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

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

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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This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

For the better part of eight years, three-point shooting in Washington DC was synonymous with the name, Gilbert Arenas. 

He was an electric shot-maker and was one of the NBA's revolutionary offensive players, paving the way for a wave of score-first guards like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Before Arenas set the franchise record for threes made in a season with 205, the previous record was only 158 held by Tracy Murray in 1997-98. He introduced a different level of marksmanship to this town. 

On this day, three years ago, the man who will go down as the best shooting guard in Wizards history set a new standard from three-point range. Against the Clippers in a late-season contest, Bradley Beal hit his 206th three of the season. He would go on to make 223 triples in 2016-17. 

2016-17 was a breakout year for Beal and the Wizards. He averaged 23.1 points per game, the first time he'd averaged over 20 while his teammate John Wall set career-highs in scoring, assists, steals and field goal percentage. 

Washington won 49 games and made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but in this particular game, they weren't as successful. The Clippers won the game 133-124 thanks to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Redick combining for 107 points. 

LA's incredible output from their stars spoiled 27 points from Beal and a 41-point, eight-assist and seven-rebound performance by Wall.

The Clippers went on to finish the season as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, only to lose in the first round to the Jazz thanks to another untimely injury to Blake Griffin. 

The Wizards, as stated before secured the fourth seed in the East, beat the Hawks in six games in the first round and then fell to the Celtics in the second round. It remains the longest playoff run for Beal and Wall. 

Beal may have to watch out for his teammate Davis Bertans, though. At the time of the NBA's suspension, Bertans was at 200 made threes with 18 games to play. Once the season picks back up, the Latvian Laser is in prime position to set a new franchise record. 

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LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

These 2K simulations certainly do agree with the Wizards. Coming off a stunning victory over the Bucks Friday, Washington turned around on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Lakers 73-66 at virtual Capital One Arena. 

LeBron James was a one-man wrecking crew for LA, Bradley Beal led the scoring attack for the Wizards and Thomas Bryant got revenge on the team that waived him. 

Here's how the Wizards picked up their fourth-straight 2K win. 

Offensive rebounds

The Lakers are one of the biggest teams in the NBA with James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing heavy minutes, but it was the Wizards who dominated the boards in this one. 

Bryant led the way for Washington on the glass with seven of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Lakers shot the ball significantly better than the Wizards (47% to 39%) but Washington was simply overwhelming them on the glass to create more opportunities. 

Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers' eight, and it ended being the major difference in the result. 

LeBron's one-man show

The real-life Lakers' biggest weakness is their lack of playmaking outside of James. In a game where James had everything working for him, the Lakers struggled to get anything going whenever he didn't have the ball. 

Rajon Rondo struggled mightily despite tallying eight assists (2-11 FG) and Davis had a bad game relative to his standards (10 points, one rebound, three blocks).

I'd be curious to see what virtual LeBron would have to say about his teammates after this particular game. 

Thomas Bryant's revenge

As we stated before, Bryant was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season and his virtual self took it all out on his former team Saturday night. 

He dominated the boards and once again protected the paint in a way that would make Elvin Hayes proud. He finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

With Bryant playing the way he has been the last few simulations, the Wizards' defense has been exceptional. Outside of defensive versatility, having a strong defensive center anchoring the defense is paramount to an effective unit. 

Other parting thoughts

Jerome Robinson continues to play well as a starter, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. The Wizards didn't get that long of a look at Robinson before the NBA suspended its season.

After acquiring him at the trade deadline in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, it'd be another steal by Tommy Sheppard if Robinson can play like this consistently in real life. 

Instead of erupting in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards secure a win, Beal went off for 14 points in the third this time. He finished with 24 points and went 12-for-30 from the field.

Markieff Morris made a return to DC in this one. The Lakers uniform looks weird on him. 

It's hard to capture just how quick Ish Smith is in a video game, but this spin move came pretty close. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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