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Wizards and Lakers can relate in disappointment

Wizards and Lakers can relate in disappointment

With a loss on Tuesday night and a win for the Miami Heat over the Orlando Magic, the Washington Wizards would be eliminated from the playoffs. If it doesn't happen then, it will likely happen soon, sometime this week for sure.

That will put a proverbial fork in their season, one that has taken all sorts of disappointing and unexpected turns along the way. Their opponent on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers, are one of the few teams this season that can truly relate.

The Lakers have already been eliminated from playoff contention despite having a slightly better record (32-41) than Washington (30-44). That is due to them being in the Western Conference, which was a lot less forgiving than the East.

Perhaps no team had a better summer last offseason than L.A. as they signed LeBron James in free agency, a franchise-altering move that was supposed to pay immediate dividends. But due to a poorly constructed roster around him and various injuries, they fell way short of expectations. 

While the Wizards have been disappointing this season, the Lakers have underwhelmed while dealing with more attention and pressure. This is the first time in James' career he has missed the playoffs and his arrival was supposed to start the rebirth of one of the most successful franchises in sports.

The Wizards and Lakers now meet with only two weeks remaining in the regular season as shells of their original, preseason forms. Washington is without John Wall and Dwight Howard due to injury. They now hand heavy minutes to guys who weren't in their initial plans like Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker.

The Lakers still have James in the lineup as he plays out the final stretch of the season, but they lost Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball due to injuries. They rely heavily on Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, a group that makes no more sense now than it did when they put it together.

The Wizards and Lakers will likely be in a similar range when it comes to draft lottery odds. The Wizards are currently seventh from the bottom of the league, while the Lakers are 10th.

And in a few short months when free agency and trades are made, both teams will likely undergo roster overhauls that are rivaled by few. James desperately needs help from other stars while the Wizards will aim to step forward despite dealing with the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract.

Neither team envisioned they would be here at this point. Now, they meet for the final time this season in Los Angeles, having taken in some ways a parallel path to get here.


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Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Five weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas returned to practice Sunday and was a full participant.

Originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks in recovery, Thomas is on track to play much sooner than anticipated. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks wouldn’t go as far to say Thomas would be ready for Washington’s season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, but he did seem optimistic that he’d be playing in the near future.

Thomas signed a one-year minimum deal with the Wizards in July. Once healthy, he’s expected to be the team’s starting point guard with Ish Smith and Justin Robinson coming off the bench.


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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.