Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards opened their preseason schedule with a 124-121 loss to the New York Knicks in overtime on Monday night.

Here are five observations from the game...

All of the threes

Head coach Scott Brooks has cited shooting more three-pointers as a goal for his team, going all the way back to when he first took over the job with the Wizards. They may truly be taking that directive to heart.

The Wizards shot 8-for-38 from three for the game and had 21 attempts by halftime. The Wizards averaged 26.5 per game last season.

Brooks has taken some more extreme measures in practice to encourage threes and discourage midrange jumpers with a weighted point system that includes four-pointers for threes shot from the corner. Though there were plenty of midrange looks, the emphasis on outside shooting was clear.

Now, they didn't shoot well from three. As a team, they clocked in at an awful 21.1 percent. Bradley Beal was 1-for-7, for instance. Otto Porter Jr., though, went 3-for-4 from long range and had 13 points in 12 minutes. The guy just plain gets it done in the efficiency department. He did, however, leave for the locker room with an apparent injury.

The Wizards are so serious about shooting more threes that Ian Mahinmi has been practicing them. And, sure enough, he made a three in the third quarter on Monday. Mahinmi has never made a three in an NBA regular season game, but that may change this year.

 

Second unit is a work in progress

Though Mahinmi was bumped to the starting lineup with center Dwight Howard out nursing a back injury, the Wizards got a good look at their refurbished second unit against the Knicks including Austin Rivers and Jeff Green.

The early returns were, well, mixed. The ball tended to stop at Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. There were a few times where Oubre shot the ball or drove when one more pass would have found an open guy. And Rivers has a quick trigger both with his shot and in attacking the rim.

Green got a series of postup looks, including some against Knicks rookie Kevin Knox, but couldn't cash in consistently. He finished 3-for-8 from the field.

Oubre went 5-for-14, Tomas Satoransky 4-for-6 and Rivers 3-for-7. Though they all had their moments, there weren't many open looks created by the bench.

The initial struggles are to be expected from a group that is inserting two new and dynamic players in Rivers and Green. 

Rivers is a spark of energy

Rivers didn't shoot well, but his impact was obvious. Beyond Wall, Rivers might be the quickest player on the Wizards. He can get to the rim at will and can be a pest on defense

The numbers aren't kind to Rivers as a defender, but he said during his introductory press conference that he's committed to that end of the floor. He vowed to be a hard-nosed presence on the perimeter and that seemed to be the case in his first game with the Wizards, as he collected five fouls along the way.

Rivers made some questionable decisions offensively as he tried to force the ball in traffic, but his ability to break down the defense off the dribble is a nice addition to the bench. That's an element Jodie Meeks can't provide and something the Wizards lacked last season. 

Satoransky is a smooth operator with the ball and can spread the floor. Oubre can hit threes and is a force in transition. But neither have the tight handle Rivers does.

Rivers also got some burn in a three-guard lineup with Wall and Beal, and Brooks went to that lineup early with the first substitution of the game. Brooks will probably experiment with that look a lot in the preseason and early in the regular season.

Morris doesn't like Robinson

Knicks rookie Mitchell Robinson fell in the draft because there were questions about his maturity and and his attitude. It didn't take long for a veteran to welcome him to the league.

Wizards power forward Markieff Morris got into it with Robinson and earned an ejection before halftime. He and Robinson first had words at midcourt and had to be split apart. Morris then got tossed for continuing to talk trash and for bumping Robinson on the block while guarding him on the other end.

 

Morris has a knack for drawing the ire of referees. He was fifth in the NBA in technicals last season and fourth in ejections. 

Morris exited with zero points on 0-for-4 shooting from the field and 0-for-3 from three. Perhaps those shooting woes contributed to his frustration.

Brown at point guard

The Wizards played rookie Troy Brown Jr. a lot at point guard in the Las Vegas Summer League and that role continued on Monday night. Despite being the size and skillset of a traditional small forward, Brown has the ball-handling and passing ability to play some at the one. At least, long-term he does.

It will be interesting to see if the Wizards actually trust Brown, who is only 19 years old, to run their offense in games that count. He is a first round pick and they want to find a way to get him on the floor, but he doesn't have a ton of high-level experience at the position. If he does end up taking to point guard quickly, that might be bad news for Satoransky, who right now is lined up to be Wall's primary backup.

What stood out most about Brown's preseason debut was his assertiveness off the dribble. Whether he was running the offense or playing off the ball, he showed no hesitation putting it on the floor. That trait may evolve over time as he adjusts to NBA defenses, but it's certainly a sign of his confidence as a ball-handler. 

Brown also had no problem firing outside shots despite that shooting being one of his biggest weaknesses at this point. Brown shot 2-for-9 from the field and 0-for-3 from three. 

Brown's best plays were his passes. He had several assists that you just don't see often from a buy his size. Also, he had seven rebounds, again displaying an ability to grab boards that is rare for his size and position.

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