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Wizards having major issues getting to free throw line so far this season

Wizards having major issues getting to free throw line so far this season

WASHINGTON -- On Friday night, in their loss to the Cavaliers, the Wizards as a team shot only six free throws compared to 29 for Cleveland. The difference in makes was 25 to three and the Wizards lost by 13. Naturally, Wizards players and head coach Scott Brooks pointed to that discrepancy as a reason they lost, albeit carefully as to avoid fines from the league.

Although that was an extreme example, getting to the line has been an issue for the Wizards so far this season. After eight games, the Wizards are 29th out of 30 teams in free throw attempts. That has conveyed to the fourth-fewest points from free throws.

There are a few reasons for why this could become a long-term trend. For one, the Wizards are shooting more threes as they pivot to a more analytics-based shot profile. They are attempting 2.6 more threes per game this season than they did last year.

They are 15th in the NBA in shots within five feet, 22nd in drives and 26th in post-ups. They are posting up just 4.4 times per game, less than a quarter of the league-leading Sixers who with Joel Embiid post up 18.2 times on average.

The Wizards are even taking long twos, despite their analytics push, with the fifth-most shots from within 15 to 19 feet of the rim. Add it all up and the Wizards, who ranked ninth in free throw attempts last season, are getting to the line far fewer times nowadays.

Head coach Scott Brooks has recognized the problem and is working on finding the exact solution.

"Nowadays, a lot of three-point shooters get fouled as well. We've just gotta keep working, keep doing it and believing in it and things will turn our way," he said.

Brooks pointed out how Bradley Beal, despite ranking 15th in the league in free throw attempts with 6.8 per game, should get even more. 

"That's the thing that's kind of a bit confusing to me. I'm trying to figure out ways to make it more clear and visible when he gets held," Brooks said.

What could also hurt the Wizards is the fact they have a lot of young and inexperienced players. Drawing fouls in the NBA is an art and so is defending without fouling.

Players generally learn over time the best ways to deal with NBA officiating. There are many tricks to the trade that guys like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan have mastered. They will dribble the ball through the lane and pull it in close right as they sense a defender's reach. They also, of course, know how to sell fouls to the refs.

That dynamic may hold the Wizards' younger players back until they get up to speed, even for a guy like Rui Hachimura whom Brooks sees great long-term potential in terms of getting free throws.

"Rui, to me he's going to be one of those guys who gets us six or seven or eight free throws a game eventually," Brooks said.

For now, it is a learning process, even for Brooks and Beal, a veteran coach and player.

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Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

Many Wizards players plan to wear social justice messages on back of jerseys

The NBA's initiative allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, instead of their last names, in Orlando is being fully embraced by members of the Washington Wizards.

Ian Mahinmi and Moe Wagner have said they will wear 'vote.' Troy Brown Jr. and Jerome Robinson will wear 'Black Lives Matter.' Shabazz Napier says he has chosen 'equality' as his message.

RELATED: WAGNER TO WEAR 'VOTE' ON JERSEY

Every Wizards player who has been asked during media availability from Disney World so far has committed to participating. Their reasons are specific to the person, but they are in unity when it comes to the overall message.

"I play 82 games with my name on the back of my jersey," Brown said. "To have an opportunity to put something that I truly believe in and that needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it."

"I think for me, I will put 'Black Lives Matter' on the back of my jersey just because that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now," Robinson said. "Through the whole quarantine, with the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all, or for terrible reasoning; I think it's the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms."

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In asking the players, it's clear they thought deeply about which message to choose. The NBA gave them options that also include 'justice' and 'I can't breathe.' 

For Napier, there were many layers to his decision to wear 'equality.'

"I think in this world, in this moment right now, we're fighting amongst each other, whether it's black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race and no matter the gender. That speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent," he said.

"I think that it's very important that as much as the [racial issues] we are dealing with at the moment, it's the same for gays and their equal rights. I think equality means a lot. I think if we get that down, sooner or later things will come to fruition and we will live in a positive world."

There has been some debate about whether the NBA returning will be a negative distraction to the social justice matters percolating around the country. But the Wizards plan to make the most of their platform in Orlando, hoping to raise more awareness for the causes they believe in.

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Kara Lawson announced as Duke's next women's basketball coach

Kara Lawson announced as Duke's next women's basketball coach

Boston Celtics assistant coach and former Wizards lead analyst, Kara Lawson, is announced as the next head women’s basketball coach at Duke.

The 39-year-old Springfield, Va. natives basketball resume is quite impressive. Lawson played college basketball at Tennessee under legendary coach Pat Summit and won a gold medal with Team USA during the 2008 Beijing Games. In the WNBA she played 13 seasons in the and helped guide Sacramento Monarchs to a WNBA championship in 2005.

Lawson was hired in 2017 by NBC Sports Washington to serve as the lead analyst for Wizards broadcasts. Last summer, the Boston Celtics hired Lawson as an assistant coach.

Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who also is a Duke Board of Trustees member, supports Lawson’s hiring at the school, sources told the Raleigh News & Observer.

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