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Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

WASHINGTON -- Wizards guard Jordan McRae made his way around the parish hall of St. Francis Xavier in Southeast Washington slowly, stopping to greet kids one-by-one and bending his 6-foot-7 frame down to take pictures and shake hands. He handed out bags of school supplies to underprivileged youth that said 'work hard, play hard.' He told them each "good luck in school."

It was a day McRae got to do something he feels like he could have done more of last year. He was giving back to the D.C. community and helping out with a cause he believes in. Last season, when he played through the uncertainty of a two-way contract, he didn't have a real chance to lay down roots in the Washington area.

But now back for a second year with the Wizards, and with an NBA contract and a possible rotation spot to seize, McRae feels a new sense of comfort in D.C. Though he has been in town for a year, now it is home.

"Since being in the NBA, this is probably the best opportunity I've gotten," he told NBC Sports Washington.

"Last year, it was tough. It was different from what I've been through before, just the unknown. Not knowing was the hardest part."

McRae, 28, came to the Wizards last summer after rehabbing a shoulder injury and playing overseas. But he had two years of NBA experience under his belt, including a championship ring from the 2015-16 season with the Cavaliers.

At the time, a two-way contract made sense for McRae. He had to prove he was healthy and needed a team to take a flier on him. The Wizards did, but they couldn't offer McRae much of an opportunity to play. They were entering another year with high expectations and had loaded up on veteran players in the offseason.

Things, of course, didn't go as planned for the Wizards but McRae didn't exactly benefit from the turmoil and roster turnover. He spent much of his time in the G-League, appearing in more games with the Go-Go (31) than he did with the Wizards (27). 

That was partly because late in the season McRae was close to maxing out the 45 days his two-way contract allowed him to spend at the NBA level. The Wizards had financial incentive to keep him in the G-League and in the final weeks of the season, when the two-way clock was no longer an issue, he suffered an Achilles strain that ended his season a few days early.

McRae felt like he showed the Wizards what he is capable of in his relatively brief time on the floor, but is looking forward to a more extended opportunity this season. 

"I'm a person who can play multiple spots. I can be on the court with Brad [Beal] or without Brad," McRae said. 

"I'm just looking forward to it. The opportunity is there. This is what you work for all summer, this type of opportunity."

There could be an opening for McRae at back-up shooting guard. The Wizards didn't address that position specifically this offseason like they did a year ago by trading for Austin Rivers. McRae may be their best option behind Beal.

It also may be the ideal spot for McRae, whose best attribute is scoring. He led the G-League last season with 30.3 points per game and showed some flashes at the NBA level as well. He scored 20 points or more twice and dropped 15 points in eight minutes against the Cavs on Jan. 29 when the Wizards nearly stole a victory after the benches were emptied in a lopsided game.

McRae can get buckets quickly. He can also play some point guard, which should come in handy this season as the Wizards play without All-Star John Wall for at least several months. They are also resting hopes on Isaiah Thomas as one of their top two point guards and he only played 12 games last season.

The Wizards' roster is in transition and it may not yield many wins in the 2019-20 season. The Westgate sportsbook set their over/under at 28.5 wins. That is about 10 short of playoff contention, even in down years in the lesser Eastern Conference.

It could work out well for McRae, though, as he could get much more playing time. He is excited about that possibility and also the style shift they hope to undergo as dictated by managing partner Ted Leonsis and general manager Tommy Sheppard.

"We're gonna be young and obviously we have to change up our style," McRae said. "We want to be one of those teams where teams don't want to play, a team that you know they're diving for loose balls, playing hard and playing fast."


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Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

With the grind of the NBA season preparing to get underway, the Washington Wizards are spending some time off the court as a way to relax and have some fun. On Monday, the team headed to Top Golf to take some hacks, and we were treated to a breakdown of each player's swing.

As you can see, some like head coach Scott Brooks have a pretty smooth swing. However, the same cannot be said about others.

