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Scott Brooks shuffles Wizards starting lineup, inserts Kelly Oubre Jr. and Thomas Bryant

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Scott Brooks shuffles Wizards starting lineup, inserts Kelly Oubre Jr. and Thomas Bryant

Scott Brooks has apparently reached a breaking point. For the first time in his three years on the job, the Wizards head coach has made significant changes to his starting lineup.

With Dwight Howard out on Tuesday against the Clippers due to his strained piriformis muscle, Brooks is calling on second-year center Thomas Bryant to start in his place. Kelly Oubre Jr. will also take Markieff Morris' spot in the starting lineup, as the Wizards aim to shake things up amid a disastrous 5-11 start.

This is the first start in Bryant's NBA career. The 21-year-old has played spot minutes in six games so far this season with the Wizards, who signed him off waivers this past summer.

Brooks usually goes with backup center Ian Mahinmi to start in Howard's place. But with his team lacking energy, he believes Bryant can provide it.

"He plays with a high motor and he plays with a lot of enthusiasm," Brooks said. "We need better effort. We need better energy and we need better play."

Brooks said he hopes Bryant's eagerness will rub off on the other starters. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. have been part of a Wizards' rotation that has far too often produced listless efforts this season, particularly on defense.

Bryant will have his shortcomings and a learning curve, but Brooks saw something in the team's game on Sunday he hopes translates to the starting lineup. Brooks emptied his bench with his team down big to the Blazers and Bryant helped key a near comeback.

There was one play in particular that caught Brooks' eye. Bryant threw down an alley-oop and ran over to the Wizards bench, smiling and pointing at his teammates. He was making the most of a rare opportunity to play, and he was having fun.

Oubre, 22, will get his first career start that wasn't created by an injury. He has made 26 starts in his four NBA seasons, but usually in the place of Porter or Morris when they were out.

Like Bryant, Oubre can infuse some much-needed life into the Wizards' lineup. He plays an emotional style and tries as hard as anyone on the team on the defensive end.

"Coach's decision," Brooks said of sitting Morris. "I just feel like we need to try a different lineup."

Morris is averaging just 6.9 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 34.7 percent in his last 10 games. He is being demoted mostly due to the simple need for a change and the fact he hasn't been playing well.

But Brooks believes Morris can help improve the bench by becoming a focus of their offensive sets.

"We're gonna try to stabilize that unit a little bit," Brooks said.

These are undoubtedly the most drastic lineup changes Brooks has made in his tenure so far in Washington. The team needed a shakeup, and this certainly qualifies as one.

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Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

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Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 123-110 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The All-Star break may have given the Wizards some much-needed time off, but it did not produce the reset in momentum that they were hoping for. They lost again on Friday night in their first game back and have now dropped eight of their last 11.

The losing overall has been devastating to their playoff hope,s and their latest defeat came against a team they are directly competing against. The Hornets are seventh in the East, and the Wizards are 11th.

Time is starting to run out, and losses like Friday's cause extra damage for the Wizards' chances of making the postseason.

2. At least Bradley Beal was good. The Wizards' lone All-Star came out of the break like he never went away.

He had 14 points in the first quarter and 20 by halftime. He finished with a season-high 46 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. He shot 64 percent on 25 attempts.

Beal also threw down what might have been the best dunk of his career. Not known as a high-flyer, Beal got way up there for this one:

If the Wizards' season continues on this losing trajectory, at least Beal gives D.C. fans a reason to tune in every night.

Beal, by the way, now has 10 career 40-point games. That is tied for fifth in Wizards/Bullets history with Earl Monroe. The only guys ahead of him are Gilbert Arenas (28), Walt Bellamy (23), Bernard King (13) and Elvin Hayes (11).

3. The first quarter was a dream. The second quarter was a nightmare.

After scoring 38 points in the first, the Wizards allowed the same amount to Charlotte in the second. They were outscored by 16 in the frame and never regained control. 

It was in the second that the Hornets' bench imposed their will. Tony Parker carved the Wizards up off the dribble and Jeremy Lamb both got hot from long range and caught the Wizards by surprise with a series of intercepted passes.

For the game, the Wizards' bench was outscored 38-21. They couldn't hold up their end of the bargain on a night the starters mostly played well.

4. Tomas Satoransky was back after missing two games due to the birth of his first child. He hadn't played in 13 days before he returned to the starting lineup on Friday.

Despite the time off, Satoransky showed no signs of rust. He had 15 points (6-9 FG) and four assists, though he did have three turnovers.

With John Wall out, Satoransky is legitimately one of the Wizards' most important players. That would have been surprising to hear before this season, but nothing about this year has been predictable for the Wizards. 

5. We got another glimpse at the combination of Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis on the floor together. It was just the second time in five games since Portis arrived in D.C. that has happened.

It will be interesting to watch how much they play together the rest of this season, considering they have some redundancy in their games.

