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Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Moe Wagner has openly expressed his desire to follow the trajectory of Thomas Bryant, whom he has reunited with as a teammate now in Washington after they previously overlapped in Los Angeles.

He is a big man who can stretch the floor and plays with loads of energy. And he was a Lakers castoff now hoping to find his NBA niche in a Wizards uniform.

Through 10 games in Washington, Wagner is ahead of schedule. What he did on Friday night in Minnesota was something Bryant didn't do until months into last season, and technically it was much rarer than that.

Wagner became the first player to put up 30 points and 15 rebounds off the bench since Yao Ming in 2002 and the first in Wizards/Bullets franchise history since Cliff Robinson in 1985. No NBA player had ever dropped 30 points with 15 boards and hit four threes off the bench before in NBA history.

Wagner did this, mind you, against Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best centers in the league. And Wagner did it all in only 25 minutes as he battled through foul trouble to make 13-of-15 shots overall and shoot a perfect 4-for-4 from three. 

He had his moments on the defensive end as well. While Towns lit up the Wizards for 25 points in the first half and for 36 in the game, 19 of those came in the second quarter when Wagner had to take a seat because of his fouls. 

Wagner's defensive style isn't pretty. Without the length or instincts to block shots, he has to scrap his way to getting stops. He uses his fouls and has a knack for drawing them.

Wagner took three charges in Friday's game and now has 10 on the season, which leads the NBA. Last year, Bradley Beal and Jeff Green led the Wizards with 12 for the entire year.

Charges generally aren't utilized in the NBA because they are very difficult to achieve. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks led the entire league with 0.84 per game. Though Wagner is averaging one per game himself this year, that pace will be difficult to sustain. Last season, Ersan Ilyasove led the league with 0.73 charges drawn per game and DeMarcus Cousins was No. 1 with 0.5 per game the year before. 

But there are players for whom charges are a defensive weapon. Ilyasova and Cousins are always near the top of the league in the category and so is Blake Griffin. Shane Battier might be the most famous charge-taker of all-time. Maybe Wagner can be next.

Taking charges, though, are just one of the ways Wagner is using his energy and effort to affect games for the Wizards. After Wednesday's win over the Timberwolves, he is second on the Wizards in deflections, second in contested shots and second in screen assists; all hustle stats. And his net rating is best on the team and fourth-highest in the NBA. 

Wagner is so far proving to be a diamond in the rough, just like Bryant was last year. Keep in mind the Wizards got him in a salary-dump trade from the Lakers that also gave them Isaac Bonga and a second-round pick. All the Wizards gave up was cash considerations, which they used to be famous for coveting.

All of this makes it fair to wonder if the Wizards can do it again. They got Bryant from the Lakers and then Wagner.

So, who is the back-up center currently on L.A. they can poach next summer?

Well, technically that would be either Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee, so maybe not. But the Wizards already fooled the Lakers once and it looks like they did it again.

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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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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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