September 2, 2015

Washington Wizards Work Out Former Maryland Terrapin Two Weeks before 2015 NBA Draft

When the Washington Wizards bowed out of the NBA Playoffs in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, they stayed at the 19th overall spot in the draft determined by their 46-36 regular season record. The Wizards will also pick 19th in the second round, 49th overall, a selection where Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman will try to find a diamond in the rough. Today the Wizards held their fourth pre-draft workout sessions, which was headlined by former Maryland Terrapin star G Dez Wells.

After having two sessions early last week and now two more this week, the Wizards have seen 24 players up close and personal. The three players who Washington has worked out that could be first round targets are G Jerian Grant from Notre Dame, PG Delon Wright out of Utah, and SG Rashad Vaughn, the freshman Phenom from UNLV. All others are possible second round picks and/or undrafted free agent possibilities.

The Wizards have focused on bringing in guards and tall big men to assess, but surprisingly no small forwards with the questionable depth behind Otto Porter after the potential departure/retirement of Paul Pierce. With the small possibility of getting a lock impact player, such as a Karl Anthony-Towns or Jahlil Okafor, Washington has diversified their pre-draft selection pool by going after the star players from non-power schools. The Wizards have brought in 12 players from lesser tiered schools to evaluate the possibility of their skills translating to a big jump in competition.

Although seen to be too small to play the small forward position at a generous 6’ 6’’ (came in at 6’ 3’’ without shoes at the combine) Dez Wells is an intriguing fit for the Wizards. He has minimal ball handling skills and is still developing his jump shot, but Wells has a unique style of play. Like John Wall, who Wells grew up and played high school basketball with in Raleigh, NC, the former Terp is a beast in transition and can finish through contact with a strong upper body. In a half court set Wells is also a great slasher to the rim where he finishes with great success. Wells has also developed post moves against smaller defenders, which has the possibility of translating to the pros.

With Bradley Beal and Ramon Sessions being the only true players to get playing time at the shooting guard position during the playoffs, the Wizards might be interested in signing an aggressive driver to better complement their bench scoring. Wells is also a shutdown defender who can guard multiple positions as he has effectively faced off against the likes of DeAngelo Russell, Sam Dekker, and Denzel Valentine. Many thought the Wizards partially pulled the trigger on Porter two years ago at the No. 3 overall pick because of his local connection via the Georgetown Hoyas, if the same holds true for the Maryland superstar, the Wizards could reap the benefits once Wells is fully developed.

When Wells spoke to reporters after his intense work out, he believed his athleticism, strength, ability to get to the basket, and playmaking talents would translate to the next level. He honestly chipped in that he will still work on his ball handling. Wells also added that he has developed a sounder mechanical shooting form through repetition in training to the heights where he feels he is at the top of his game. As expected, the local Terp said he is happy to play anywhere in the NBA but would “LOVE” to play with John Wall, “my big-brother” again. Wells has already worked out with eight teams including today with the Wizards and still has three more showcases to attend (76ers, Nets, and Pistons). As a Maryland Terrapin faithful who has seen Dez Wells soar through the rafters of the Comcast/Xfinity Centers on thunderous dunks, I can attest to the unique ability to be a force in the NBA and hopefully as a Washington Wizard.

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 6 Review: Pierce’s shot late, Wizards eliminated


The Washington Wizards reverted back to their gloomy regular season days when they blew a double-digit lead in Game 5 in the fourth quarter. Instead of being one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, the Wizards were one loss away from the offseason. John Wall returned during Game 5 and after taking multiple slaps to his injured wrist during the game, he promised to try to improve his game by knocking off rust in Game 6.

Wall looked fine, and the Wizards were poised to go to overtime when Paul Pierce’s last-second 3-pointer from the corner swished through to tie the game. But upon review, the ball did not get out of Pierce’s hand until after the clock showed 0:00, and the Wizards fell to the Atlanta Hawks 94-91, eliminated them from the playoffs in the second round for the second year in a row. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 5 Review: Wizards, with Wall, pushed to brink of elimination


The Washington Wizards finally had their All-Star point guard John Wall returning to their starting lineup 10 days after suffering five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist. In games that Wall has been unable to play in, Washington is a miserable 11-41 since his debut. However, the return of Wall was not the solution to all the answers for the Wizards. After blowing a seven-point fourth quarter lead, Paul Pierce gave the Wizards a one point lead with 8.9 seconds remaining on a corner three.

