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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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New dad Tomas Satoransky returns from All-Star break ready to guide new-look Wizards down closing stretch

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New dad Tomas Satoransky returns from All-Star break ready to guide new-look Wizards down closing stretch

WASHINGTON -- Integrating new additions comes with the territory for point guards. Tomas Satoransky is living the adjustment life on, and most excitedly, off the court. 

The Washington Wizards reunited Wednesday following the weeklong NBA All-Star break. The practice session was the Wizards’ first since a pair of trades on Feb. 6 added Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wes Johnson to the roster. Playing four games in six days left no time for formal practices. More group work comes Thursday before the playoff push continues Friday at Charlotte.

“We’re glad for that,” Satoransky said of the practices. “When we made those trades we were in game rhythm. It’s obviously tough to practice (during the season). I think our offense is definitely going to be better.”

The 27-year-old Czech Republic native’s world became infinitely better during that busy game stretch. Becoming a first-time father has that effect.

Satoransky missed the final two games before the break to be with his wife, Anna, as she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Sofia. 

Always a natural smiler, Satoransky practically floated when asked about the life-altering event coming during the season’s lone extended break.

“It was great timing,” Satoransky said. “I could spend all the time with my family. Words can’t describe the feeling. It was huge for me. Very emotional.”

We can, therefore, imagine Satoransky’s thoughts were perhaps a touch divided on the first day back at work, though he ended the previous quote with, “Looking forward to getting back to work and finishing the season strong.” 

The Wizards (24-34) need collective resolve from all their key figures over the final 24 games. Washington sits in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and three games back of the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff berth.

“Everything is still open,” Satoransky said of the playoff chase. "Like everyone says, we have to take it game by game. We still feel like we have a chance. We have good potential with this group.”

This group might as well be considered a new team. Six of Washington’s top seven scorers from last season are no longer with the team or, in the case of John Wall, out with a season-ending injury. More than half of the players in the current rotation were not on the team six weeks into the season. Portis, Parker and Johnson play their fifth game with their new team Friday.

“I’m kind of used to this,” Satoransky said of the changes. “Observing new players, trying to help them get in our system. That’s kind of what a point guard has to do.”

Another change looms. Center Dwight Howard is expected to rejoin the team Thursday for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Nov. 30. The eight-time All-Star did his rehab work in Atlanta. Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard, whose return to Washington was delayed a day because of snowy conditions in the area, would begin with non-contact work before the medical staff established new timelines.

For now, that means a heavy-dose of small-ball. Brooks primarily kept only one traditional big man – Portis or Thomas Bryant – on the court with a combination of Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Parker at forward. Satoransky believes the versatility with these pieces – including two-time All-Star guard Bradley Beal – offers upside.

“I feel like we have a defensive minded group,” Satoransky said. “We can switch everything and make it tough on the opposite team. I think we got better at that.”

If the Wizards are lucky, a trait not often associated with the team during this most frustrating season, no additional modifications are required beyond Howard’s potential return. 

“There’s a lot of things that happened this season. Hopefully, this is it,” Satoransky joked.

Even if new or unforeseen events lead to additional tweaks, who better to handle than a point guard floating on air.

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We're still amazed by Michael Jordan's historic scoring night vs. New Jersey, days after turning 40-years-old

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We're still amazed by Michael Jordan's historic scoring night vs. New Jersey, days after turning 40-years-old

Sixteen years ago Michael Jordan delivered one of the most memorable performances of his two-year stint with the Washington Wizards. 

On February 21, 2003, Jordan dropped 43 points four days after his 40th birthday. The mark made Jordan the first player older than 40 to record 40 points or more in a contest. 

It was also the fifth-most points he ever scored in a Wizards uniform. 

The record was made against the then-New Jersey Nets. Throughout the entire game the two teams went back-and-forth with 13 ties and 17 lead changes. That was until the Hall of Famer put the game away for Washington with the final go-ahead basket with 34 seconds to go. 

The Wizards won 89-86. 

"We hadn't really been playing well and coach has been really disappointed in the way we play and I had to take the leadership. I had to do everything I had to do to get this team to understand what winning is all about," Jordan said.

The 43 points was scored on 18-for-30 shooting, all within the 3pt arc. In the third quarter alone he scored 14 of the team's 25 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double in the contest with four steals, three assists and a block.

All 13 seasons of Jordan's career he had incredible feats. The season prior he recorded his final 50-point game at 38 years of age, which is also the oldest anyone's ever been to reach 50 points. And that came two months after he returned from retirement. 

The 2002-03 season was his last and this display was an attempt for Jordan to return to the postseason one final time. He had not been there since he was with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. 

"I've only got 28 games left in my career. I do whatever I've got to do to get into the playoffs."

Ultimately the Wizards did not make it to the playoffs with Jordan, but he sure left his mark on the organization. 

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