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Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

Wizards fall flat in battle with young Grizzlies

The Washington Wizards lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 128-111 on Saturday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. It was just over a week ago the Wizards had their best win of the season against the Sixers. Saturday night was one of their worst.

They went into Memphis to play an emerging, but struggling team and got their you-know-whats handed to them. The Wizards jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first, then lost the momentum and never got it back.

By halftime the Wizards were down 15. That deficit grew to 24 in the second half.

The Wizards ended up losing by 17, but it wasn't as close as the score would suggest. It was Washington's seventh loss in eight games.

Maybe it was the three-day layoff. Perhaps they weren't sharp. Whatever the reason, that was a bad one.

2. As this game went on, it became very obvious that Memphis' gameplan was to make sure Davis Bertans didn't beat them. They swarmed the Latvian Laser on the perimeter and guarded him well beyond the three-point line.

Bertans was held to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting and 1-for-6 from three. His one three was a quick release shot from about 27 feet out. Soon after that, the defense was picking him up at halfcourt.

 

This type of treatment was inevitable for Bertans, who has been the biggest surprise of the Wizards' season so far. He has turned into one of the league's best three-point shooters and the second-best scorer on the team. Teams now know it.

3. Rui Hachimura's college teammate stole the show in this one. Brandon Clarke, who played last year with Hachimura at Gonzaga, put on an impressive scoring display highlighted by a series of vicious dunks. He measured a max vertical of 40 1/2 inches and used every inch of it to dunk all over the Wizards.

He had 19 points in the first half, including an alley-oop where his head was level with the rim and a poster dunk on the fastbreak that nearly ended Ian Mahinmi's career.

 

Clarke had 25 points on 11-for-14 shooting with four rebounds. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a good defensive player but too old (he's 23) and too raw offensively without a three-point shot.

So far, he's looking like a major steal at the 21st overall pick. 

4. The Grizzlies might not be good, but they are fun to watch and have a nice young core with Clarke alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Morant. Jackson is a unicorn at 6-foot-11 with the ability to drive coast-to-coast and hit threes. Morant is a force of nature, able to play well above the rim despite being 6-foot-3.

Morant nearly pulled off one of the most disrespectful plays in basketball on Bradley Beal. He tried to pull a "Michael Jordan on Ron Mercer" by snatching the ball off the glass with two hands. But he clipped the rim and was called for goaltending. Still, it was impressive because of how high he got in the air.

Memphis has an exciting young team. They might contend for a playoff spot next year with a good offseason. If they were in the East, they could really make some noise.

5. The Wizards were without several key regulars once again. Isaiah Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a left calf strain and Moe Wagner was out with his left ankle sprain after playing in the past four games.

They did get back Garrison Mathews, though. The two-way guard played in his first game since Oct. 25 after sitting out due to a stress reaction in his right leg. It was Mathews' third professional game, but he made his first shot - a corner three. It happened to come in his home state of Tennessee. 

Mathews might actually get some minutes in the next few weeks because he is the second-best shooting guard on the roster with Jordan McRae out due to a finger injury.

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Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

WASHINGTON -- When identifying leaders from an outside perspective, it is only natural to look at the Washington Wizards and see Bradley Beal and John Wall, their two All-Star guards. Logic would suggest they set the tone for younger, less experienced players, that they are the ones the rookies should look up to.

But Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sees similar value in less-heralded members of his team, the journeyman veterans to whom nothing has been given. Guys like Ish Smith and Gary Payton II have bounced around the league to varying degrees. In Payton's case, that has included extended time in the G-League.

Brooks has been tasked with creating an environment for the Wizards that is conducive to the development of young players and he believes those types of veterans set an important example.

"If you're really good, you have two or three All-Stars on your team," Brooks said. "But the league is made up of guys like Ish. His story can help the younger guys make it and stay in the league. It's what the league is about. He has the grit, the fiber, the substance and the experience to share with all the players who are trying to make it."

Brooks has used similar language to describe Payton II, who was first signed by the team to a 10-day contract last season. He was let go, then returned this past December and then had his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season earlier this month.

"He's fought and he's been cut many times and sometimes those are the guys you want in your program because they have that fiber, that toughness and that anger because they know that it can go away," Brooks said.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard has said on several occasions they want Brooks to install a culture and mindset with their young roster similar to the one he helped build in Oklahoma City. Smith happens to remind Brooks of one of his former players with the Thunder.

"I love guys on a team like Ish. We kind of had that guy with Nick Collison [in OKC], just a winning player on and off the court. Ish is the same way. I look at Ish the same exact way," Brooks said.

Collison averaged a modest 5.9 points in 14 NBA seasons, but was so respected for his leadership role that his jersey number was retired by the Thunder last year. 

There is another person guys like Smith and Payton II remind Brooks of and that is himself. Before he became a coach, he was a 10-year NBA player. And he carved out that career as an undrafted, undersized point guard.