Unfortunately, Al Horford was able to put-back Dennis Schroeder’s missed layup attempt over Nene’s back and the Atlanta Hawks stole Game 5, 82-81. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 4 Review: Wizards can’t quite catch Hawks; series tied at 2


Although John Wall was upgraded to a game-time decision early in the day, the Washington Wizards All-Star point guard missed his third-straight game in the second round of the playoffs since injuring his left wrist in Game 1. With a team that was confident that they could compete against the Hawks, a hot shooting start looked promising for the Wizards. However, the Hawks early dominance in the paint and the Wizards inability to cash in late resulted in a 106-101 loss, evening the series at two games apiece.

After hitting the game-winning jumper to put the Wizards up 2-1 in the series, Paul Pierce drained his first three attempts from beyond the arc. The Hawks countered with early domination in the paint, where they scored their first 12 points of the game. The Hawks were getting too many open looks inside the paint and were beating the help defense with ease. Randy Wittman was forced to call timeout after the Hawks took a 19-16 lead on a 7-0 run. After the Wizards made a push to retake the lead late in the quarter, the Hawks were able to rely on their surprising dominance in the paint to take a 29-26 lead into the second quarter. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 3 Review: Pierce delivers The Truth


Washington Wizards floor general John Wall missed his second straight playoff game with five non-displaced fractures in his wrist and lots of swelling in his left hand. In Game 2, Wall’s lack of presence lead to a number of turnovers that ended up being a difference in the game, even though his team fought hard to claw their way back. In Game 3, Wall’s teammates stepped up as the Wizards had five players in double figures. After blowing a 21-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the game, Paul Pierce sent the fans home happy with a buzzer-beating bank shot giving the Wizards a 103-101 win.

After nailing a three-pointer for the Wizards first points of the game, Pierce left the game with a shoulder injury after trying to draw the charge on DeMarre Carroll. His teammates picked up the slack, starting with Nene who would score back to back baskets against the less defensive Pero Antic, leading to an 11-2 Washington run. As hot as Nene was to start, hitting back-to-back jumpers, the Hawks were getting too many opportunities on offensive rebounds directly leading to points. Out of a Randy Wittman timeout, the Wizards went on a 9-0 run late in the quarter that gave them their first lead after the first quarter this series, 28-18.

After a slow start to the second quarter for both teams, with just a bucket each in the first three-plus minutes of action, things started to pick up. Although Atlanta was starting to up its shooting percentage from sub 30 percent to 35.5, the Wizards were outhustling the Hawks. Otto Porter stole away a defensive rebound after he missed a jumper and finished between two defenders with a reverse layup.

Moments later Nene took the ball away from Millsap after not expecting the pass and finished at the rim plus the foul. The strong defense was starting to translate into offense before things got ugly. Beal secured an outlet pass from Porter and was off to the races before Jeff Teague grabbed up high at his head and threw him to the ground. Beal came up hot and was restrained. Teague was assessed a flagrant-one foul and the Wizards cashed that possession into five points. The Wizards 18-point lead was Atlanta’s largest deficit so far in the playoffs. The Wizards maintained a decent lead at halftime with a 56-43 advantage.

Atlanta came out to a hot start in the third led by Teague, who was aggressively attacking the rim. The Hawks cut the deficit to single-digits, but the tide changed slightly after an additional altercation. Beal fouled Teague hard going to the rim (not dirty), but Teague bucked at Beal and picked up a technical foul, which fired the crowd up. Beal came back with his own 3 to stretch the lead back out to double digits. Even with Teague trying to will his team back with nine points in the quarter, the Wizards made enough big shots to control the game, including a three-ball from Drew Gooden. The Wizards ended the quarter on a 7-1 run and secured their largest lead of the game at 19 and headed to the fourth quarter up 85-66.

With the Hawks’ Al Horford going to the locker room with a reported lower right leg injury, Nene went back to work in the post. Nene drew fouls and had a put-back bucket to put back some energy in the crowd. That set the table for Will Bynum to receive the outlet pass from Ramon Sessions and go in for a layup — plus the foul — against a flopping Mike Muscala (Horford’s replacement).

