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Rui Hachimura a dominant force in Wizards' Summer League win over Hawks

Rui Hachimura a dominant force in Wizards' Summer League win over Hawks

The Washington Wizards beat the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night in the Las Vegas Summer League. Here are five observations from the game...

1. It appears that Rui Hachimura is getting the hang of things. After mixed results in his first two Summer League games, he was unstoppable in his third.

Hachimura carved up the Atlanta Hawks for 25 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He shot 9-for-12 and knocked down 2-of-3 from three.

Once he found a rhythm on offense, his versatility shined through. He beat opponents off the dribble, including on a play where he muscled through contact from a bruising Bruno Fernando for an and-1. Hachimura also made a series of midrange shots and one of his threes was on a hesitation pull-up. He scored in all three phases.

Hachimura's defense also continues to impress. In addition to his two rejections, he forced a turnover by trapping on the baseline. He also caused some misses with timely contests.

Hachimura has the physical traits to be a good defender and so far is showing some impressive instincts.

2. Garrison Mathews is a name few Wizards fans likely know at this point. He is on a two-way contract and played at Lipscomb, a little-known college in Tennessee that has never produced an NBA player before.

Mathews, though, has a chance to impact the Wizards this season and the reason why is his shooting. That skill was on full display against the Hawks.

Mathews scored 11 points and sank three threes. It wasn't just the shots going in, it was the way he shot them. Mathews has a gift for catch-and-shoot plays. He can come off screens and fire it away quickly. He can catch bad passes and still level himself in the air if his feet aren't set.

That is a skill that few young players have. It is the type of thing that Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick have made careers out of.

3. Moe Wagner is also billed as a shooter, but his shots haven't been falling in Las Vegas. He struggled with his shot again, going 1-for-4 from the field and 0-for-1 from three. Wagner is now shooting just 32 percent (8-for-25) in the Summer League.

Wagner's greatest value is outside shooting, so when his threes aren't going in, the other shortcomings in his game become more apparent. At this point, he can't make up for it with his defense, passing or rebounding.

4. Issuf Sanon is also having a rough time in Vegas. He shot 1-for-4 against Atlanta with four points.

Sanon has some moments on defense, but doesn't seem to have much developed skill on offense. He commits careless turnovers and lacks confidence with his shot. 

Sanon's Summer League may be over already. Wizards interim president Tommy Sheppard said on the ESPN2 broadcast Sanon is heading to join the Ukraine U-20 national team on Friday.

If that is the case, it's unclear when we will see Sanon with the Wizards again. At 19 years old, he does not look ready to join the NBA team in the fall.

5. The Wizards were without Troy Brown Jr., arguably the best player on their Summer League team, as he continues to deal with a left knee contusion. Brown suffered the injury in the first quarter of the team's loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night.

Brown could be done for the rest of the Summer League. The team only has one more game and it is a consolation match-up. 

Brown already showed plenty in his two-plus games in Las Vegas. He was borderline dominant, including a game with 18 points and 15 rebounds against the Pelicans. 

The Hawks were also missing some key players on Thursday. Both of their top draft picks - De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish - didn't play.


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The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

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The same day the Mystics clinched a playoff spot, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own

Ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't get much better than this. 

The same night the Mystics clinched a playoff spot with an 86-79 win over the Minnesota Lynx, Natasha Cloud made some history of her own.

With 8:25 left in the first quarter, Cloud hit an open Elena Della Donne who finished strongly at the basket. With the pass, Cloud became the franchise's all-time leader in assists. 

Drafted by the Mystics back in 2015, Cloud has been integral to the team's rise to the top of the standings. She's averaging a career-high 5.4 assists and 8.8 points while leading the team in minutes at 32.3 per game. 

Needless to say, her teammates were excited for her. 

Hopefully, this magical season will finish with a championship, redeeming the Mystics of their 2018 Finals loss. 



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As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

Monumental Basketball, the new vertical that encompasses the NBA's Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League, the Mystics of the WNBA and District Gaming of the NBA 2K League, is designed to help all of the respective teams owned and operated by Ted Leonsis and his partners. The Mystics, though, don't need nearly as much assistance as the others.

Sitting atop the WNBA with a league-best 18-7 record, the Mystics look well on their way to another deep playoff run. Last year, it ended in a loss in the WNBA Finals. This year, they have an even better roster capable of winning it all.

On Wednesday, the Mystics routed the Seattle Storm, last year's champions, by 29 points. They did so despite missing All-Star point guard Kristi Tolliver and with their best player, Elena Delle Donne, scoring 14 points. They might be the deepest team in the WNBA with a bench that is starting lineup-caliber.

The Mystics have already arrived, but it took some time to get here. When head coach and general manager Mike Thibault took over in 2013, they had won 11 total games the previous two years. Five years later, they were title contenders.

Leonsis wants to see the same upward trajectory for his other teams. Thibault believes the new program can help everyone get on track.

"The overall structure can be so good when you are inclusive and you have services that are available to everybody," Thibault told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I think that one of the things that I learned in trying to rebuild the Mystics is that you need a lot of hands to make it work. I go back to the days where you had a head coach and one or two assistants. The game has changed so much. If you can make a player coming in, whether it’s to the Mystics or the Wizards, feel like they are a part of something bigger."

Thibault, 68, knows what good organizations look like, as he has been a part of many over the years. He was a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s during their dynasty. He later worked for the Chicago Bulls and oversaw the scouting department when they drafted Michael Jordan. It wasn't until the 2000s that he joined the WNBA ranks, first with a successful run as coach of the Connecticut Sun before coming to Washington.

Thibault believes the player services arm of Monumental Basketball will be particularly helpful.

"Let’s say you’re traded to the Wizards. You’re coming from a different city and it’s a new environment. Your family has to move and you have kids. That’s a whole thing in and of itself," he explained.

"What can we do for their post-career ability? Do they want to be a coach? Do they want to go into broadcasting, or business? There are so many things you can do to enhance how comfortable a player and a family is coming to an organization. It’s something that just makes you special as an organization."

Thibault says some of benefits Monumental Basketball will provide have already been utilized by the Mystics, including mental health professionals and nutritionists. What can help the Mystics in particular is more synergy with the Wizards.

This is the first season the Mystics are playing at the new arena at St. Elizabeth's in Southeast Washington. They now share a practice facility and office space with the Wizards. Thibault believes there are positives to feeling part of a larger operation.

"I think our players already sense that," he said. "You see Wizards players, you see Tommy Sheppard and others at our games. That makes you feel like you’re a part of a bigger thing. We have a dining room where all of the players can socialize in both of the organizations."

When the creation of Monumental Basketball was announced, Leonsis noted Thibault will have a certain level of autonomy in what he does. Some of the executives hired by the organization like John Thompson III, who will help with player wellness, and Dr. Daniel Medina, who will assist in training and health, will provide services to the Mystics. But Thibault will pick the players and set the vision for basketball operations.

Thibault, though, knows Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard well and thinks the team is in good hands.

"He’s got ideas. He’s very forward thinking. I think he’s a great judge of personnel and character. I think he’s very thorough in what he does," Thibault said. 

"I think that when you’re trying to build an organization, there are process you have to go through and steps you have to take to be good. I think he knows you have to have patience to do that. I think if fans give him the chance to do what he’s great at, they will see the results over time. It might take time, but he will get them there."