Wizards

Ian Mahinmi's play through two preseason games gives hope for a timely career turnaround

Wizards

After Friday's win over the Miami Heat in the Wizards' second preseason game, center Ian Mahinmi put on a blue jumpsuit large enough to fit his 6-foot-11 frame with pink and orange sneakers for a pop of color. He met the media in the middle of the locker room at Capital One Arena with a question of his own.

"I just put on cologne. Isn't it refreshing?"

Indeed it was, and so has been Mahinmi's on-court performance through two preseason games, both as a starter in Dwight Howard's place. Mahinmi has explained throughout training camp the benefits of being healthy this past summer, how that allowed him to focus on the finer details of his game. 

So far, it has been easy to see what he means.

"These last two years, I would have to wait until the second part of the season to get my rhythm. I felt like this year, having a healthy summer, I'm ready now," Mahinmi said.

The results are hard to argue with. Mahinmi had 11 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks against the Heat on Friday night. On Monday, in the Wizards' first preseason game against the Knicks, Mahinmi had eight points, seven rebounds, a block and a steal.

Mahinmi, 31, is making the defensive impact the Wizards hoped for when they signed him to a four-year free agent contract worth $64 million in the summer of 2016. They wanted rim protection, not just blocks but for Mahinmi to consistently alter shots with his quick hands and agility in the paint.

 

Through two games and a series of practices, Mahinmi's mobility has stood out above all.

"He’s moving his best he’s moved since he’s been here," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"He came down on his weight, so he's a lot quicker," forward Markieff Morris said.

“He’s got a lot of bounce in his step. He’s like Ian in Indiana a couple of years ago," guard Bradley Beal said.

The Wizards have long been hoping for the Indiana version of Ian to show up. In his last year with the Pacers before signing with Washington, Mahinmi started 71 games and was counted on for 25.6 minutes a night. He averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. 

In two years with the Wizards, Mahinmi has averaged just 5.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 0.7 steals in 15.7 minutes. In the 2016-17 season, he missed 51 games due to injury.

If all goes well, the Wizards won't have to rely on Mahinmi as much as the Pacers did, as Howard should command a large role as the starter. But if they can get the Mahinmi of old, or 'Indiana Ian,' that could be a key ingredient for the defensive makeover the Wizards are looking for.

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