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Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official after weeks-long wait

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official after weeks-long wait

The Wizards' free agent deal with Dwight Howard had been agreed upon for over a week, but it was not made official until Thursday afternoon when the team made the announcement following the long process of first completing a trade and a buyout from the Hornets and the Nets.

Though it took some time to get things in order, Howard is now a member of the Wizards. Team president Ernie Grunfeld explained what Howard will bring to the team in a statement.

“Dwight has been known throughout his career as one of the league’s best defenders, rebounders and finishers around the rim, all areas that we needed to improve heading into next season,” Grunfeld said. “His inside presence and athleticism will give us a much different look and will open up opportunities for us on both ends of the floor.”

Howard, 32, joins the his seventh NBA team and his fifth in the last four years. He has become an NBA journeyman, but brings with him an impressive résumé.

Howard is an eight-time All-Star and three-time defensive player of the year award winner. Last season with Charlotte he averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Adding Howard through free agency has highlighted a busy offseason for the Wizards. They also signed Jeff Green, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. with the 15th overall pick.

Howard was signed to a two-year deal worth $11 million with the second year a player option.

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How to watch Wizards vs. Bucks

How to watch Wizards vs. Bucks

After suffering their worst loss since entering the bubble on Sunday, the Wizards have two final opportunities to come out of Orlando with a win. 

In their toughest matchup thus far, Washington will square off with the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 seed in the East and a favorite to win the championship this year.

The Wizards’ young squad has faced some of the league’s best talent in its six games in the bubble, but they will now have to take down reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez to earn their first win since the restart.

While Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., Jerome Robinson and others have all stepped up in the absence of Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and John Wall, will their combined effort be enough to take down one of the best rosters in the NBA? 

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS HOW TO WATCH 

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks 
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Fla.  
When: Tuesday, Aug. 11, 9:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Wizards vs. Bucks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)
Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS TV SCHEDULE

8:00 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE) 

9:00 PM: NBA Milwaukee Bucks @ Wizards (LIVE)

11:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS WHAT TO WATCH 

Now that the Wizards have officially been eliminated from the playoff race, their remaining goal in Orlando is to come away with a win or two. If they can’t make the playoffs, taking down the No. 1 seed is the next best feat, and Washington will have the opportunity to do so on Tuesday. 

While the Wizards haven’t found their first win yet, they have shown promise in their first six games and hung tight with teams nobody expected they would like the Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans. 

Now that the Bucks have clinched the top seed in the east, the Wizards can hope to catch them on their heels. While Milwaukee took care of business and clinched its desired spot on the playoffs, its return in Orlando has been rustier than expected as well with a 2-3 overall record since entering the bubble. 

If the Wizards can steal a win on their way out of Orlando against the top team in the East, it will go a long way in their young roster developing confidence as they look to the future.

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WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Jerome Robinson (4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 apg): Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for the Wizards since entering the bubble and has stepped into a huge role coming off the bench. Despite averaging under five points per game during the regular season, Robinson has put up double-digit performances in five of the six games in the bubble, including a 20-point performance in the opener and two 19-point performances against Philly and Oklahoma City. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 13.7 rpg): The toughest challenge for the Wizards thus far in the bubble is Antetokounmpo, the reigning 2019 NBA MVP and one of the recently named finalists in this season’s MVP candidacy. While his team has won just two games in the bubble thus far, Antetokounmpo has been sharp, scoring upwards of 30 points in four of the five matchups. 

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What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

What the Wizards hope to clean up in their final two games of the season

Individual progress and development has taken a front seat over wins and losses for the Wizards in Orlando, as Washington remains winless in the NBA's restart, now at 0-6 and 0-9 overall, if you include the exhibition schedule. So, as they ponder their final two games of the season - against the Celtics and Bucks - what would more would the coaching staff like to see?

Head coach Scott Brooks has been trying to drill in some lessons to his young players and he wants to see some strides in key areas. He held a lengthy film session on Saturday, but did not get what he was hoping for in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City.

"They’re all teachable moments," Brooks said. "We can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over. I said [at halftime] ‘either you’re not understanding it or I’m not doing a good job of explaining it.’"

As for specifics, Brooks said he wants his team to do a better job of stopping the ball on defense. Opponents are getting into the lane off the dribble far too easily and it is dismantling their defensive gameplan.

He also wants his team to execute better with outside shots. The Wizards are 21st out of the 22 teams in Orlando in three-pointers made (9.0/g), attempts (27.8/g) and percentage (32.3%). Not having Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal has done them no favors in those categories.

RELATED: WIZARDS FALL TO 0-6 IN BUBBLE

And perhaps most noticeable to Brooks has been the team's tendency to be pushed around physically. 

"You’ve gotta make a stand," Brooks said. "I thought [the Thunder's] physicality in the start of the game bothered us and it put us back on our heels. We played timid."

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Brooks highlighted rookie Rui Hachimura as a player who could put up more of a fight. On Sunday, Hachimura matched up at times with Chris Paul, who did a good job preventing him from reaching his favorite spots on the floor.

"You have to catch it deeper and go right through the guy’s chest. He’s going to learn that," Brooks said. "He’s still learning the league and the defenses that are going to be thrown at him."

Ish Smith is the most experienced player in the Wizards' rotation with 10 years of NBA service. He thinks the Wizards collectively are allowing other teams to be the aggressors. He says they need to cut harder on offense and be more assertive initiating contact on defense.

But overall, he thinks the young players on the team are learning that games with higher stakes are played differently.

"It’s such a good time for us because everybody that’s here is trying to get to the playoffs. So, they’re playing at a high, high level," he said. 

"Sometimes, no offense to the regular season and all 82 games, but some games you catch a team on a back-to-back or with injuries and different things. This is a good thing for all of us, to show us the level that you have to play at. The physicality that you have to play with, the level that you have to play at not just to make it to the playoffs but to be a champion."

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