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Troy Brown's day started with practicing with G-League squad. Then, he played 4 minutes for Wizards

Troy Brown's day started with practicing with G-League squad. Then, he played 4 minutes for Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The vibrating mobile phone interrupted Capital City coach Jarell Christian’s conversation with other Go-Go staff Tuesday afternoon. The incoming call started a process, one that defines why the G-League franchise exists and precisely at the Washington Wizards practice facility. 

Wizards’ senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, the type of person one pauses a conversation for, was on the other end of the line.  “It’s a phone call I’m going to answer every time,” a smiling Christian made clear. This conversation provided a heads up. Guard Troy Brown Jr., Washington’s 2018 first-round pick, and backup center Thomas Bryant needed additional work. They would join the Go-Go’s practice Wednesday.

This sounds like a demotion. It’s not even though technically both players were assigned to the G-League squad. If you blinked - or took a three-hour nap midday - then you missed the entire shuffle. Brown and Bryant were on the sideline for Washington’s 119-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night.

Players with three or fewer years of NBA experience are eligible for unlimited G-League assignments – and same day return. The Wizards and Go-Go inhabiting the Entertainment and Sports Arena put the latter point into play. 

Brown, 19, and Bryant were at Capital One Arena for Washington’s morning shootaround ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Wizards were not performing a covert operation, but Brown spilled the beans when explaining to reporters why he couldn’t stay for a chat shortly after 12 p.m. 

They soon drove city streets to I-295, hopped off the desired exit, and then jumped into a two-hour practice with their second team of the day. 

Brown and Bryant, who played for the Lakers’ G-League team last season, needed up-and-down court work. Neither is part of Washington’s rotation. 

Brown’s 30 minutes, including four Wednesday with the game out of reach, are the fewest of any player selected 1-22 in the 2018 NBA Draft. Bryant, a big man with energy, took the court less than Brown. 

Consistent in-season full-court practices are rare for NBA teams considering travel and a desire to keep key players fresh. Those factors mean finding work wherever and whenever.

“This is why the Go-Go are here,” Christian said to NBC Sports Washington. “This is why our staff is put in place for these guys to develop and get better.”

Following Go-Go practice Brown raced to his apartment and caught a needed shower. He then returned to the Wizards around the point when the NBA club recalled him from the Go-Go.

Brown took the situation in stride. 

“[The Wizards] know I work hard, but they just want to make sure I’m getting my proper reps,” Brown told NBC Sports Washington during Wednesday’s second stint at Capital One Arena. 

The up-and-down activity happened this week for a reason. Brooks gained insight into the G-League process during his time as the coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He wanted to keep Brown and Bryant with the NBA squad “the first three to four weeks" of the season before considering a reassignment. 

The possibility of a Go-Go stint longer than a standard movie could come later, Brooks said, including game action [Update: Brooks announced Thursday that Bryant would join the Go-Go for Friday's game at Wisconsin.]

Christian and his staff will be ready.

While his title is Capital City head coach, Christian's primary tasks go far beyond winning and losing games. He must implement the Wizards’ offensive and defensive schemes, so the players going from one team to the other experience a smooth transition. Then there is aiding with playing development. That’s important for any of the players, but specifically those on the Wizards roster like the team’s first No. 1 selection since 2015.

“Troy has never played a real NBA game. This is the next best thing for him,” Christian said. 

Brown didn’t discount the extra work despite not going against players with multi-million dollar contracts.

“He’s young. He’s so young. He’s talented,” Christian said. “The thing that impresses me most about him is how he goes in those workouts. …. He’s an intense workout guy. He’s got an ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays for himself. I can see him doing the same thing for us if we ever get him for a game.”

Capital City opened its inaugural season losing three of four games. Christian’s coaching thoughts naturally gravitated toward the next game. Then Christian received a call. 

“I’m a big ‘Be where your feet are’ guy,” Christian said, referencing a saying about mindfulness and remaining present. “Obviously, we have to prepare for Friday night’s game, but I want to make sure that we can be the best today in practice. Having two NBA players in your practice only enhances that practice. I embrace that. Them being here will only help our team.”

Brooks eventually played Brown and Brooks deep into the blowout win. They entered with four minutes left and made all three of their field goal attempts. 

“I’ve been enjoying the process. Just trying to get better every day,” Brown said. “Work hard; trying to do anything I can to help the team.”

In one day, he helped two. 

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For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

For now, Wizards anticipate leaning on Dwight Howard's experience more than his body

WASHINGTON -- Dwight Howard’s official return to the Wizards practice facility came with a new job description: Mentor.