The Wizards pushed their lead up to 20, but Atlanta made a solid push on a 7-0 run that forced Wittman to call timeout with 6:11 remaining. The Wizards began to self-destruct as the Hawks extended out their run to a whopping 17-0. Thankfully, Washington got much needed buckets from Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat late in the game to give them a five-point lead with 1:17 to go. Atlanta was forced to play the foul game at the end but were still within one possession before Muscala tied the game on a three pointer with 14.1 seconds left in the game. When all looked lost, the Wizards followed the Nationals walk-off in suit as Pierce hit a jumper off the backboard as the Wizards escaped with a 103-101 victory. The Truth would later say that he did not call bank when he released the shot, Pierce said he called game; such is exactly why the Wizards were brilliant in bringing the future Hall of Famer to the nations capital.

Why the Wizards Won:

  • The Atlanta Hawks are known for their three-point shooting abilities. Tonight the Wizards shut them down from beyond the arc as the Hawks were just 7 of 23, while the Wizards were thriving with 10 made shots from beyond the arc.
  • Filling in for Wall: Bradley Beal had a playoff career high eight assists, Sessions chipped in with six assists, and Porter had a career high 17 points.
  • Post production for the Wizards as Nene came alive for the first time in the series. He and Gortat combined for 31 points on 16 shots, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals.

The Wizards have at least one more home game on Monday night before having to return to Atlanta. With the possibility of following the Capitals by going up 3-1 in the conference semifinals, DC continues to rise. It is unlikely that Wall would be able to suit up unless the swelling in his wrist comes down significantly, but as he has reiterated he will take things day by day. However, the Wizards showed that they had the ability to dominate the Hawks for parts of the game even without their leader. The Wizards were able to not loose all momentum possible by sealing the deal at the end and now have the opportunity to push the #1 seed to the brink of elimination in front of the Verizon Center faithful.

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 2 Review: Wizards fall without Wall as series with Hawks is tied 1-1

The Washington Wizards are ridiculously good on the road come playoff time. In the past two seasons the Wizards are 8-1 coming into Game 2 at Atlanta. To give some semblance of how extraordinary that is, the Spurs have the next best record of 7-7 in the category over the same stretch.

But without their floor general, John Wall, who was a late scratch because of his swollen left wrist, the Wizards had to find help from other role players to step up. Although Ramon Sessions filled in admirably with a post season career high 21 points, the Hawks pulled away late to drop the Wizards 106-90.

Atlanta came out aggressive on both sides of the ball as they attacked the rim and trapped Wizards players. The Wizards started shooting the ball a cold 3 of 11 from the floor and had three turnovers. That allowed the Hawks to go on a seven-point run to take a 13-7 lead and force coach Randy Wittman to call an early timeout in yet another playoff game. With the Hawks running the pick and roll to perfection they started the game 10 of 18 from the field and had a comfortable 28-20 lead after the first quarter. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Second Round Game 1 Review: Wizards come back to take Game 1 against Hawks

The Washington Wizards have not played a game since clinching their first franchise sweep against the Toronto Raptors last Sunday at home. On the flip side, the Atlanta Hawks just finished a grueling series against the Brooklyn Nets who put up a good fight. The Wizards looked rusty early, but rebounded from a 12-point second half deficit to rally for a 104-98 Game 1 win on the road.

The Eastern Conference No. 1 seed Hawks advanced to the second round by making double-digit 3-point field goals in all but one game. The Hawks opened up the first half with nine 3-pointers and a career best performance from DeMarre Carroll as the Wizards might have been run out of the building.

It was the Paul Pierce show early as he chipped in with seven of the Wizards first nine points. However, the defense started to falter because of the rapid ball movement from Atlanta leading to a 9-0 Hawks, which prompted a timeout from coach Randy Wittman.

With 5:41 remaining in the first quarter, Pierce picked up his second foul and Wittman reacted by inserting Otto Porter and Drew Gooden in the game. The two bench stars for the Wizards quickly responded with an 8-0 run that helped the Wizards tie the game at 20. From their things went downhill as the Hawks went on a 7-0 run that was later extended out to a 17-6 stretch. The hot shooting behind the arc (5 of 8) gave the Hawks a 37-26 lead after the first quarter.

The Wizards came out in the second quarter with a better defensive presence forcing multiple turnovers against the Hawks bench. The Hawks also fell short in maintaining their 60-plus percent shooting from the floor with a mediocre 2 of 9 from the field to start the quarter. However, before the Wizards could pick up the offense to creep back into things, the Hawks and DeMarre Carroll started to heat up again.