Offensively, it might be able to work. They are both fast and can stretch the floor. But defensively, they are both limited in the amount of positions they can defend and neither protects the rim particularly well.

Because of that, there are varying opinions within the organization about whether they can form a consistent frontcourt combination. That uncertainty has been reflected so far in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation. It is also something to consider as we project their futures with both set to hit restricted free agency this summer.

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Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

WASHINGTON -- Spare your outrage upon hearing Bobby Portis’ take. 

The Wizards power forward believes his game, one honed in Chicago that includes a striking hook shot, is the NBA’s best. 

“I want to say I am. I’m pretty damn good. I’m not cocky at all about anything," Portis said, “but bowling is one thing I’m really confident with.”

Don’t split after that lede. At least wait until finding out more about an honor the Arkansas native received during the All-Star break that frames his high school career forever. There’s also the potential with the Wizards just two weeks after a trade X’d out the stretch-4’s time with the Bulls.

That deal also interrupted league play. 

Portis showed up every Wednesday to Diversey River Bowl in the Logan Square section of Chicago, at least when the Bulls’ schedule permitted.  At first, Portis just wanted to keep his skills sharp. You don’t roll a 285 by accident. 

“I’m a very active bowler. I loooove bowling,” Portis explained to NBC Sports Washington. “It’s something I do each and every day in the summer.”

The former University of Arkansas standout fell hard for the game back in his native Little Rock. He and a group of friends would battle with push-ups at stake.

He arrives at the alley with a 14-pound, bowling ball. The trusty multi-colored orb helps the NBA big man do damage in the lane.

“I throw the hook, man,” Portis proudly stated. “Bowling takes a lot of skill and exercise and a lot of relaxation. You can’t just go out there and throw it hard.”

Portis moved to Chicago after the Bulls selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After he settled into his new professional life, he went searching for a game.

The initial plan involved an incognito approach that was a real gutter ball.

“I tried to have my hood on the first time I went so nobody would notice me,” the 6-foot-11 NBA player admitted, “but after that, it was a wrap. Taking pictures all damn night.”

Portis got to know some of those picture takers. “Just random dudes,” he said. 

Soon Rajon Rondo and Lauri Markkanen weren’t his only teammates. 

“I would go just practice my game and found these dudes I was cool with,” Portis said. “I exchanged numbers with them. We starting hanging out a lot. Started bowling. Then they invited me to their little league. I was bowling in their league ever since.

His now famous “crazy eyes” bulged during the reminiscing.

“It’s a really cool league,” Portis said. “You see a lot of old people there. They’re really good. They bring their balls. I never really knew people loved bowling like that until I joined their league.”

The trade to Washington put the bowling league on hold. 

Portis did not quite know what to make of the deal initially. He entered his fourth season with a goal of being named Sixth Man of the Year. Suffering a right knee injury during Chicago’s fourth game derailed those hopes. Portis missed the next 23 games, returned for five and then sat out an extended stretch with an ankle issue.

The 2019 restricted free agent found his touch in January, averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The trade occurred three days after Portis scored 33 points on Feb. 3 and moments before Chicago hosted New Orleans.

 “It was a crazy experience,” Portis said. “Had my jersey on, was ready to play.”

With time for reflection, Portis now sees the positives with Washington.

“I get more time on the court, show what I can do,” Portis said. “I’m just happy to be a Wizard. …Trades happen. I’m over it now. Have a chance to fight for the playoffs.”

Portis made quite the impression on his new team after four games, averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.3 minutes off the bench while sinking a staggering 54.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

“He surprised me how good of a 3-point shooter he is for his size and his position,” Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky said. “I think it’s going to be fun also playing pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops with him.”

That fun could continue into next season if the Wizards retain Satoransky, another RFA, and Portis, who plays minutes at center with Washington.

“I can’t predict the future, whether I’ll be here or whether I’ll be somewhere else,” Portis said. “I know I can control the now. Now is me putting the work in each and every day.”

Back in the day Portis first gained notoriety playing for Little Rock’s Hall High School. He led the Warrior to four state championships. Those accomplishments plus his subsequent work in college and the NBA led to the school retiring Portis’ jersey during the All-Star break.

“When you’re a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, you’re just playing for the love of the game,” Portis said. “I never knew I would get my high school jersey retired. Man, it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”

Despite the honor, Portis is not the school’s most notable basketball alum.

“I think Sidney Moncrief is more famous than I am,” Portis said about the five-time NBA All-Star currently up for nomination to the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

More famous than Portis, sure. Better bowler, probably not. 

Among current NBA players, Portis only imagines another known bowling fanatic, Rockets guard Chris Paul, as competition. 

Perhaps someone should organize a game of one-on-one.

“Might have to,” Portis said, “especially since the All-Star game is in Chicago next year.” 

If that happens, expect a bunch of random dudes to spare some time for a former teammate back in town. 

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