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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Knicks, Dwight Howard's second game of the season

Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Knicks, Dwight Howard's second game of the season

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards take on Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Mitchell Robinson and the New York Knicks. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Opportunity to bounce back

The Wizards are reeling right now. They have lost five straight games and their defense has so far been historically inept. Their last three losses have been by double-digits, including on Friday when they were obliterated by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Wizards need to turn things around and on Sunday they will get a decent chance to do so. They are playing at home against the Knicks, who at 3-6 are one of the worst teams in the NBA. Their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, is hurt, which has left them average at best on both ends of the floor. 

The Wizards are clearly the more talented team on-paper, though that has not translated into wins for Washington as often as it should over the past two seasons. They should win this game and handily, but of course they will probably make it much more interesting than that.

In the Wizards' defense, they did take two of three against the Knicks last season, despite having major trouble against sub-.500 teams. And their only loss was when John Wall was hurt.

Game 2 for Howard

The Wizards were blown out by the Thunder on Friday despite the fact they were healthy for the first time all season. Starting center Dwight Howard returned from his piriformis muscle strain and played quite well, at least on the offensive end. He had 20 points in 23 minutes and shot 7-for-8 from the field.

Howard did all of that against Steven Adams, an above-average center. Against the Knicks, he will go up against Enes Kanter. Though not as good as Adams, Kanter is a talented player who is particularly good on the boards. That's an area Howard could improve upon from his debut when he only grabbed three rebounds.

In transition

Here is a stat to keep in mind for Sunday night's game. The Knicks are No. 1 in the NBA in fastbreak defense so far, allowing only 9.6 transition points per game. They have also scored the third-fewest fastbreak points themselves, just 8.9 per game.

The Wizards, on the other hand, are fifth in fastbreak points, despite Wall's early season struggles and their inability to finish defensive stops with rebounds. And, they are giving up the third-most fastbreak points of any team at 18.8 per contest.

The Knicks have been playing slow, while the Wizards have been playing fast. That holds true as measured by pace factor as well. The Wizards are eighth in the NBA at 104 possessions per 48 minutes, while the Knicks are 24th at 98.7. Who will budge?

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Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

The NBA's initiative allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, instead of their last names, in Orlando is being fully embraced by members of the Washington Wizards.

Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner have said they will wear 'vote.' Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson will wear 'Black Lives Matter.' Shabazz Napier says he has chosen 'equality' as his message.

RELATED: WAGNER TO WEAR 'VOTE' ON JERSEY

Every Wizards player who has been asked during media availability from Disney World so far has committed to participating. Their reasons are specific to the person, but they are in unity when it comes to the overall message.

"I play 82 games with my name on the back of my jersey," Brown said. "To have an opportunity to put something that I truly believe in and that needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it."

"I think for me, I will put 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of my jersey just because that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now," Robinson said. "Through the whole quarantine, with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all, or for terrible reasoning; I think it's the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms."

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In asking the players, it's clear they thought deeply about which message to choose. The NBA gave them options that also include 'justice' and 'I can't breathe.' 

For Napier, there were many layers to his decision to wear 'equality.'

"I think in this world, in this moment right now, we're fighting amongst each other, whether it's black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race and no matter the gender. That speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent," he said.

"I think that it's very important that as much as the [racial issues] we are dealing with at the moment, it's the same for gays and their equal rights. I think equality means a lot. I think if we get that down, sooner or later things will come to fruition and we will live in a positive world."

There has been some debate about whether the NBA returning will be a negative distraction to the social justice matters percolating around the country. But the Wizards plan to make the most of their platform in Orlando, hoping to raise more awareness for the causes they believe in.

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Report: Kara Lawson expected to be Duke's next women's basketball coach

Report: Kara Lawson expected to be Duke's next women's basketball coach

Boston Celtics assistant coach and former Wizards lead analyst, Kara Lawson, is announced as the next head women’s basketball coach at Duke.

The 39-year-old Springfield, Va. natives basketball resume is quite impressive. Lawson played college basketball at Tennessee under legendary coach Pat Summit and won a gold medal with Team USA during the 2008 Beijing Games. In the WNBA she played 13 seasons in the and helped guide Sacramento Monarchs to a WNBA championship in 2005.

Lawson was hired in 2017 by NBC Sports Washington to serve as the lead analyst for Wizards broadcasts. Last summer, the Boston Celtics hired Lawson as an assistant coach.

Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who also is a Duke Board of Trustees member, supports Lawson’s hiring at the school, sources told the Raleigh News & Observer.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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