Take for example Moe Wagner. 

The newly acquired Wizard started off promising with a solid stance, bent knees and all. But, the wind up showed that there were clearly some quirks in his mechanics. Then, the worst thing possible happened: a missed ball. No one will really judge if the swing isn't the prettiest, considering his job is to play basketball, but to come up empty hurts.

Wagner wasn't alone in his misfortunes, however. Jordan McRae also had some trouble getting his club to connect with the ball. But, as they say, third times the charm.

As for other poor swings, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant had success hitting the ball, it just didn't look all too pretty.

For Bryant, he may be taking the concept of getting a low, solid base, quite too literally. With Bertans, the movement on his back leg followed by a quick swing is, well, interesting to say the least.

But, fear not, Washington does have a few players who at least look like they've picked up a golf club before. 

Even rookie Rui Hachimura showed off a pretty decent stroke.

While the videos did provide a good laugh, it's safe to say that most of these guys shouldn't quit their day jobs.


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What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

What Wizards guard Chris Chiozza learned from playing with James Harden and Chris Paul

WASHINGTON -- Point guard Chris Chiozza is hailed as a success story for the Wizards' G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, which played its first season last year as an expansion franchise. He joined the organization in training camp as an undrafted rookie and by February had played his way into an NBA contract with the Houston Rockets.

Chiozza initially signed a 10-day contract with Houston and ended up sticking around through the playoffs until late July when he was waived. That opened the door for a reunion in Washington where he landed on an Exhibit 10 contract last month.

His time in Houston was brief, but important for a variety of reasons. For one, Chiozza got some official NBA experience for the first time by appearing in seven regular season games. 

Chiozza, 23, is now back with the Wizards with a different perspective.

"It's a much more comfortable feeling now, just having that experience," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I wasn't expecting to be back here. But it's a great opportunity. I get along great with everybody here."

Chiozza is currently gunning for a roster spot with the Wizards out of training camp. With injuries to two of Washington's point guards, John Wall and Isaiah Thomas, Chiozza could earn some playing time early in the season behind projected starter Ish Smith. Chiozza's main competition is undrafted rookie Justin Robinson, who joined the Wizards on a three-year deal this summer. 

Chiozza could have his contract converted into a two-way deal, as they have an open spot there next to Garrison Mathews. That would allow Chiozza to start the season with the NBA team until G-League training camp begins on Oct. 28. Then, a 45-day limit would kick in for how much time he could spend in the NBA. Forty-five days, though, would be plenty for the Wizards to work with, as Thomas is expected to return from his left thumb injury not long after the season begins.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks believes Chiozza has a real chance to carve out a steady career in the NBA.

"I think he knows that he can play in the league. As a young player, you hope that you can be in the league but you're not quite sure if you can," Brooks said. "But with Chris, I think he knows he can play in it."

Chiozza draws confidence from having a full year of professional basketball under his belt. But he also had a unique experience playing in Houston. He got to square off every day at practice with two guards who will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

Chiozza got to see up close what makes James Harden and Chris Paul great. And he took away from that lessons of how he can elevate his own game as a point guard.

"It was crazy just to see how good of a one-on-one player [Harden] is. When you watch him on TV, you can't really tell how smart of a player he is with the reads he makes. He can read when it's his shot or it's time to kick out to a shooter. Just watching him and CP3 and how they read the defense is pretty interesting," Chiozza said.

"When I was growing up, [Paul] was my favorite point guard. Just being around him and going to his camps and stuff and then being on his team, it was crazy."

Chiozza said practicing with Paul is a different experience than in games where he is more conservative with his ball-handling and passing. In practice, Paul may surprise you by passing the ball through a big man's legs or with dribble combinations he doesn't allows deploy. Chiozza calls them "pick-up moves."

Chiozza saw the finer details of what makes two great guards the players they are. As he aims to find a niche in the NBA, that can only help his cause.