Markieff Morris

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Marcin Gortat sees writing on the wall about trade from Wizards

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The Wizards’ with the highest salaries for next season – if they re-sign Otto Porter, as they’ve repeatedly said they will – are slated to be:

That’s a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward and three centers.

Even Washington’s starting center, Gortat, can see where the bloat is.

Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

Gortat, via J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

I’m the oldest guy on the team,” Gortat said during exit interviews. “I know how the business works. I’m the oldest guy on the team. They signed Ian also. He’s younger than me and he got a longer contract. I just know how the business works so I’m prepared for everything just in case. We’re going to talk. I’m going to talk to Ernie (Grunfeld). I’m going to talk to managment and we’re going to figure it out.”

Keeping Porter, who could command a max salary in restricted free agency, would push the Wizards near the luxury-tax line. Dumping the 33-year-old Gortat this summer to dodge the tax might have been the intended plan.

Gortat has two years and more than $26 million left on his contract, and he’s likely to decline. This could be the right time to sell.

But his replacement would be Mahinmi, who’s 30 and spent most of the year injured. He doesn’t look ready to assume a major role on a team knocking on the door of the conference finals.

Potential trade partners also understand Gortat’s aging curve. There also isn’t much demand for centers in a league where size has been deemphasized and most teams already have at least one starting-caliber center.

Gortat is still Washington’s best player at the position. Keeping him might not be ideal, but unless Mahinmi looks much more physically capable by next fall, it might be the Wizards’ best option, though they’d be forced to duck the tax with other moves.

Too much Kelly Olynyk, Celtics depth for Wizards in Game 7, Boston wins 115-105

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It became a game about depth.

Washington led in the third quarter when coach Scott Brooks had to turn to his bench. Jason Smith was -10 in just over three minutes, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a run that extended to an 18-2 run into the start of the fourth and gave then a comfortable lead. John Wall missed his last nine shots and was scoreless in the fourth, in large part because his legs got tired, Brooks couldn’t trust Brandon Jennings again (after a horrible first half) and tried to ride his backcourt the entire second half.

Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk came in and dropped 26 off the bench, 14 of those in the fourth quarter, and changed the game.

“They was paying a lot of attention to Isaiah (Thomas), teams are gonna do that, and he got rid of the ball quickly and put us in a position to make plays in 4-on-3 basketball,” Olynyk said after the game.

Boston got 29 points and 12 assists from Isaiah Thomas and 48 from its bench — including reserves Olynyk and Marcus Smart making plays down the stretch — and that was enough beat the Wizards 115-105 in Game 7.

Boston advances and will host Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday.

Washington’s starting five — Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat — were +9 in 32 minutes, with a true shooting percentage of 62.3.

But as it has been the case since the start of the year, the Wizards bench could not be trusted. Any lineup with at least one bench player on the court combined to be -19 in 16 minutes. No player from the Wizards bench scored after 6:56 of the 2nd quarter.

Boston, on the other hand, had a bench that won them the game.

“I think the bench was a big factor in Game 5 (a Boston win at home) and Game 7 certainly was as well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Throughout the series, the home team’s bench seemed to play really well. I thought our guys played really well. Obviously, Kelly gave us that enormous lift of scoring in the fourth quarter, but really in the first half as well, he had 12 at halftime on 5-of-7, and I thought Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were really good.”

The game certainly was dramatic, and it had the Celtics fans in full throat most of the game. The first quarter was a yo-yo affair, the Celtics got up 8, and then the Wizards came back to tie it, the Celtics went back up by 7, and the Wizards tied it again. It ended with the Celtics up four. The second quarter stayed closer throughout. The Wizards bench defensive rotations were sad, which helped Olynyk get clean looks. On the other side Otto Porter, who had been scoreless in Game 6, had  12 points and 7 boards in the first half (he finished with 20 and 9).

Boston’s biggest problem was being 3-of-12 from three in first half, and that allowed the Wizards to have a 55-53 lead at the half.

Wizards started second half just hunting Thomas, something they didn’t do enough in this series. Whoever he is guarding, the Wizards tried to post him up. Washington’s starters played well and the Wizards led much of the third, but late in the third the bench came in — Smith blew a defensive coverage within seconds of entering the game — and Boston closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to lead 85-79 after three. Boston hit four of its last six from three, and that helped change the dynamic.

That run extended to 18-2 over four minutes across the quarters for the Celtics. Washington went back to their starters around the 10-minute mark, and quickly it was a 7-0 Wizards run.

But the Wizards could never fully close the gap (they did get it to four). Olynyk and Thomas made plays for Boston, while Beal and Wall’s legs turned to jelly.

It was another step forward for a young and improving Celtics team. They should savor it.

For a day, then the biggest test comes to town.

 

 

Suns didn’t draft Kawhi Leonard, in part, because he sweated too much during interview

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A snapshot of the 2011 NBA draft:

The Morrii have had nice careers, but why did Phoenix pass on Leonard, who has become one of the NBA’s best players?

