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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Five observations from Wizards' overtime loss to the Celtics, including John Wall's return

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Five observations from Wizards' overtime loss to the Celtics, including John Wall's return

The Washington Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics 130-125 in overtime on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Tough loss: No matter the stakes, the location or the personnel, the Wizards and Celtics always seem to bring the best out of each other. On Wednesday, they went to overtime for the third time in their past four meetings.

John Wall and Kyrie Irving put in All-Star performances, but a series of clutch shots by Irving in the final period proved the difference in a Celtics win. On one, to put the Celtics ahead by two with under a minute to go, Irving swished a three with Wall all over him. Mostly, he dashed past defenders and finished with spin off the glass.

The Wizards lost their third straight game and fell to 11-17 on the season.

2. Wall was back: After missing one game due to bone spurs in his left heel, John Wall returned to the Wizards lineup. Though he took 26 shots and had five turnovers, he played well for the most part.

Wall ended up with 34 points, 13 assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter alone.

The best part of Wall's night early on was his defense. He was more engaged  and disciplined than usual. Though it's nearly impossible to stay in front of Irving, Wall did a solid job disrupting his path to the rim. 

Wall's defense trailed off at times in the second half, but overall it was a solid return for the five-time All-Star. Though Irving scored a lot of points, he shot 12-for-28, and Wall did his part to limit him, at least until late.

This game had a major injury scare for Wall. After making a layup with just over two minutes remaining in overtime, he hit the floor and stayed there in obvious pain. Trainers rushed to his aid and checked out the back of his right leg. Somehow, he was able to return.

3. Horrible third quarter: The first half was among the most impressive the Wizards have played this season. Finally, they were putting together a complete performance on both ends of the floor. They didn't go down by 20, which has been customary even in many of their wins.

Things were going well through two quarters, but then the third quarter happened, and the Celtics essentially dominated for a 12-minute stretch. They outscored the Wizards 38-22 in the frame and shot 61.9 percent, knocking down 4-of-7 from three. 

Boston forced the issue for the most part, but the Wizards made their share of mistakes to give them opportunities. They had seven turnovers in the third quarter with Bradley Beal (22 points, seven rebounds) accounting for three of them on his own. 

The Wizards forced overtime by outdoing the Celtics by seven points in the fourth. It was the third time in four meetings these teams have gone an extra period.

4. Porter was out: Though Wall came back, the Wizards were without starting forward Otto Porter Jr. Porter missed his third game of the season, this time due to a right knee contusion which he suffered in Monday's loss to the Pacers.

Porter was close, but was ruled out after going through a pregame workout as a gametime decision. One member of the coaching staff remarked to NBC Sports Washington before the game he expected Porter to play, so clearly he was very close to giving it a go.

It would be surprising if he didn't play on Friday. It's just a really bad bruise.

5. Dekker played, Brown didn't: Though Sam Dekker was acquired just a few days ago in a trade, he appears to be ahead of Troy Brown Jr. on the depth chart. Porter's absence meant head coach Scott Brooks had to go deeper on his bench than usual, and it was Dekker who got the nod.

Brown was the team's first round pick in June, but at only 19 years old is being brought along very slowly. He is barely getting any floor time at all, while others in his draft class are playing rotation minutes. 

Take Robert Williams, for instance. The Celtics' first round pick, who was taken 12 spots after Brown at 27th, played 14 minutes on Wednesday. 

Williams, by the way, was impressive. He had a nice block on Dekker and a slam off a pick-and-roll that drew a big reaction from the crowd. He can get up there.


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Wizards release new red alternate jerseys, their fifth uniform


Wizards release new red alternate jerseys, their fifth uniform

The Washington Wizards have another new alternate jersey. On Wednesday, they released pictures of their 'Earned Edition' kit, which is essentially a red version of their 'The District' series.

The Wizards now have five jerseys. They are one of 16 teams with an 'Earned Edition' because they made the playoffs last season.

Here is a look at the new uniforms:

(photos via WashingtonWizards.com)

Notice the nod to the Washington monument up the sides of the jersey. Also, the D.C. flag on the waistband is a nice touch. 

The Wizards now have red and black versions that say 'The District' on the front. Last season, they they had one in white.

The Wizards will debut the uniform on Dec. 29 when they host the Chralotte Hornets.

Expect them to be mixed in for a few games over the course of the rest of this season.