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With NBA’s worst defense, among other issues, Wizards start 1-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Scott Brooks knows he needs to try something to change the way things are going for his Washington Wizards. The problems are so plentiful, the coach just is not quite sure what to do.

All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal lead the Wizards into their game against the visiting New York Knicks on Sunday with a 1-7 record, including 0-3 at home, and five consecutive losses overall.

“Patience is running low from everybody,” Beal said. “We’ve got to do it more collectively. The only way were going to get out of this slump is we’ve got to do it together.”

Their defense already was the worst in the NBA, giving up 122.4 points per game, before allowing even more than that in a 134-111 setback against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

“It just looks like nobody’s on the same page. I mean, like, if one person gets beat or somebody gives up a wide-open shot, nobody is there to help that person or pick that person up. Got to all be on one string,” Wall said. “You can’t teach effort. You can’t teach heart. You’ve got to go out there and compete. That’s just something you’ve got to be born with.”

The transition defense, in particular, is absent.

Washington’s rebounding isn’t much better.

Its second unit – which Brooks often deploys without a starter to lead the way – is slumping and turned a 30-all contest against OKC into a 79-50 blowout by halftime. Turnovers have become a real issue, with Beal and Wall combining for 12 on Friday.

So how will Brooks fix all of that?

“Everything’s open. We have to figure out ways to play better in all the 48 minutes that we’re on the floor, whether it’s going with a smaller rotation or it’s playing other guys. I have to figure it out,” he said. “We can’t just keep watching the same thing over and over and over and expect things are going to change.”

Against the Thunder, the Wizards led by 10 points in the first quarter, but were run off the court in the second, outscored by 24 in that period alone.

“That’s where they killed us,” Wall said. “When we’re not making shots, we don’t defend at a high level.”

The Wizards heard boos from spectators as the Thunder pulled away and piled on.

“We know the fans are getting impatient with it. Ted is probably impatient with it,” Beal said, referring to team owner Ted Leonsis. “So we’ve just got to do it.”

Otherwise, this season is on the verge of spiraling out of control.

Last season, when Wall sat out 41 games because of a bad knee, Washington was the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed and lost in the first round of the playoffs to No. 1 seed Toronto. There were questions about chemistry, defense and rebounding.

Team architect Ernie Grunfeld hoped to help those last two areas by adding center Dwight Howard. But Howard wasn’t able to play in a Wizards uniform until Friday after dealing with a sore backside. And while his debut looked promising at the outset – 13 of his 20 points came in the first quarter – the result was the same for the team.

“Dwight,” Brooks noted, “was a bright spot.”

Those have been few and far between lately for the Wizards during what their coach called “a tough patch.”

That might be underselling it.

No one in the NBA has a worse record.

“We can’t keep looking at the negatives, negatives, negatives,” Beal said, “because it’s just going to continue to brainwash us and kill us mentally.”

 

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.