Kelly Oubre

Associated Press

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Three questions the Washington Wizards must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 49-33, advanced to the second round of the playoffs but fell in seven games to Boston.

I know what you did last summer: John Wall was dreaming big, he was trying to recruit Paul George to come to Washington. It’s a nice thought, but the Wizards never had the cap space or assets to come close to a deal for another star player. What the Wizards could do was lock up their own and make small moves to try to improve a 49-win team. Wall got a four-year, $170 million contract extension that keeps him in Washington through his prime. When Brooklyn came in with a $106 million offer for Otto Porter the Wizards matched it, not that they had much of a choice — it was match or create a massive hole in their roster (without the money to replace him with anywhere near the same quality). The Wizards got Tim Frazier for the 52nd pick to give them some needed help at the point behind Wall. Mike Scott is a bit of a gamble but a low-cost one and maybe he can be a stretch four. They picked up Jodie Meeks, who if he’s healthy can knock down shots.

THREE QUESTIONS THE WIZARDS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will there be any help off the bench this year? Last season the Wizard’s bench play was flat-out terrible. Don’t take my word for it, Marcin Gortat said they had one of the worst benches in the league. Or, think back to the playoffs when the Wizards were falling to the Celtics in Game 7 and Wall was obviously exhausted, walking back on defense, but Scott Brooks couldn’t take him out for a rest because he didn’t trust anyone off the bench for even a few minutes.

To help, Washington picked up Tim Frazier as a backup point guard this summer, he is solid and will be better than Trey Burke was last season (or Brandon Jennings, who was brought in to take Burke’s minutes mid-season because Burke was that bad). Jodie Meeks was signed this summer and can space the floor and knock down shots if he’s healthy. Mike Scott maybe plays some minutes as a stretch four.

However, what the Wizards are really counting on to help the bench this season is internal improvement. Kelly Oubre should take a step forward going into his third season, have a good one and he can push for a contract extension next summer. Tomas Satoransky was up and down as a rookie and faded as the season went on, hopefully his shot can improve and he can contribute more. Then there is Ian Mahinmi. If his knees let him — and he recently had another surgery on them — he certainly can help get some stops off the bench, providing a presence in the paint.

Notice there is a lot of betting on health and players developing, still if a couple of those bets pay off the bench will be less of a black hole than a season ago. However, it’s likely still going to be a weakness and the Wizards will lean heavily on a strong starting backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal.

2) Can the Wizards play more consistent defense? For the month of January last season, the Wizards had the sixth best defense in the NBA allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions, and not so coincidentally they went 12-4 that month. After the All-Star break last season, the Wizards were the fourth worst defense in the NBA, allowing 110.7 points per 100 possessions (worse than the Kings without DeMarcus Cousins, worse than the tanking Suns, and worse than the Knicks). They were just above .500 in that stretch.

The Wizards are capable of good defense, but they don’t bring it night in and night out. This is a team that is by far at its most dangerous when Wall is leading them in transition, but for the best running teams (including the current Warriors) that starts with stops and steals on the defensive end. If Washington gets more stops, Wall gets out in transition more often, and the Wizards are just better.

With most of the same players back in the same system, an improved defense will be more about focus and effort than some dramatic change. Coach Scott Brooks has to get through to them and get them focused on that end.

3) Is Kelly Oubre ready to step up? Earlier in this preview we talked about how the Wizards are banking on internal development to push them past the 50-win mark and deeper into the playoffs. The biggest question here is Kelly Oubre. There was a time when some around the Wizards thought he could develop into a guy who would push Otto Porter and give them more wing options, but last season Oubre played 20 minutes a night scoring 6.3 points and pulling down 3.3 rebounds a contest. He shot 28.7 percent from three and had a single digit PER of 9.1. His defense gives him some value (he can defend pretty well on the wing), but last season he was still a slightly below average NBA player.

