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

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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Emma Meesseman struggles and 4 other observations from Mystics-Aces Game 3

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Emma Meesseman struggles and 4 other observations from Mystics-Aces Game 3

The Washington Mystics lost to the Las Vegas Aces 92-75 on Sunday evening in Game 3 of the WNBA Semifinals. Here are five observations from the game.

1. There is an argument to be made that the two most talented teams remaining in the WNBA playoffs are facing each other in the Semifinals, that the toughest team the Mystics will see in the postseason are these Las Vegas Aces, even if they end up advancing. Sunday served a reminder of the Aces' top-end talent, as they punched back to avoid a sweep with a Game 3 win, ensuring these teams will play at least one more time.

The Mystics had three opportunities to clinch the series, now they have two. Their next chance will be Tuesday, again in Las Vegas. If Sunday's game was any indication, they will meet a raucous Aces crowd once again at Mandalay Bay.

2. To find where things went wrong for the Mystics, look no further than the second quarter where midway through they got their doors blown off leading into halftime. Washington was up 33-31 with 5:13 left in the second quarter when the Aces closed the frame on a 16-4 run. They outscored the Mystics 24-13 in the quarter overall.

It was ugly. The Mystics couldn't hit a shot and lost control on offense. They had eight turnovers in the quarter and many of them proved costly. They scored only four points in the final seven minutes of the half. Their 37 points at halftime tied a season-low.

The trouble continued in the third, as the Mystics were outdone 32-25. But the momentum shifted in that second quarter and Washington never got it back. After scoring 102 points in Game 2, they topped out at 75 in this one.

3. The Mystics had no answer for the Aces' dynamic duo of Liz Cambage and A'ja Wilson. Cambage put up 28 points with six rebounds, two steals and a block. She shot an impeccable 12-for-15 from the field.

It was the type of performance where if you only saw this game, you would think she was the most dominant player in the WNBA. At 6-foot-9, all the Aces had to do on some plays was throw the ball up the air where only she could get it.

Wilson was a force on both ends of the floor. She had 21 points, eight boards, two blocks and two steals. She made five of her first six shots and finished 8-for-14 overall.

The first quarter saw Cambage, Wilson and Kayla McBride score all of the Aces' points. They went to work thanks to point guard Kelsey Plum's ability to penetrate and set up open shots. Plum had nine points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Speaking of Plum, people were mad online this week about an NBA writer saying she is the 'James Harden of the WNBA.' Many thought the comparison was unnecessary and also simplistic because they are left-handed guards.

Set aside the outrage and it is simply just a bad take. Harden is known for playing patiently, if slowly, while Plum is the fastest player on the court.

4. The star of this series before Sunday was undoubtedly Emma Meesseman, who was able to score even more points in Game 1 than she did in Game 2, even though she had been moved up the scouting report. In Game 3, she finally went cold, managing only six points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and 0-for-2 from three.

Though Meesseman had eight points, three assists and two steals, she missed a series of open shots and also didn't have a great game defensively. There were several breakdowns that allowed Cambage open paths to the rim and on a few occasions Meesseman was to blame. 

Meesseman is an X-factor for the Mystics and so far the game results have matched her individual production. When she plays well, it changes everything.

LaToya Sanders, who had 17 points in Game 2, also struggled. She had only four points in 24 minutes. That wouldn't have been a problem if she wasn't taking shots, but she went 2-for-9 from the field as the Aces left her open on several occasions. 

They bet on the fact Sanders isn't usually an offensive threat, especially from the outside, and this time it worked out for them. It would be understandable if Sanders had some extra confidence after what she did in Game 2, but Game 3 was a reminder that her best role is as a defensive specialist.

Meesseman and Sanders' shooting woes contributing to an overall bad night for the Mystics. They shot 38.6 percent collectively. That's not what you expect from the most efficient scoring team in WNBA history.

5. The eight turnovers in the second quarter were an extreme, but giveaways proved a major difference. They had 13 total in this game, far more than the six they had in each of the first two games this series.

The Mystics are the best team in the WNBA at protecting the ball. And so far this series, the Aces have proven quite dangerous in transition when they can push the pace off of missed baskets or miscues. 

Washington will have to clean that up moving forward, especially Ariel Atkins, who had five all by herself. Also, Natasha Cloud had zero turnovers with 14 assists through the first two games, but had three giveaways in this one alone.

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Mystics unable to complete a sweep, fall to Las Vegas Aces in Game 3

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Mystics unable to complete a sweep, fall to Las Vegas Aces in Game 3

A rare poor shooting night plagued the Washington Mystics as the WNBA Semifinals have shifted toward Las Vegas. As the highest-scoring team in WNBA history was unable to get on the right track in Game 3, the Las Vegas Aces grab a season-saving victory, 92-75. 

Not once did the Mystics get into a coherent flow on the night. They shot 38.6% (27-of-70) from the field and an even worse 33.3% (11-of-13) from behind the arc. In the regular season, their season averages were 46.9% and 36.6% respectively.

Aside from Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, no one managed to get into a grove. Delle Donne was the only Mystics’ starter to scored more than six points. She had 22 points but with a team-worst minus-21.

The only time Washington strung together a series of points was when the WNBA MVP Delle Donne took over the game. She scored eight straight points for Washington in the first quarter to tie the game at 19. Back-to-back 3-pointers gave the team their best offensive spurt of the game. However, it would not last long. 

Moments later, a huge 14-2 Aces run in the second propelled Las Vegas to a 41-33 lead. From there the Aces would not relinquish it for the remainder of the contest. The difference eventually grew to a series-high 22 in the waning moments off a layup by Kayla McBride.

Liz Cambage was basically unstoppable for the Aces with 28 points and a highly efficient 12-of-15 shooting night. Just as importantly she helped shut down the Mystics star of the first two games of the series, Emma Meesseman to only six points. Also, she essentially drew a technical from Mystics' coach Mike Thibault after she got away with a high elbow that was not called.

A'ja Wilson added 21 points for the Aces while McBride had 18. 

Nights like these are rare for Washington. Throughout the year they scored more than 100 points a WNBA-record 15 times. Four times did they fail to score more than 75 points.

The loss prevents the Mystics from completing a three-game sweep of the Aces. As Washington still leads the series 2-1, Game 4 will be on Tuesday with the time still TBD. 

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