be seen as empty-calorie stats. Just ask Devin Booker, who averaged 26.6 points and didn't make the cut last season because his Phoenix Suns were a lottery team.

Beal, though, has the fact he's been an All-Star each of the past two years working for him. He has the pedigree that when people around the league think of him, they think 'All-Star.' He knows all too well what it's like not having that established reputation, as it probably cost him an All-Star nod back in 2016-17.

The competition, though, will be serious. With the five starters named, that leaves seven open spots in the Eastern Conference. And guys like Jayson Tatum of the Celtics and Jimmy Butler of the Heat are essentially locks. Kyle Lowry of the Raptors is also a safe bet.

The coaches will have to show some love to the big men as well which means Nikola Vucevic of the Magic, Bam Adebayo of the Heat and Domantas Sabonis of the Pacers are good candidates. Guards Ben Simmons of the Sixers and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics are also going to be in the mix and so will Khris Middleton of the Bucks.

Beal is likely to fall in a group of guards that won't be easy to choose from. It could be between him, Simmons, Brown, Zach LaVine of the Bulls and Malcolm Brogdon of the Pacers. Beal scores more than all of them, but most of those guys are on much better teams than he is, LaVine being the lone exception.

Here's a look at their numbers, for comparison:

B. Beal, WAS - 27.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 4.5 rpg, 45.2 FG%, 31.6 3PT%
B. Simmons, PHI - 16 ppg, 8.5 apg, 7.8 rpg, 57.8 FG%, LOL
J. Brown, BOS - 20 ppg, 2.4 apg, 6.8 ppg, 49.1 FG%, 39.1 3PT%
Z. LaVine, CHI - 25 ppg, 3.8 apg, 4.7 rpg, 44.5 FG%, 39 3PT%
M. Brogdon, IND - 17.1 ppg, 7.3 ap,g, 4.3 rpg, 43.9 FG%, 34.3 3PT%

Beal, though, still has two games left to make his case before the All-Star reserves are announced on Thursday, and you could say the schedule has worked out in his favor.

On Sunday, he will see the Hawks, which means he will square off against Trae Young, one of the starting guards in the East. And on Tuesday, he will go head-to-head with Middleton and the Bucks. If Beal can come up with big games, he could outshine the guy who beat him out for a starting spot and then another who is now competing with him to be a reserve.

If his recent games are any indication, Beal is going to finish strong. He had 38 points and nine rebounds against the Heat on Wednesday night and then followed that with 36 points and eight assists against the Cavs on Thursday.

Beal has been on a roll lately and it's coming at a good time. Now he has to seal the deal.

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Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

Beal makes his case in win over Cavs

The Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-112 on Thursday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. Just before tip-off, the NBA announced it's 2019-20 All-Star starters and not included in the Eastern Conference backcourt was Bradley Beal. Boston's Kemba Walker and Atlanta's Trae Young instead got the honors.

Whether Beal knew that fact when he took the floor or not, he put in a performance against the Cavs that should add to his case for being a reserve. The two-time All-Star followed up a 38-point gem against the Heat with 36 points against Cleveland just one night later. He also had eight assists and shot 15-for-22 (68.2%) from the field and 4-for-8 from three.

Beal now has the fourth-most 30-point games in the NBA since the start of last season with 40 of them. Only James Harden (86) Gianiis (54) and Damian Lillard (45) have more.

This 30-point game helped the Wizards bounce back from a loss the night before in Miami. Washington is now 15-29 on the season and 5-5 in their last 10 games.

2. In his previous six games since returning from a quad injury, Davis Bertans had put up some solid numbers and shown flashes. Against the Cavs, though, he did what we saw him to much more often a few months ago when he was healthy.

Bertans not only lit a spark off the bench, but he did so in microwave fashion. He had 14 of his 17 points in the first half, including three consecutive threes in the second quarter to force a timeout as the Wizards' lead grew to 14. That marked a big turnaround after Washington trailed by as many as 12 in the first quarter.

Bertans helped lead a monster effort from the Wizards' bench as a whole. They outscored the Cavs' second unit, 59-34. The Wizards are second in the NBA in bench scoring and that is despite all of the injuries they have dealt with in recent months. Now that they are nearly whole, the bench is becoming even stronger.

 

3. The Thomas Bryant situation is getting more interesting as each game passes. He has now been back six games and has been kept between roughly between 12 and 21 minutes a night. He played 17 minutes against the Cavs and contributed nine points and three rebounds.

Bryant is a big man coming off a foot injury, so the Wizards have incentive to play it safe and maintain a minutes restriction. But it has now been nearly two weeks since he came back.

Is it as simple as a minutes limit or is Ian Mahinmi's improved play having a domino effect on Bryant? The more Bryant plays limited minutes, the more that could become evident, if this is indeed performance based. 

Mahinmi, by the way, had seven points, seven rebounds and played strong defense, helping the Wizards to hold Tristan Thompson to six points and three rebounds.

4. Much like last week when the Wizards saw the Pistons and Andre Drummond, watching this game was reminder that Kevin Love is reportedly available in trades. That begs the natural question of where he would fit, if he gets dealt soon, like before the Feb. 6 deadline.

Some might argue the Wizards as an option, given their best players are guards and Love would technically complement them well. Given his age and contract, however, it would probably be too much of a risk for the Wizards.

The Blazers seem like they could use him and the Raptors could also be interesting. He would also fit well with the Rockets, though they probably don't have enough trade assets to get him.

What about the Timberwolves? They have disappointed this year and need to find Karl-Anthony Towns some help. Love wouldn't be joining a contender, as he probably hopes to, but it could be an interesting story if he goes back to the team he started with. And him and Towns would be a tough duo to stop given how well they rebound and stretch the floor.

Speaking of Love, he had the viral moment of the night when he pretended to resuscitate Beal. 

5. Backup center Anzejs Pasecniks was back in the mix after missing two games due to a left ankle injury. And not only was he available, he actually got some burn.

Pasecniks played 15 minutes and scored four points to go along with three rebounds. So, even with Bryant and Bertans back from injury, and Johnathan Williams III still getting minutes, Pasecniks maintains a role in the rotation.

That could change once other players come back. Moe Wagner, in particular, will probably take minutes away from him at the backup center spot. But Pasecniks still hanging around in the rotation is a testament to him and the way he has played. No one predicted he would play this much of a factor this season.

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