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Wizards want to develop young players, but also compete and it's easier said than done

Wizards want to develop young players, but also compete and it's easier said than done

As much as this season for the Wizards is about player development, head coach Scott Brooks still wants to win and we saw that dichotomy clash on Wednesday night in Washington's 121-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

After his team entered the second half down by eight points, Brooks went away from first round picks Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura in favor of veterans C.J. Miles and Davis Bertans. Brown logged only 17 minutes on the night and Hachimura topped out at 21. 

For Hachimura, it was more understandable as he did not have it offensively. He was 0-for-5 from the field with zero points, showing no signs of life while battling a tough Pacers defense. Plus, 21 minutes is still a decent amount of floor time for a rookie playing in just his seventh NBA game.

But for Brown, who has now played four games since returning from a calf injury, it's difficult to understand why he only played the minutes he did, unless there was a setback with his health.

Was he playing great? No, his seven points and two rebounds and 3-for-9 shooting line didn't jump off the box score. His -17 +/- rating did stand out and not in a good way.

Brown, though, should have some room for error. Wednesday's game had shades of last season when Brown couldn't earn the trust of the coaching staff, even when it seemed clear he was better than some of the guys getting more playing time.

That was frustrating for Brown and his proponents, but it was at least justified by the team holding postseason hopes. They were an older, more experienced team and Brown was 19 years old.

But this year, the calculus has changed. The organization is taking the longview and holds no delusions about their ceiling this season. This year is more about their young players improving than it is about wins and losses.

The 15th overall pick a year ago, Brown's development is crucial for the Wizards and their future. So is Hachimura's, yet the two of them combined for 12 minutes in the second half.

Now, Brooks' approach in one game will not define the entire season. Brown may end up getting plenty of playing time when it's all said and done.

And Miles is a good and accomplished player. He looks healthy after recovering from foot surgery and, if that continues, he gives the Wizards a better chance to win in the short-term. If he has a bounceback year, he could even be a nice trade piece come the deadline in February.

But with Brown, Hachimura and other young players on the Wizards, the hope is that this season presents an opportunity for them to play real minutes. The Wizards need to find out which players are worth keeping, which ones could be used in trades and which ones aren't worth investing in long-term.

Committing to that is easier said than done and Wednesday night's game was a reminder.



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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.


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Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

For a game featuring a 7-16 Wizards team and the 8-16 Grizzlies, Saturday's matchup packs plenty of intrigue. 

With Rui Hachimura showing plenty of promise in Washington and Ja Morant nearly running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, we're all in for a classic battle of two of the game's best newcomers. 

Outside of that for the Wizards, Saturday night should absolutely be a win. The Grizzlies are 24th in NET rating (25th offense, 21st defense) and while their young core is as promising as any in the league, they don't quite know how to put together wins yet. 

Here's a breakdown of two players the Wizards should be wary of. 

Ja Morant

As we stated earlier with Morant, he's been far and away the best rookie this season. He's averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds on 46.3 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three. 

Morant had the generational physical tools and exciting upside that got him drafted second overall, the question was whether he'd be able to put it all together at the NBA level, especially playing the hardest position in the league as a lead guard. 

It's safe to say he's answered almost all of those questions just 19 games into his career. 

The Wizards will have to contain his drives to the rim and force him into contested jump shots, which is a lot easier said than done for this defense. 

If they can't keep him in front and he starts breaking down the defense off the dribble, look out. He could mess around and get a triple-double. 

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Before the Grizzlies drafted Morant, Jackson was their crowned jewel prospect. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of the best young players in the league, it's just a testament with how good Morant has been. 

Jackson has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the league one day. When he's playing well, he provides the Grizzlies defense incredible versatility since he can switch onto nearly every position while being able to protect the paint and rebound at a high level. 

Then on the offensive end, Jackson can stretch the floor on pick and pops (37.8 percent 3P) and put the ball on the deck to attack closeouts. He truly is the embodiment of the modern NBA center. 

The Wizards have been used to paint-dominant centers after playing the Sixers and Nuggets over the last few weeks. Jackson just might present a better matchup for their injury-riddled frontcourt. 

Washington would be wise to use Moe Wagner to keep him stretched out of the paint and then take advantage of the Grizzlies suspect perimeter defense to get to the basket. That is, of course, if Wagner can stay on the floor. 

The Wizards and Grizzlies are scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can catch all of our coverage on NBC Sports Washington.