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With John Wall's injury, Troy Brown Jr. could join point guard rotation sooner than expected

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With John Wall's injury, Troy Brown Jr. could join point guard rotation sooner than expected

John Wall's surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon will produce many consequences for the Wizards' franchise over the next year and perhaps well beyond, as he moves through what will be a long and arduous rehab. One person who could be affected indirectly is rookie Troy Brown Jr.

Brown, a 2018 first-round pick, has some point guard potential in his future, despite fitting the physical profile of a small forward. Both head coach Scott Brooks and team president Ernie Grunfeld have said so. A point guard growing up, Brown believes he can play the position long-term.

He is only 19, and the Wizards are taking their time developing him. But with Wall set to miss most of next season, it would help Washington if Brown was brought up to speed at point guard sooner than later.

Beyond Wall, who is on track to return in February of 2020, the Wizards have zero point guards under contract next season. They would like to re-sign Tomas Satoransky, but even if they do they would need at least one more player at the position.

If Brown is ready to be part of their point guard rotation next season, they could allocate resources elsewhere. That would be helpful with Wall due to make $37.8 million in the first year of a new contract.

"It is definitely is one of those things that you have to take recognition of," Brown said of the door opening with Wall out.
 
"But at the same time, it's just about me getting better and doing whatever to help this team."

"With John out, it's going to open up opportunities for a lot of guys," Brooks said. "We're going to worry about next year next year. With this year, [Brown] has to just gain experience."

Wall's injury has yet to afford Brown more playing time for the Wizards. Wall last played on Dec. 26, and since then, Brown has appeared in only 14 of their 25 games. Some of that has been due to a left ankle injury that he suffered just before the All-Star break.

But for the most part, Brown has remained on the outside of the rotation looking in, still waiting for consistent playing time. He was the 15th overall pick, yet 31 players from the 2018 draft have logged more minutes than Brown so far this season, including 18 guys who were picked after him. Nine second-round picks and six who went undrafted have played more.

At least for now, Brown's development is taking place mostly outside of NBA games. He practices with the Wizards and has also spent some time with the Capital City Go-Go, their G-League affiliate.

It's with the Go-Go that Brown may get his best chance to develop point guard skills. With Chris Chiozza having signed a 10-day contract with the Houston Rockets, and with Chasson Randle having been promoted to the Wizards, the Go-Go currently lack natural point guards. That allowed Brown to start at the one on Friday night in the Go-Go's win over the Greensboro Swarm.

So, what exactly does Brown need to add to his game to be an NBA-caliber point guard? It's partly his outside shot, which is a work in progress after he shot just 29.1 percent from three in college. It is also knowing positioning for defense and rebounds and how to set up teammates for their shots.

"You have to have the intel," Brown said.

Part of it, as Brown has learned, is adjusting how he passes to counter NBA defenders. Many of Brown's best highlights from college were his assists, but some of his go-to passes don't work in the NBA. Players are faster, longer and smarter.

"The biggest thing for me in the NBA is to stop jumping when I pass," Brown said. "That's the biggest thing because people read eyes. Now, it's more so just staying on the ground and making the simple play."

When Brown has a pass intercepted, it is usually not long after that he is taken out of the game. Turnovers now carry more weight than ever. When Brown would make a mistake in high school or even college, the leash was much longer because he was one of the best players on his team.

"It's definitely hard. I'm just trying to get used to it," Brown said. "You kind of play knowing that that's going to happen, and you're going to come out. At the same time, you've gotta have confidence in yourself to just make the right play and just play your game."

If the Wizards continue to drift back in the standings and further away from playoff contention, perhaps the door opens sooner for Brown to get some playing time. And if that happens, maybe he gets a look at point guard. 

Either way, Wall's injury could speed up the timeline for Brown and alter the course of his development as an NBA player.

"[Point guard] is not a position that you can just learn it as fast as you would like, or as fast as the coaches would like," Brooks said. "It takes time. It's a very tough position to learn. We're very patient with him."

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Rui Hachimura has attracted the best athletes Japan has to offer in his rookie season in the NBA. 

From Shohei Ohtani to Naomi Osaka, Hachimura has impressed both on and off the floor, including Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. He stopped by to see Hachimura's Wizards beat the Pistons Monday. 

"That's right," Darvish said to the Wizards' Japanese website. "We are going to dinner after the game so I stopped by."

Darvish and Hachimura are represented by the same agency and are two of the biggest Japanese stars in American sports. Darvish has had two down years with the Cubs in 2018 and 2019, but he's still considered one of the best pitchers to ever come out of Japan. 

Hachimura, while sidelined with a groin injury, flashed plenty of potential as a rookie for the Wizards. Before going down, he was averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 48.2 percent. 

Darvish admitted he didn't know much about basketball, not even what stats are good to use. But he only cares that Hachimura is having fun. 

Selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese born player to be drafted in the top-10. Japan has produced a number of great baseball players but hasn't been able to produce as many hoopers. 

"You don't have to be tall or big to play baseball," Darvish said. "But when it comes to basketball, you have to be tall and athletic and contribute to the team on a nightly basis. I think what he's accomplishing is more exceptional."

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Hachimura will return before the beginning of February and the team has yet to provide a timetable beyond that. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the floor soon because an entire country outside of the US is watching and can't get enough. 

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