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic (hat tip: Scott Howard):

But with a front office conducting its first draft in Phoenix, then-General Manager Lance Blanks’ staff did not have Leonard in the discussion. Part of the Suns’ knock on Leonard, beyond his perimeter shot, was how nervously he acted in a draft combine interview, when he sweated through his suit.

That’s from a 2015 article, but the humor and lesson are lasting.

Teams sometimes drive themselves crazy in the pre-draft process by overanalyzing players. Interviews are important, but like every factor, nobody should overreact to them.

The Spurs didn’t see a sweaty wreck. They saw a good defender with potential to develop offensively and the diligence to work at his craft. And they were very right.

Markieff Morris on Wizards’ Game 2: “We’re not playing tough enough”

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That the Washington Wizards had a shot to win Game 2 in Boston at the end of regulation was due to three key things. First, Isaiah Thomas played a game for the ages. Second, John Wall was brilliant for three quarters, until he ran out of gas (they asked him to guard Isaiah Thomas on one end and carry the offense on the other).

Third was Markieff Morris, who felt like the emotional leader of the team trying to rally the troops.

Playing on a severely sprained ankle, Morris had 16 points, six rebounds, one blocked shot, and one toss of Al Horford into the front row. On a night a lot of the Wizards players seemed dazed and confused, Morris brought it. Hard. And after the game, he was frustrated more guys didn’t bring that same passion, as he told J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com.

“We’re not playing tough enough. We had the advantage late in the game and all we had to do is play tough. We didn’t have to make shots. We didn’t have to get stops. All we had to do is play tough,” said Morris… “We let them get offensive rebounds late in the game. Guys just walking to the basket and we’re worrying about our own personal (expletive). It’s about the team. It’s about winning. We didn’t care about that too much tonight. We let them back in the game and got to regroup and get the next one.”

He’s right. Toughness can be rephrased as passion or commitment or a host of other things, but whatever you want to call it there wasn’t enough of it from Washington Tuesday night.

Washington is down 2-0 to Boston, but the Wizards are not out of this. They are heading home, where maybe they get more out of Bradley Beal and the bench, both of which were awful Tuesday. The Wizards also need to try to exploit Thomas on defense more, they only do it for stretches. Washington could win both games at home and even this series.

Washington could win both games at home and even this series. They just need to play more like Morris to do it.

Isaiah Thomas puts on a show, scores 53 in Celtics’ Game 2 OT win over Wizards

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The Boston Celtics now lead the Washington Wizards, 2-0. Boston took a series lead on Tuesday night after beating Washington, 129-119, in OT in Game 2.

Isaiah Thomas was absolutely spectacular, scoring 53 points to go along with four assists, four rebounds, three steals, and just two turnovers. Al Horford added 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists.

For the Wizards, it was tough sledding, especially late. John Wall was incredible through three quarters, somehow scoring a quiet 40 points to go with 13 assists, three blocks, three steals, and three rebounds.

The first half started rough, with neither team taking command of the game enough to warrant the lead. An offensive burst halfway through the second quarter wasn’t enough to gloss over the first half ugliness, particularly as players began to take hits.

This has been a rough series already. Markieff Morris turned his ankle so badly in Game 1 that he thought he had broken it. Isaiah Thomas lost a dang tooth. This trend continued in Game 2.

The first half was riddled with bruising play. Morris threw Al Horford to the ground — likely as retaliation for his ankle injury, in which Horford did not allow Morris to land on a jumper — in the first two minutes.

Wall landed awkwardly on his wrist two plays in a row, Avery Bradley left the first half a minute early to deal with his right hip, and Otto Porter Jr. got whacked in the face so hard by Thomas that he had to run to the locker room to stop blood gushing out onto the court.

The second half wasn’t much calmer as Washington jumped out to a lead in the third quarter behind stellar play from Wall.

Boston still couldn’t find their way on top until midway through the fourth quarter. Stellar play and big 3-point shots from Thomas pushed the Celtics over the Wizards as Washington failed to put together anything of substance on offense.

That all boiled down to an intense final few minutes. Thomas was incredible late, at one point giving Morris an ankle-breaking crossover to pull within two points with 30 seconds left. The Celtics PG drew two quick fouls in the final 20 seconds on Marcin Gortat, putting him at the line to tie the game at 114.

Washington got a final possession with 14 seconds left, but a Wall isolation followed by a Bradley Beal airball from 12 feet pushed the game to OT.

In extra time, it was all Thomas for Boston. The Celtics guard took over, scoring 29 points in the fourth quarter and OT. At one point with 1:07 left Thomas hit a jumper from the free-throw line that had him falling over. Thomas was fouled, and converted on an and-1 that would end up being the distance Boston needed to push past the Wizards.

Washington looked absolutely gassed in OT, with both Wall and Beal looking like they were unable to get enough lift to even get a solid jumper up.

Game 3 is in Washington on Thursday.