He was constantly fighting for his NBA future on the fringe of rosters and was able to stick around only because of his hard work and toughness.

Though he played with some great teammates like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, Brooks likes to think he left his own mark.

"I always took pride in having a relationship with the best player to the, well, myself; the worst player," he said.

"This game, it's a family and it's fun and it's about relationships; empowering and inspiring one another. You don't have to be a star player to do that. I've had great conversations with Olajuwon. I've had great conversations with players that only play on a 10-day or a year in the league. I took pride in it and I think Ish does the same thing. I think it's pretty important that we all are blessed and honored to be in the league, that now it's your job to leave your situation better than when you started it. We have a couple of guys on our team that can really carry on what we want our team to be about."

Ultimately, though, the Wizards' young players have to put in the necessary work to reach their potential. Brooks can teach them lessons directly and guys like Smith can do so indirectly.

But the players themselves have to understand the message.

"Now it's up to the younger players to listen to it. It's one thing to listen to John and Brad, but there's a great chance you're not going to be as good as John or Brad. There's a chance you're going to be a player like Ish," Brooks said.

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Mystics unveil 2020 schedule, featuring the first-ever Commissioner's Cup

Mystics unveil 2020 schedule, featuring the first-ever Commissioner's Cup

The Washington Mystics and the WNBA have announced their schedules for the 2020 season.

Expanded to 36 games for the first time in the league's history, each team will have an additional home and away contest on the year. As defending WNBA Champions, the Mystics will play the WNBA's first nationally televised game of the season at home on May 16 against the Los Angeles Sparks on ESPN. Other teams will open their season on May. 15 and May 17. 

It will be the first of four Mystics games that will be broadcast across the country. They also host the Storm on June 2 (ESPN2), the Sun on June 28 (ESPN2) and Sept. 20 (ABC) - all of which are at home. 

The schedule also includes a full month off for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics from July 13 - Aug. 13. After the athletes return stateside, the WNBA will host the inaugural Commissioner's Cup which will feature the top two teams from each conference based on conference record. The Commissioner's Cup is a new addition to the league in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. 

WASHINGTON MYSTICS 2020 SCHEDULE

May 16: Los Angeles Sparks at Mystics - 4:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
May 20: Mystics at Indiana Fever - 7:00 p.m. ET
May 22: Mystics at Atlanta Dream - 7:00 p.m. ET
May 29: Mystics at Seattle Storm - 10:00 p.m. ET
May 31: Mystics at Phoenix Mercury - 6:00 p.m. ET

June 2: Seattle Storm at Mystics - 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
June 5: Indiana Fever at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

June 7: Mystics at Chicago Sky - 6:00 p.m. ET
June 9: New York Liberty at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 11: Atlanta Dream at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 14: Chicago Sky at Mystics - 3:00 p.m ET

June 17: Mystics at Chicago Sky - 8:00 p.m. ET
June 23: Mystics at Minnesota Lynx - 8:00 p.m ET
June 25: Mystics at Indiana Fever - 7:00 p.m. ET
June 28: Connecticut Sun at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

July 3: Mystics at Atlanta Dream - 7:00 p.m. ET
July 5: Mystics at Connecticut Sun - 3:00 p.m. ET
July 6: Mystics at New York Liberty - 7:00 p.m. ET
July 8: New York Liberty at Mystics - 11:30 a.m. ET (Capital One Arena)
July 10: Minnesota Lynx at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

July 13 - Aug. 13: Olympic Break

Aug. 14: Commissioner's Cup

Aug. 16: Atlanta Dream at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 18: Mystics at Dallas Wings - 8:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 21: Las Vegas Aces at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 23: Los Angeles Sparks at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 25: Phoenix Mercury at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Aug. 28: Dallas Wings at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET

Aug. 30: Mystics at Dallas Wings - 4:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 1: Mystics at Las Vegas Aces - 10:00 p.m ET
Sept. 3: Mystics at Los Angeles Sparks - 10:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 6: Mystics at Phoenix Mercury - 3:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 8: Mystics at Seattle Storm - 10:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 11: Minnesota Lynx at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 13: Indiana Fever at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET

Sept. 16: Mystics at New York Liberty - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 18: Los Vegas Aces at Mystics - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sept. 20: Connecticut Sun at Mystics - 3:00 p.m. ET (ABC)

In addition to the rematch of the 2019 WNBA Finals on June 28 and Sept. 20, the Sun and the Mystics will square off in Connecticut on July 5.

After a contentious WNBA Semifinals matchup with the Las Vegas Aces, the two will play on Aug. 21, Sept. 1 and 18. Liz Cambage's "get in the weight room" comment electrified an already competitive series and became a memorable one on and off the court. 

There is one back-to-back on the docket on July 5 and 6. It will also be a part of three road games in four days at the beginning of July. 

All home games will be at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C. except for July 8's game against the New York Liberty. That contest will be in their old home confines of Capital One Arena.

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