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NBA PM: Wizards Trying to Find Consistency

The Wizards are hoping that getting completely healthy will allow the team to be more consistent.

Cody Taylor



Wizards Trying to Find Consistency

One of the most interesting teams in the NBA over the past few seasons has been the Washington Wizards. They seem to be a team that could be a surprise in a number of different ways. Given how much talent they have, it seemed foolish to discount them as a contender in the Eastern Conference heading into this season.

Last season during the playoffs, the Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors in four games during the first round. The sweep came as a bit of a surprise considering how the Raptors won all three of the team’s regular season matchups.

The Wizards then won the first game of their next series against the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Things were looking bright for the Wizards, as many thought they could become a Cinderella story during the playoffs. Then, All-Star point guard John Wall suffered five non-displaced fractures in his left hand that ultimately cost him the next three games. By that time, all of the momentum the team had built seemed to be gone, along with the hopes of upsetting the Hawks.

Washington has advanced to the second round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons after failing to win over 30 games in the team’s previous five seasons. They came into the 2015-16 season with expectations to be a serious competitor in the East. This season, the conference has been wide open. It’s been the Cleveland Cavaliers, and everyone else. Virtually every team has been in contention to become the Cavaliers’ biggest threat — except Washington.

As the standings currently sit today, the Wizards are 12th in the East at 16-19. Fortunately for the Wizards, the East has been as competitive as we’ve seen it in recent years and they’re just 2.5 games out of eighth place. To give an idea of how competitive it’s been, four teams that didn’t make the postseason last year would be playoff teams if the season ended today. But the Wizards just haven’t been able to gain any sort of consistency this season for one reason or another.

Injuries are a big part of why the team has been inconsistent. According to (a website that calculates how injured teams are), the Wizards have been the league’s most injured team with 148 games missed due to injury as of last Saturday. Bradley Beal’s injury has made up for a good chunk of those games. He’s missed the past 15 games with a stress reaction in his lower right leg, but is expected back in the next week or two. When healthy, Beal and Wall have become one of best backcourt combinations in the league.

“We’ve had a lot of guys down and we’ve been struggling with our rotations,” center Marcin Gortat said. “We didn’t have too many people available. Slowly we are getting back to being a full team. Hopefully in the next few days we get to come back to being a team with 15 players available.”

With so many players having missed time this season, the Wizards have had to rely more heavily on Wall. He’s the face of the franchise and the team will only go as far as he can take them. For the most part, when Wall plays well, the team wins. When he has off nights, the team struggles.

Heading into this season, Wall set high expectations for himself that included being in the MVP race, being on the All-NBA First Team and on the All-Defensive First Team. Many around the league don’t see Wall as a top-10 player, and Wall wanted to use that as motivation this season because he feels as though he deserves to be mentioned in that conversation.

With Stephen Curry picking up where left off last season and with several other players putting up huge numbers, it’s unlikely Wall’s wish of being in the MVP race happens this season. But, that’s not to say that he’s having an off year. So far, he’s averaging a career-high 19.7 points, 9.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. He’s 26th in the league in scoring, second in assists and fifth in steals.

“In my opinion, he’s the best point guard in the NBA,” teammate Gary Neal said. “I got 100 percent trust in him [and] I’m sure my feelings resonate all over this locker room. I’m completely confident in him.”

While it’s clear that Wall is a leader on this team, the Wizards will need to gain some consistency to have a chance in the improved East. Talk to any player in the locker room and it won’t take long for them to mention that they need to be consistent. It was only two weeks ago that the team had strung together four-straight wins to put them back at .500.

Since that time, the team has gone 2-5 with both wins coming over the Orlando Magic. The addition of Beal in the coming weeks should help significantly as they try to get back on track. However, even with Beal set to return soon, it’ll likely take him several games to knock off the rust and return to form.

“We’re trying to get to the point where our offense doesn’t dictate our defense,” Neal said. “I think a lot of times in our losses, us not being able to play offense at a fast pace and make shots has kind of hurt us on the defensive end. We’re trying to grow and we’re trying to get past that, that we can sustain the defensive effort for 48 minutes.

“I think when we play small — the way we have been playing all year — and when we shoot the three-ball well, if you look at the numbers, we probably win 90 percent of those games.”

The team is hoping the win over the Magic on Saturday night can steer them in the right direction. They swept the four-game season series over the Magic and have now won 12 straight against Orlando. Players know all it takes is one game to help build momentum and begin to trend upward.

“You gotta take it one game at a time and one practice at a time,” Neal said. “You can’t get too high or too low in this league. You could be on a three-game winning streak and it could turn ugly real fast. You have to take it one game at a time and one practice at a time. That’s the maturity that we have to show in this locker room and on this team. The next objective is the Bulls on Monday.”

John Calipari Again Denying Coaching Rumors

It seems as though each time a head coaching position opens up, Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari’s name surfaces. Over the past few years, Calipari has been linked to the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans and, most recently, the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets announced yesterday that they re-assigned general manager Billy King and fired head coach Lionel Hollins. Since making those changes, Calipari has already been linked to the head coaching vacancy.

Yahoo Sports reported on Sunday night that the Nets want Calipari for the opening. But, in order to pry Calipari away from Kentucky, the price tag will cost the Nets (or any other team) $120 million over 10 years, an increase from his current $8 million to $9 million salary at Kentucky.

On Monday, Calipari again denied those rumors that he would consider leaving Kentucky.

“You may have heard me say this before: I absolutely have the best coaching job in sports and I plan on being at Kentucky for a long time,” Calipari tweeted. “I am not negotiating with ANYBODY. My total focus is on this team and winning the next game.”

The report from Yahoo indicated that Calipari will continue denying the reports bringing him back to the NBA over the course of the rest of the college season, but will continue talks and negotiating until his demands are met.

As for Calipari’s Wildcats, the team is 12-3 and ranked 14th in the latest Associated Press rankings after losing to LSU and beating Alabama last week.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.


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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”

Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.

Dennis Chambers



The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.

Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.

With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.

One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.

“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”

Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.

“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”

In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.

“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”

Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.

While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.

Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.

“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”

The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.

Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.

“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”

Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.

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NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

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