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IT Week: Isaiah Thomas, his trainer believe Wizards are great opportunity for him to complete a comeback

IT Week: Isaiah Thomas, his trainer believe Wizards are great opportunity for him to complete a comeback

The shortest All-NBA player in league history, Isaiah Thomas' height is a subject he is used to hearing about. At charity events like his backpack and school supply giveaway in Southeast Washington on Thursday, sometimes that means people expressing disbelief that he is a professional basketball player.

"I get that a lot, especially with kids," the 5-foot-9 Wizards guard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. 

"I'm so short that I'm like their height. They always ask questions like they don't believe it."

Thomas, who is entering his ninth NBA season and first in Washington, is also accustomed to what it means to be short on the basketball court. His margin for error is smaller. No baskets come easy. 

Often times Thomas is guarded by players a half-a-foot taller than him. When he gets to the rim, opponents have him by a foot or more. That contrast presents little daylight to get his shot off.

So, for Thomas it is extra-important to move quickly and to get to his comfort zones on the floor. And this offseason, that concept has been a major priority in his training program.

"I've seen him be able to do more things as far as taking off and being able to run and feel comfortable," Andre Brown, his offseason on-court trainer, said. 

"Now he's able to get to all of his spots on the floor and elevate to where his shot needs to be. It's a fluid motion. Once Isaiah gets to his spots, he's tough."

Thomas, 30, has been at his best in the NBA when he's making threes. In 2016-17, when he made All-NBA with the Celtics, Thomas made a career-high 3.2 threes per game and tied a career-best by shooting 37.9 percent from the perimeter.

Thomas can't shoot over many players in the NBA, so he needs to keep his opponents off-balance. The way he did that at his peak was with a consistent three-point shot and the threat of dribbling past those who close out too quickly.

Thomas only played in 12 games last season and 32 the year before that. Since his memorable run with the Celtics in the 2017 playoffs, he has averaged only 13.3 points while shooting 36.7 percent from the field and 29 percent from three.

The hip injury that ended his 2017 playoffs has persisted throught he past two seasons. But Thomas believes the fresh start in Washington could be the key to reinstalling himself as an elite scoring point guard.

"The NBA is about 'what have you done for me lately?' I understood that at a younger age and I get it," Thomas told reporters on Thursday.

"These last two years have been tough. But I always say that it can't storm forever. So, at some point things gotta open up. Hopefully with this big opportunity with the Wizards, I can show people that I can still play at a high level."

It would certainly be a good story. Thomas happens to have last been at his peak when playing against the Wizards in the second round of those 2017 playoffs. A lot has changed in two years as he is now on his second one-year contract with no guarantees to start or be the star.

Until Thomas shows the NBA he is back to being the player he once was, we can only take his and others' word for it. But Brown, for one, is a believer.

"This opportunity is going to be big for him, to shock the world," he said. "I just want everyone to pay attention and open [their] eyes and know that 'it's time.'"

Chris Miller contributed to this report

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Wizards at Mavericks Game 1: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Wizards at Mavericks Game 1: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Wizards head to Dallas for their regular-season opener. Bradley Beal will lead this new-look Washington group against one of the league's most dynamic duos in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Dallas Mavericks, 2019 NBA Season Game 1

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX.

When: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards vs. Mavericks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Mavericks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS TV SCHEDULE

7:30 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:30 PM: Wizards vs. Mavericks (LIVE)

11:00 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

11:30 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out), Troy Brown Jr. (left calf strain – out), Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain – out), Isaiah Thomas (left thumb rehab – out), C.J. Miles (left foot rehab – out)

Mavericks: Dwight Powell (left hamstring strain – out), Ryan Broekhoff (right ankle sprain – questionable)

WIZARDS vs. MAVERICKS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 75

Regular Season Record: Mavericks lead Wizards 43-32

Last Meeting: 3/6/19, Wizards won 132-123

Last 10: Mavericks lead 8-2

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Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hoped Bradley Beal's decision to sign a contract extension last week would send a message to the younger players on the team. According to second-year veteran Troy Brown Jr., it already has. 

Brown, 20, said he was part of a group of players that cheered Beal when he arrived at the team's practice facility over the weekend, the day after news broke. 

"I was happy," Brown said. "We just appreciate him."

Brown's biggest takeaways from Beal's new contract, which will keep him in Washington through at least the 2021-22 season, involved the commitment he has made. Even as a two-time All-Star in his prime, he is willing to see through what the Wizards are trying to build.

That helped bolster Brown's opinion of the Wizards as an organization.

"It's good to see guys like Brad stay home," Brown said. "Like he talked about, he got drafted here. It makes younger guys like me, Thomas [Bryant] and Rui [Hachimura] feel good about the city, just to see the leader of our team taking that extension when he does have other options."

Like Beal, Brown is a first round pick. The Wizards selected him 15th overall in the 2018 draft, six years after they took Beal with the third pick in 2012. Beal has been around long enough to know exactly what it takes to be a star player in the NBA.

Brown has paid close attention and believes Beal can help him and the other young players on the team find success in the league.

"He leads by example every day. He comes in, works hard and is very vocal. Even if he's not talking a lot in practice, he's going hard," Brown said. 

"It's just one of those things where every time you know what you're going to get out of him. You don't really have to worry about Brad's effort or being a leader because he's going to do that every day."

What Beal has done is essentially say he's ready to be patient and help guide the Wizards through a transition period. While other NBA stars probably would have forced their way out of the situation he's in, Beal is laying down roots with confidence the team's new front office structure and philosophy will pay dividends down the road.

Beal has spoken about how he wants to build something new in Washington where the NBA franchise hasn't won 50 games or been to the conference finals since the 1970s. Brown has fallen in line, hoping to be part of a basketball renaissance in The District.

"We're all young guys in the league, but at the same time we understand the stuff that's going on with D.C. [with the Nationals, Capitals and Mystics]. It's not irrelevant to us. We want to make a name for the Wizards. I feel like with us, we take it more personal than other people do. We just want to turn this thing around," he said.

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