“Since he can’t be on the practice court or the game floor, he’s going to have to share his wisdom,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 14-year veteran.

Howard stepped onto Washington’s practice court Thursday for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Nov. 30. The veteran center began his rehab work in his native Atlanta before rejoining the team.

“He feels great. Said he has no pain,” Brooks said of Howard. “That’s good. That’s part of the process.”

For now Howard remains limited to non-contact work and is perhaps weeks away from game action.

Brooks intends on putting him to work regardless by having Howard impart his NBA insight onto Washington’s young big men, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

“The guy has a lot of experience. A lot of years under his belt,” Brooks said of Howard, an eight-time All-Star. “Now he has the ability to be around our guys every day. [Bryant and Portis] have to be a sponge. They have to pick everything up.”

Bryant, 21, replaced the injured Howard as Washington’s starting center. The Wizards acquired Portis, 24, on Feb. 6 in a multi-player trade that sent Otto Porter to the Chicago Bulls. Bryant and Portis, both restricted free agents this summer, represent Washington’s best interior options now and perhaps key building blocks going forward.

“You get better in this league by being around good veteran players that want to share their knowledge,” Brooks said, “and Dwight is going to be a guy that’s going to be able to do that for the next how many weeks until he gets on the court.”

Basic movements – sitting, for example – were issues for Howard pre-surgery. Brooks said he was not sure how much running Howard would do this week. He will start on the court solo. Eventually, a coach or three will work with Howard for 5-on-0 drills. Full contact practice with teammates comes later.

Howard was seen shooting free throws after practice concluded. Injured players are not required to speak with the media until participating during an official practice.

For now, the coach took pleasure in welcoming the projected opening game starter back to town.

“It was good to see him, good to have him back,” Brooks said. “He did some treatments and then did some work on the court, light shooting. That’s about it. It’s good to have him back. He has a good way about him. He’s always positive, always has a good spirit about him.”

Integrating the low-post presence into the small-ball approach Brooks leaned with Howard sidelined becomes a curious topic. That’s for later, perhaps weeks away, as the coach suggested. The playoff-pushing Wizards must forge on without Howard, who has played in only nine games this season.

Washington (24-34), 11th in the Eastern Conference and three games back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot, has 24 games remaining in the regular season.

Howard will stay behind when the team opens the post-All-Star-break phase Friday at Charlotte, but likely travels with the team going forward, Brooks said.

“He’s happy to be back,” Brooks said of Howard. “Now it’s just a phase of getting him on the court. I don’t know how long that’s going to be.”

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Scott Brooks on Zion's shoe explosion: 'I've seen it many times'

Scott Brooks on Zion's shoe explosion: 'I've seen it many times'

When Zion Williamson's shoe exploded in the Duke-North Carolina game on Wednesday night, the video quickly caught fire on Twitter, spreading far and wide as fans all over reacted to something most had never seen before. Shoe technology has reached a point where someone basically running through their seams is almost unheard of.

That is, unless you are a professional athlete or around them all the time. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and forward Jabari Parker each said it's not as uncommon as those reacting on social media may have believed.

"There's a lot of powerful athletes and I've seen it many times throughout my career," said Brooks, who was a 10-year NBA veteran player before joining the coaching ranks.

Parker, 23 and in his fourth NBA season, has both seen it and experienced it.

"It happened to me in practice, but the shoes that I had were much older," Parker said. "It's usually like older shoes. But yeah, that's a first for a new shoe."

Williamson is a star freshman at Duke, not unlike Parker once was. He went second overall in the 2014 NBA Draft after one year with the Blue Devils. Parker was in a similar position, playing out one season in the college ranks before jumping to the pros, as most expect Williamson to do.

That one year in college can carry some risk. Fortunately, Williamson appears to have avoided serious injury. But the now-infamous play certainly reminded everyone that one split-second can change everything, especially for an athlete with millions of dollars and what his hopefully a long NBA career in his future.

Parker has twice torn his ACL, so he is no stranger to serious knee injuries. He could tell right away that Williamson wasn't seriously hurt.

"Just looking at it, I didn't think it was that bad. His body really stayed in line, he didn't really go outside of himself. He just slipped," Parker said.

And after processing it all, Parker wasn't all that surprised Williamson would break through a shoe. Parker has done it and so have others he has played with. And though he's around explosive athletes all the time, Williamson is on a different level.

"He's like a Bo Jackson-like athlete. He'll break through his gear, that's how powerful he is," Parker said. "You've gotta remember that. It's not a matter of his body being weak in spots, it's about the product that he's using around him."
 

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