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Wizards are figuring out who they can rely on late alongside Bradley Beal

Wizards are figuring out who they can rely on late alongside Bradley Beal

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards have one player who is guaranteed playing time in the fourth quarter: Bradley Beal.

What may seem like an annoyingly obvious statement at first glance could actually be a solid point on the team's late-game rotation. Nobody else is guaranteed minutes down the stretch.

Head coach Scott Brooks really only has Beal locked into a guaranteed spot on the team's closing five. Beyond that, each player must be playing well in the first three quarters to be afforded minutes with the game on the line. 

"It was tempting [to put the starters back in], but [the bench] got the spark," Brooks said. "That team just kept on getting stops, getting stops, fighting through."

It was second-unit players like Ish Smith, Jordan McRae and Davis Bertans who ignited the comeback 125-118 win against the Charlotte Hornets, the Wizards two-game winning streak of the season.

For a team that gave up a shade under 70 points before halftime, holding the Hornets offense to 22 fourth-quarter points was a result of the bench's added tenacity on that side of the court.

Smith had a couple clutch late steals that sparked easy transition offense, McRae had no mercy on his ailing finger and played solid defense late, and Bertans' first-half scoring spree showed Brooks why he can ride the hot hands. 

"Our team is deep," McRae said. "At times, Coach [Brooks] can go with anybody, and that's just a testament to the guys being ready at all times."

The Wizards' roster isn't necessarily deep as it is reliant on players who can win their matchup that night. 

"Really, it all depends on the matchup," Bryant said. "If [Brooks] sees if we can take advantage of a matchup out there, he's going to use the key players he feels can get that matchup and help us win the game."

Players like standout rookie Rui Hachimura, Isaiah Thomas and Troy Brown Jr. sat during the closing stretch. 

Still, the share-friendly, pass-often offense produces an environment with few egos, allowing the team to focus on winning.

"I think we're a team that doesn't worry about rotations," Bertans said. "Whoever has their game going, those guys are going to be in the game and...that's beneficial for the team and I think that's everyone agrees with that."

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Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura falls to Devin Booker in NBA 2K Players Tournament

Coming off a nail-biting win over Donovan Mitchell in the first round, Rui Hachimura lost to Suns star Devin Booker in the quarterfinals of the NBA 2K Players Tournament Thursday night. 

The Wizards' rookie forward played with the Clippers, while Booker went with the Mavericks. Not only did Hachimura have the more talented team in this matchup, but it looked like he had a coach sitting near him the whole time too. 

Hachimura's biggest challenge in this one was finding easy points against Booker's defense. Booker did a good job using his center to close down driving lanes while leaving Hachimura's big men wide open in the corner.

The Clippers bigs aren't great outside shooters, so outside of a few surprising makes from Montrezl Harrell, it was a rough night offensively. Hachimura tried to go with a small-ball lineup with Marcus Morris at the center spot, but then he started giving up way too many offensive rebounds. 

On the flip side when Hachimura tried to do the same thing to Booker, Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber were able to knock those shots down. That left the door open for Luka Doncic to get open looks and that's how Booker eventually pulled away in the second half. 

It was a good run for Hachimura in the tournament. He knocked off the four-seed in Mitchell and delivered one of the more memorable moments of the first round. He just ran into a buzzsaw in Booker, who may have a decent chance to win the whole thing. 

The semifinals and finals of the 2K Players Tournament will begin on Saturday. 

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GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

GM Tommy Sheppard says Wizards plan to retain Shabazz Napier in free agency

With the NBA season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the extra free time has given teams an opportunity to reflect on the first 64 games of the 2019-20 campaign. 

Whichever direction the league decides to go with returning to play, the 2020 NBA draft and free agency period loom large once the season is over. For the Wizards, they have a pair of key players set to hit the open market: Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier. 

John Wall's return significantly elevates expectations surrounding the Wizards next season and will make the team's offseason decision-making process that much more important. In the case of Napier and Bertans, Washington's general manager Tommy Sheppard talked highly of both in a Q&A with Dave Johnson Thursday

"I think with [Napier and Bertans], when we acquired them not as rentals we acquired them to stay here," Sheppard said. "I think the players that we acquired, they're here to show that they can be here for the future. With Davis and Shabazz, they showed enough to us that certainly we would love to retain them. We plan to."

What Sheppard had to say about Bertans isn't necessarily new. He maintained the stance all year that the Wizards intended to keep Bertans this summer and held true to it when Washington reportedly turned down offers including first-round picks at the trade deadline. 

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Napier's future with the team, on the other hand, has not been talked about publicly by someone like Sheppard. The Wizards acquired him from the Nuggets in exchange for Jordan McRae at the trade deadline and the six-year veteran appeared in 15 games for Washington before the season was suspended. 

Napier started eight games and averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.1% from the field and 38.1% from three. Based on production alone, it's not that surprising Sheppard wants to bring the former UConn star back. 

However, if the Wizards can re-sign Napier this summer, they'd have quite a lot of viable point guards on their roster going into next season. Wall will be back and Ish Smith will be in the final year of his two-year contract.

Napier would figure to be either the third point guard or Washington's backup shooting guard depending on how you look at things. Then you have to ask how comfortable you are with Napier potentially taking minutes away from Jerome Robinson and ball-handling opportunities from Troy Brown Jr., both young wings the Wizards need to take a step forward next year. 

But shooting and playmaking are at a premium in the NBA today, and as defensively challenged as an Ish Smith-Shabazz Napier backcourt would be off the bench, there's no doubt Washington's second unit would be able to put up a ton of points. 

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