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Working to show his worth, Jabari Parker provides spark in Wizards win over the Kings

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Working to show his worth, Jabari Parker provides spark in Wizards win over the Kings

No matter how the rest of the Washington Wizards season plays out, the final 16-game stretch that began Monday night with a win over the Sacramento Kings is important for Jabari Parker.

The 23-year-old power forward, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls during the trade deadline last month, is set up for a team option of $20 million for next year. While it isn’t a given, there is a chance that Washington declines the option and Parker becomes a free agent.

Therefore, the final few weeks of the season offer Parker a chance to demonstrate his worth to Washington and potentially other NBA suitors. So while the Wizards entered Monday slipping in the race for the playoffs, the role player knows there is plenty left to fight for.

“I know for myself, I never try to skip games,” Parker said following Monday’s win. “Every time I get on the court, I try to do my best.”

Against the Kings, Parker lived up to that mindset. Finishing with 18 points, he provided energy and momentum off the bench. 

Doing most of his damage in the first half, Parker led the team in scoring through two quarters with 14 points including three made three-pointers, his second consecutive game doing so. A majority of those baskets came in during the second quarter, when the Wizards were in need of someone to step up and score.

With Bradley Beal still struggling to find his shot and dealing with some foul trouble, Sacramento began to cut into the eight-point lead Washington had built following the first 12 minutes of action. Yet as the visiting team tried to mount a run, Parker was consistently there to keep the momentum from shifting too far over to the Kings.

Parker was a one-man scoring machine to close the half. With the Wizards leading 39-28 with 8:55 remaining in the quarter, Parker would score 11 of the team’s next 14 points, including eight straight.

When his scoring outburst had concluded, the Wizards clung to just a 53-48 lead. While Washington would go into the break trailing by one point, Parker’s spark in the second allowed the team to hang close and stay within striking distance, eventually regaining the lead early in the third.

The fourth-year veteran’s solid play on Monday is just the most recent positive performance he’s put in during his short time in D.C. In his last five games, Parker has scored at least 15 points in every contest. In the month of March, he's averaging 16.8 points per game.

Parker’s future after this season may not be clear yet, but he’s continuing to make the most of his opportunity as he works to create a lasting impression. And even in the time of uncertainty, he still has his sights set on one goal in particular.

“I wanna be there, I want to play in the postseason,” Parker said. “I don’t have any kids, don’t have any obligations but basketball right now.”


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Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Any Wizards fans looking to watch professional basketball over the summer should circle July 11 on their calendar.

Former Wizards star Gilbert Arenas returns to Capital One Arena on that Saturday, as part of the Enemies of the BIG3.

The BIG3 announced their schedule for the 2020 schedule on Wednesday, and all 12 teams will play in Washington, D.C. during the third week of the season.

Arenas, who joined the league last year as a member of the Enemies squad, did not play in the nation's capital last season. The Enemies did not make playoffs in their first season of the BIG3.

Other former Wizards players in the BIG3 include Rashard Lewis, Drew Gooden, DeShawn Stevenson, and Mike Bibby among others.

The fourth season of the BIG3 kicks off June 20 in Memphis, Tenn.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

There is an argument, and I've made it before, that John Wall's contract and injury situation combine for one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Never before has a player making as much money as he is suffered an injury as serious as his ruptured left Achilles. He takes up 35% of the salary cap, is not playing this season and has no guarantees of returning to his All-Star form once he comes back.

Even if Wall does return to his prime form, and there's reason to be hopeful he can, his contract includes a lot of money for the Wizards to work around. And that has created a scenario where making small moves count matter even more than they otherwise would.

The Wizards have to maximize all of their other resources, much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they ultimately overcame the disastrous 2014 trade with the Boston Celtics that left them paying a debt of high first-round picks for years. Brooklyn worked around their draft pick blackhole by hitting on late-round selections plus minor signings and trades. And they built a foundation along the way that made them surprising heavyweights in free agency. 

The Wizards have plenty of work to do, but first-year general manager Tommy Sheppard is already proving his worth in peripheral transactions, the types that turned the Nets around. They may be less-heralded acquisitions, but they can also become major separators between GMs.

Sheppard has been running the Wizards front office for less than a calendar year, yet he already has an impressive list of marginal moves. Just recently he turned Isaiah Thomas, who was a glaring detriment on the defensive end, into Jerome Robinson, the 13th overall pick just 20 months ago.

Last offseason, his first as GM, he flipped Aaron White, a former second-round pick who was stashed in Europe, for Davis Bertans, who has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He also turned cap space into Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, two guys with intriguing potential. Wagner, in particular, has emerged as a building block.

There are other minor moves Sheppard has made that stand out as good ones. He may have found something in Garrison Mathews, a rookie on a two-way deal who can light it up from three. Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have been nice surprises as end-of-the-roster guys. And signing Ish Smith for less money instead of retaining Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a smart decision.

Sheppard continues to nail the smaller moves but he has also hit on some of the bigger ones. He drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall in June and he has exceeded expectations thus far. Sheppard also re-signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension in October, a move few saw coming.

What will ultimately write the story of Sheppard's tenure as GM are decisions even bigger than those. There will also be some level of luck between the draft lottery, injuries and other factors.

But the best signs for what the Wizards should hope they get from Sheppard are already there. They need someone who can maximize all roster-building opportunities and work within the tight space of their remaining salary cap.

So far, Sheppard has done just that.