Then things turned potentially tragic as, after picking off a pass and attacking the rim, John Wall fell hard out of bounds. Luckily, although in pain, Wall was able to return to the game, but Atlanta didn’t slow its pace. The Hawks found themselves up 63-53 at halftime behind Carroll’s career high for a half 21 points on nine shots.

After a poor defensive effort to start the series, the Hawks helped the Wizards in the second half by shooting a cold 1 of 8 from the field. With an 8-2 run to start the quarter, the Wizards were within four points and forced an Atlanta timeout. However, the No. 1 seed did not go quietly,  responding with a 7-0 run to stretch the Wizards deficit back out to double digits. In a game of runs the Wizards responded with an 8-0 run to get within a single point because they were digging in on defense. Even though Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden picked up their fourth fouls, the Wizards went into the fourth quarter only down 83-81.

Atlanta had another slow start to a quarter as they missed their first five shots from the field in the fourth. That allowed the Wizards take a 87-83 lead as Bradley Beal went into attack mode. Unfortunately, Beal later landed on Al Horford’s foot coming down from a jumper attempt and had to sit after writhing in pain on the floor. Beal went to the locker room and did not return. The Hawks didn’t go away and had the Wizards lead cut to one on two separate occasions, but John Wall would not be denied as he hit multiple mid-range jumpers to keep the Hawks at bay. In the end, layups from Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat off dimes from John Wall locked up a Wizards win 104-98.

Why the Wizards Won:

  • Defense! Similarly to how the Toronto Raptors came out with hot starts in the first quarter, the Wizards gave up 37 points in the first quarter and 63 overall in the first half. They locked in and allowed the Hawks to only score 35 points in the second half. The rotation and effort in the half court set was amazing to see and the Hawks lost their shooting stroke that was on fire early.
  • The dynamic duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal both withstood somewhat serious injuries. Wall says they each fought through like soldiers to finish the game with combined stats of 46 points, 14 assists, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, and only 3 turnovers.
  • Otto Porter has continued his growth. With Nene struggling to defend the Hawks stretch four and not getting things going offensively, Porter played 34 minutes and produced 10 points and 11 rebounds. Porter had a dagger layup after hitting a crucial three point attempts moments before.

The Wizards are the first team in NBA history to win four consecutive Game 1’s on the road. Again the Wizards will put huge pressure on the home team to secure Game 2 before heading on the road where the DC fans will be pumped. If you take out DeMarre Carrol’s streaky and somewhat uncommon performance from the first half, the Wizards dominated this game. If they can dig in on defense like they have in the second half, which Wittman will preach, the Wizards should be able to again return to the Verizon Center with a 2-0 series lead.

Washington Wizards Game 4 Review: Wizards complete sweep of Raptors with win at home


The Washington Wizards lost all three regular season meetings against the Toronto Raptors, but as Paul Pierce has said “it’s a new season” when the Wizards found themselves going into Game 4 at home already up 3-0. Entering play, the Wizards had played 36 playoff series with zero best-of-five or best-of-seven sweeps. Leading the game from start to finish with a balance scoring attack, the Wizards ended that streak, completing a sweep behind a sellout crowd with a 125-94 win over Toronto.

DC is certainly rising.

Two minutes in and the energy and pace of the game was in the Wizards favor, up 4-2 as John  Wall was serenaded with MVP chants. Washington was methodical in their offensive approach as they got to the line for nine free throw attempts within the first six minutes while shooting 3 of 5 from the field. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Game 3 Review: Wizards take decisive 3-0 lead on Raptors

The Washington Wizards are road warriors. They are the first team in NBA history to have back-to-back seasons where they won the first two of their playoff games on the road to open the season. The Chicago Bulls were the victims last year. Returning home to an extra excited home crowd did wonders for the Wizards. After the Capitals heated up the ice that the Wizards play on top of last night with a 5-1 blowout of the New York Islanders to take a 3-2 series lead, the Wizards continued the momentum at Verizon center by taking an impressive 3-0 series lead with a 106-99 victory.