This is his third year and the Wizards are counting on him to take a big step forward. Do it, and he can start to push for a contract extension next summer, but he’s got a lot to prove first. If he’s going to be a quality 3&D guy in the NBA, he has to shoot better than the 28.7 percent he did from deep last season. His defense can get him on the court, but he needs to score more consistently to stay there. In theory, and improved Oubre could play in a small lineup with Porter and Morris, and that would have potential. But Oubre has to be more of an offensive threat for any of that to work.

It’s a tight market recently, and teams are not paying on potential the same way they used to. Oubre needs to show he’s ready for the next step, then the rest of it will fall in line for him.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

NBA: Celtics should have had another second on final play in Game 6

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Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know.

But the NBA’s official Last Two Minute Report on the officiating from Game 6 confirmed what a lot of us saw — a full second ran off the clock before the final play and it was not noticed by the referees.

After John Wall‘s deep three that proved to be the game winner, the Celtics called a timeout to advance the ball and allow Brad Stevens to draw up a sideline out-of-bounds play. Boston’s Jae Crowder ran along the baseline toward inbounder Al Horford and got a screen from Kelly Olynyk, which the Wizards switched, leaving Kelly Oubre on Olynyk, a size and strength mismatch in Boston’s favor. Horford tried to inbound the ball deep to Olynyk and Oubre wisely fouled him. It was the Wizards foul to give (it did not put Boston in the penalty).

But watch the video of that play — the official calls the foul with 2.7 seconds left, but the clock runs another full second before it stops.

Here is what the NBA’s report said.

The foul is whistled with approximately 2.7 seconds on the clock, but the clock runs to 1.7 seconds before stopping. The clock should have been stopped earlier automatically on the whistle or by the neutral clock operator. Instant replay is not permitted in this situation.

Replay may not be allowed, but usually the referees notice, confer, and put some time back on the clock. They missed it on this play.

But before Boston fans try to say they were screwed by the officials, the report calls out one other missed call that went in the Celtics favor and led to a bucket.

With 41.2 seconds left and the score tied at 87-87, Boston runs a sidelines out-of-bounds play that has Avery Bradley starting on the left block area, run up and around a screen by Horford at the right elbow, then into the right corner where he got a pass and drained a long two. Except look at the screen by Horford on Bradley Beal — it was not legal. From the report:

Horford (BOS) establishes a wide screening position and extends his arms into Beal (WAS), delivering the contact.

So it all balances out in the end.

Game 7 between these teams is Monday night.

Kelly Oubre is ready to be booed in Boston

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There are a lot of questions heading into Game 5 between the Wizards and Celtics Wednesday night, ones that could determine the fate of this series. Can Isaiah Thomas get back on track at home and lift his team up? Can the Wizards bench stop blowing leads? Can the Wizards slow the Celtics from three (Boston is +57)? Can the Celtics slow the Wizards in the paint (Washington is +56)?

We don’t know the answers to any of that.

We do know one thing for sure about Game 5 — Kelly Oubre is going to get booed. Mercilessly.

He was suspended for Game 4 after running from halfcourt to shove Kelly Olynyk to the ground after a hard screen by the Celtics big man, one of several Oubre thought was aimed above the neck. He’s back for Game 5 in Boston and we all know what’s coming. He told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post he was ready for it.

“I’m happy to be in the situation, honestly. I’m 21 years old and people are going to be — how many people fit in here?” Oubre inquired as he looked around the arena where green shirts covered 18,624 seats.

“A lot of people are going to be booing me tonight,” Oubre said, beaming. “They know who I am, so it’s definitely a blessing so we got to go out here and get this big win tonight.”

Oubre played his college ball at Kansas, and he said playing there taught him about being booed by opposing fans, via J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com.

“Kansas State is the worst,” said Oubre, who went to the University of Kansas before being drafted in the first round in 2015. “They got a whole student section that hates your guys. They want you dead.”

Oubre matters because he’s part of that Wizards bench that has been inconsistent this series, although most of that has been an issue in the backcourt. Brandon Jennings has been outplayed by the Celtics. That said, Oubre will draw some time on Isaiah Thomas as a defender — and that will mean some Olynyk picks in his path.

These teams dislike each other like few in the playoffs, which has made this series — and will make Game 5 — all the more fun.