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Wizards fall to Nets in Summer League, as Moe Wagner makes debut

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Wizards fall to Nets in Summer League, as Moe Wagner makes debut

LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday in the Las Vegas Summer League. Here are five observations from the game...

1. With the Anthony Davis trade now official, Monday's game gave us our first look at Moe Wagner in a Wizards uniform.

He didn't start, but logged 16 minutes and managed eight points. He didn't grab any rebounds.

All in all, it was a mixed bag for Wagner. He ran the floor well and was active on both ends. But he had some issues on defense. On several occasions, Wagner gave up buckets in the post or on plays where his man got past him. One play, Nicolas Claxton just bullied him to the rim for a lay-up.

It wasn't because of a lack of effort. Wagner clearly tries on defense, but guys like Rodion Kurucs, Claxton and Amida Brimah were giving him fits.

2. It was another slow start offensively for Rui Hachiura, the Wizards' 2019 first round pick.

He missed his first three shots and went scoreless in the first quarter.

Hachimura, though, settled in and dropped 11 points in the second quarter alone. He got going with a series of buckets around the rim, including one where he made a nice backdoor cut. He also hit a shot from about 15 feet out on a pull-up jumper.

Hachimura doesn't seem to be looking for his three-point shot at this point. It seems wise to let him fire away from outside in the Summer League, but he has stayed in the mid-range and around the rim.

Hachimura ended up with 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting with seven rebounds, a steal and a block. He went 7-for-8 from the free throw line. That was a nice improvement from his debut on Saturday.

3. Hachimura's defense showed some room for growth.

He had some trouble against the Nets' bigs, particularly Brimah who is taller and can jump. 

Brimah caught Hachimura sleeping on a backdoor cut for an easy baseline dunk. It was a play where Hachimura was left in no man's land playing team defense. He took his eyes off Brimah for just a moment and paid for it.

Those are the types of plays the Wizards hope Hachimura can pick up on. If he can develop some defensive awareness, there is real potential for him on that end of the floor because of his length. 

4. Issuf Sanon has some physical gifts that make his potential on the defensive end intriguing.

He is about 6-foot-4 and strong. Most 19-year-olds haven't filled out like he has.

Sanon is also quick. He does a nice job staying in front of point guards, one of the most difficult tasks in today's NBA. Sanon still appears to be a long way away from being NBA-ready on the offensive end, but defensively he is showing some real progress.

Justin Robinson and Corey Davis are also showing promise defending the perimeter. The Wizards' Summer League team has a tough defensive front, they just can't protect the rim very well.

5. The Wizards had a larger contingent representing them on Monday than they did for their first game.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Scott Brooks, Jordan McRae and Thomas Bryant were back, and joining them were Ted Leonsis and Raul Fernandez of the Wizards' group of managing partners. 

Leonsis said he was impressed with Hachimura's debut. He is in town to watch the team, but also to attend the league's governors meetings this week.

The Wizards, by the way, are currently interviewing candidates to add a new assistant coach to their staff, NBC Sports Washington has learned. They would like someone with a strong track record with defense.


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5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

5 things we've learned about the Wizards around the quarter-mark of the season

In an 82-game NBA season, there is no natural quarter-mark. Technically, that would be at halftime of a team's 21st game.

But now that the Wizards have played 23 games this season, they have a nice three-day break, which provides an opportunity to step back and take stock of what we've seen so far. And for these Wizards, that evaluation process is extra interesting because they had so much roster turnover in the offseason.

Really, these past two months have been an introductory period where we got our first glimpse at a team almost entirely comprised of new players. According to Basketball Reference's continuity table, only the Warriors have seen fewer minutes played this season by players who were on their team last year.

With all that in mind, here are five things we have learned about the 2019-20 Wizards after basically a quarter of the season has passed...

Bertans was a steal

The highlight of the Wizards' season so far is definitely the emergence of Davis Bertans, whom the Wizards acquired over the summer in the NBA trade equivalent of a casino heist. Somehow, after only giving up the Euro-stashed Aaron White, they brought in what has so far been the best three-point shooter in the league this season. General manager Tommy Sheppard hadn't even had the interim tag taken away when he made the move in July, which should be a very good sign of things to come.