This game got off to a quick start offensively for both teams. After the Wizards were getting a lot of production from Marcin Gortat, who did a nice job moving with the ball, and Bradley Beal who had it going from beyond the arc. The Raptors kept pace with a hot start from DeMar DeRozan who was 5 of 6 from the field for 12 points that later fueled a 10-2 run to give Toronto a 23-16 lead midway through the quarter. The hot shooting continued as the Raptors had a lead as great as nine before Drew Gooden came in to provide reinforcements by knocking down back-to-back triples. The Wizards were doing a good job sharing the ball early as evidenced by their 10 assists on their first 10 made field goals. DeRozan had 20 points nine minutes into the game and that led to the Raptors having a small 35-33 lead going into the second quarter.

The second quarter was a more physical grinding style of play. Just three minutes into the quarter the Wizards drew five fouls and grabbed three offensive rebounds. The tempo and scoring scored down with both team’s second units in, but the Wizards slowly began to chip away as their defense picked up. On a Wall drive midway through the quarter the Verizon Center erupted at 111.9 dB because the Wizards took a 43-42 lead. The field goal percentages plummeted for both teams in the second quarter, Raptors shot 25 percent and the Wizards shot 30 percent. Eventually the Wizards went back to the pick and roll between Wall and Gortat that led to a 6-0 run at the end of the half that gave Washington a 54-48 lead at intermission.

The Wizards came out of the halftime a bit sluggish; however, this was not their fault as it seemed every call was going against them early leading to an inefficient offensive game plan. The Wizards knack to get to the free throw line kept their offense afloat, but the Raptors were able to take a 68-67 lead for a short period of time. On the last Wizards offensive sequence, Wall was finally able to get to the rim on his attack where he converted leading to the Wizards taking a 72-70 lead into the final quarter.

The Wizards started the quarter with back to back turnovers and back-to-back fouls, allowing the Raptors to take a 73-72 lead. Wall grabbed the next defensive rebound and had a determined look on his face as he drove through a double team, spun, took the contact and completed an old fashioned three point play. The Raptors closed to within one after consecutive buckets and Wittman pulled the trigger to get Paul Pierce back in the game. Moments later Pierce declined the extra pass on the perimeter and drilled a shot beyond the arc. Late in the game when the Wizards were reeling they got more clutch shots: twice from Otto Porter who was shooting the ball with confidence and not to be out done, The Truth came through with one of his own putting the Wizards up 98-90. After Lowry had cut the Wizards lead to three, Pierce came back with a dagger three to end this game at 106-99.

Why the Wizards Won:

  • The Wizards were an unselfish group tonight. They might have struggled offensively but shared the ball well as they had 27 assists on their 36 made field goals. Of course this effort was led by Wall who had 15.
  • The Wizards defense stepped up after a dreadful first quarter that saw DeRozan go for a Raptors franchise record 20 points. They only allowed 64 points the rest of the game and had an astounding 13 blocks stemming from their strong rotation on defense.
  • The Wizards won the transition battle as they had a 20-9 edge in fast break scoring.

The Wizards have another home game Sunday night where they look to end the series for good and have a nice rest before having to start the second round presumably in Atlanta to face the first seeded Hawks. If the Wizards cannot take care of business without returning home, Paul Pierce and the rest of his teammates will unfortunately have to go through customs when returning to Air Canada Center in Toronto for Game 5. No team in the NBA playoffs have come back to win a seven game series when starting down 3-0, and the Wizards will look to keep it that way.

Washington Wizards Game 84 Review: Wizards take commanding 2-0 series lead over Raptors

After the Wizards secured a victory in Game 1 to take over home court advantage, Paul Pierce and the Wizards were not content returning home with the series tied and wanted to push the Toronto Raptors on the brink of their playoff lives. Similarly to Game 1, the Wizards made a run midway through the second quarter and led the rest of the way. After two separate second half pushes from the Raptors, the Wizards prevailed 117-106 and hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the first series of the playoffs.

From the opening tip the Wizards were in trouble to start the game. They struggled from the field by starting 1 of 7, while DeMar DeRozan had himself a quick seven points. When Terrance Ross hit a 3 to put the Raptors up 12-2, coach Randy Wittman was forced to call timeout less than four minutes in the game. The offense began to wake up as the Wizards went on a stretch where they were 6 of 10 from the field. The only problem for the Wizards were that the Raptors played their well-defined role of an efficient offensive team and continued to score steadily. Similarly to the last game the Wizards found themselves down after the first quarter, this time 31-26. [Read more…]

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