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Scott Brooks says the Wizards need Otto Porter to be more aggressive on offense

Scott Brooks says the Wizards need Otto Porter to be more aggressive on offense

Otto Porter is often praised for his ability to impact a game without the ball in his hands, as he can help the Wizards win without needing the touches John Wall or Bradley Beal get.

But sometimes that deferential mindset can backfire and Monday against the Bucks was one of those times if you ask head coach Scott Brooks.

Brooks certainly said as much after their 104-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. When asked if the Wizards need to run more plays to get Porter open, Brooks took it in a different direction.

"We would like to see Otto get more [shots], but Otto needs to help himself get more," Brooks said. "The bottom-line is that Otto needs to get himself open and be ready to catch and shoot and get more shots."

Point guard John Wall is on the court with Porter very often and he sees it similarly.

"We just have to do a better job at getting Otto the ball, but he’s also gotta do a better job himself at just being aggressive when he gets it," Wall said.

Porter, who finished with just eight points in 31 minutes on Monday, attempted only eight shots. Three of those were from three-point range and he missed each of them. He did have six rebounds, three steals and two assists, but Porter knows he can be more valuable as a scorer.

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Porter is currently not providing much as the Wizards' third scoring option. He is averaging just 8.9 points in his last seven games, well below his 13.9 points per game season average. During that stretch he has shot just 37.7 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from three.

Porter, though to be fair, did miss a game on Jan. 6 with a right hip strain and tight back, a combination of injuries he has been dealing with periodically in his career. Though he missed only one full game, Porter explained after Monday's loss how it is still affecting him, now four games back from the absence.

"I know I've only been out a [game], but I'm trying to slowly get back mentally and physically to where I was," he said. "I'm just trying to get back into rhythm. The more you play, the more you get into rhythm. I'm trying to get back into my niche with John, Brad, [Markieff Morris] and Marcin [Gortat]."

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The biggest difference, Porter said, is that he doesn't have his legs back. He isn't able to get the same burst coming off screens in the halfcourt set and isn't up to full speed running the fastbreak with Wall, Beal and the rest of the Wizards' team. Wall is one of the best in the NBA at finding guys open shots in transition and Porter usually feasts off those opportunities. At this moment, he isn't able to like he normally does.

Porter has been working on his core strength to combat the stiffness and discomfort that comes from his hip from time to time. And as part of that recovery, the Wizards' coaching staff is trying to limit his minutes when they can.

When Porter is on the court, there are certainly ways the Wizards can help him get more shots by running plays with him in mind. But, as Brooks tells it, Porter has to take advantage when they do run those plays.

Porter seems confident it will just take time for him to get back to 100 percent, but the Wizards would like to see him be more aggressive.

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Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

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USA TODAY Sports

Yuta Watanabe is chasing NBA dream, hoping to lead the way for Japanese basketball players

Before meeting with local basketball media following his pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards on Thursday at Capital One Arena, George Washington forward Yuta Watanabe first addressed a swath of reporters from his home country of Japan. Then, while he talked to the American contingent, cameras from Japanese news outlets trailed him from a distance, documenting even the media part of his experience.

Watanabe, who played four years for the Colonials in Foggy Bottom, is now chasing an NBA dream with an entire country's hope on his shoulders. He is aiming to become just the second Japanese-born player to reach basketball's pinnacle.

It's a responsibility he carries with pride.

"I know there was only one Japanese player who played in the NBA like a long time ago, so he was the only one," Watanabe said. "If I can make it, I know that’s a really big thing in Japan. That would make young guys come to the U.S. and play basketball in the U.S. I want to be one of the pioneers for younger guys."

The only player to make the NBA from Japan in the history of the league was Yuta Tabuse, who appeared in four games for the Phoenix Suns in the 2004-05 season. Four games, that's it. If Watanabe can carve out an extended career in the NBA, it would be a first for Japan, which like many countries outside of the United States has begun to produce more basketball talent in recent decades as the game has expanded globally.

Watanabe grew up in Miki, Kagawa, a town in the southwest of Japan. He had American basketball idols growing up, including Kobe Bryant who was the NBA's biggest star when Watanabe was a kid.

Now, as Watanabe has set his sights on the NBA, he has focused on others to model his game after. He said he watches film of Jazz forward Joe Ingles because he sees similarities in their game.

"I see myself trying to be like him. He’s a lefty, a great shooter and a great defender. I’ve been watching his tape a lot," Watanabe said.

Watanabe has also been consulting with Hawks forward Joe Cavanaugh, his former teammate at George Washington. Cavanaugh went undrafted last summer, but caught on in Atlanta and appeared in 39 games as a rookie.

Watanabe's best bet may be a similar path. He is currently not projected to be drafted, but there are many avenues to the NBA, as Cavanaugh has shown. He was signed for 2017 training camp by the Hawks, then cut. Then, he inked a two-way contract which was later converted to a regular contract.

Along the way, Cavanaugh spent much of his time with the Erie Bayhawks of the G-League. Watanabe may have to go that route to make the NBA. For now, he's trying to prove what he's capable of and that has not been easy. The Wizards were his second workout and Watanabe isn't happy with his performance thus far.

He is dealing with an ankle injury that has affected his conditioning, he said, and his shots haven't been falling.

"To be honest, I didn’t shoot well. I didn’t really do well in the 1-on-1s or 3-on-3. I know I have to do better on that if I want to make an NBA team," he said.

Watanabe, who stands at 6-foot-9, said he also needs to get stronger. If defense is going to be his calling card, he can't be pushed around by bigger players in the NBA.

"I know I can defend one through four. Today, I didn’t shoot well but I know I can shoot and I can handle the ball, I can pass. I think versatility is one of my strengths," he said.

The Wizards could use depth at the small forward position and will be in the market for a host of undrafted guys to fill out their summer league team and new G-League team. Perhaps Watanabe will land in one of those spots.

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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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