Bertans is their second-leading scorer with 15.7 points per game and is shooting an absurd 46.5 percent from three. He has doubled his attempts from last season with the Spurs, from 4.4 to 8.6 per game, and somehow his percentage has gone up. That's unheard of.

Bertans has been so good that it is inevitable the Wizards will field calls leading up to the Feb. trade deadline from contenders looking to add a shooter. But should they part ways with a guy who can shoot this well at 6-foot-10? Maybe if they were undergoing a long-term rebuild it would make sense, but team chairman Ted Leonsis doesn't want it to take long and neither does Bradley Beal. Bertans is the type of guy you keep if you plan to compete for the playoffs sooner than later.

Beal may have a shot at All-NBA

Though his shooting percentages have suffered from a recent slump, Beal is putting up monster numbers now in his first season as the face of the Wizards' franchise. He's averaging career-highs in points (27.4/g) and assists (7.0) while also adding 4.5 rebounds per game.

You know what those look like? All-NBA numbers. Consider the fact only three players in the last decade have averaged at least 27 and seven in a full season: James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. All three guys did it multiple times during that span and only one of their seasons, 2015-16 for Harden, didn't end with an All-NBA nod. Somehow Harden was snubbed despite averaging 29 points and 7.5 assists that year.

So, it could happen where Beal keeps this up and still falls short. But helping his cause are injuries at the guard position with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each out long-term.

It's really hard to make All-NBA on a team that wins fewer than 30 games, but it has happened before and Beal might be the next to do it. If he does, the Wizards signing him to a contract extension before the season will look even smarter because if he hadn't signed that deal, All-NBA would qualify him for a supermax.

Rui is already good, could be very good

It didn't take long for rookie Rui Hachimura to show he belongs at the NBA level. Most rookies take years before they can impact games the way he has, with averages of 14.4 points and six rebounds per game. That is especially impressive for a guy who was taken ninth overall.

We still don't have a great read on what Hachimura's ceiling is, whether he will ever develop into an All-Star. But he's already shown enough to say he will be a productive NBA player for many years to come. The Wizards have found another franchise building block.

They may have another one in Moe Wagner. He came over as a Lakers castoff in the summer and has done nothing but exceed expectations. He's averaging a solid line of 11.6 points and six rebounds per game while ranking seventh in the league in true shooting percentage (68.2).

Thomas is back, at least partly

Isaiah Thomas is currently sidelined with a left calf injury and there is an argument their best point guard is Ish Smith, but Thomas has already proven plenty of people wrong with the way he has played this season. There was so much mystery surrounding him entering the year because he only played 12 games for the Nuggets last year and hadn't shown he could be healthy in the past two seasons.

So far this year, though, he has been a solid offensive player with averages of 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three. He may never be the All-NBA player he once was, but Thomas clearly still has plenty of days left in his career.

They're probably going to get a high draft pick

Sure, most of us didn't think the Wizards would be very good this year. But given they have so many new players, they deserved some time to show us what they could do before we drew conclusions about their likely fate this season.

So far, they have actually been surprisingly good on offense. They are currently fourth in both points per game and offensive rating. Few would have predicted that coming in.

But their defense may be even worse than we thought. They are dead-last in points allowed and in defensive rating. And, because of that, they appear safely headed towards the draft lottery in the offseason.

Maybe they can turn things around and fight for a playoff spot, but at 7-16 on the year it looks like the Wizards will be picking high in the June 2020 draft. Though it would have been fun if they were a surprise team this year, that is probably for the best in the big picture. 

They can get another blue chip prospect and add him to a core that includes Beal, John Wall, Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and maybe Bertans, if they can find a way to keep him. Add someone like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards to that mix and the 2020-21 Wizards could make some noise. For now, there are going to be a lot of high-scoring games with the Wizards coming out on the wrong end of them more often than not.


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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

The NBA says former Commissioner David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage Thursday and had emergency surgery.

The league says in a statement its thoughts and prayers are with the 77-year-old Stern's family.

Stern served exactly 30 years as the NBA's longest-tenured commissioner before Adam Silver replaced him on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern has remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.

Zach Brook contributed to this report.