Wizards’ Westbrook could average a triple-double this season

On Wednesday, Russell Westbrook made his Wizards’ debut on the road against the 76ers, and while he had a triple-double(21 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds), Washington(0-1) would fall to the 76ers(1-0) 113-107.

The 32-year-old Westbrook, who came over to Washington from Houston in the trade that sent John Wall to the Rockets earlier this month, was disappointed in himself after the game.

“Not good enough. Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed in myself,” Westbrook said. “I had some mishaps and plays where I could have been better and had a better game to try to win. I don’t like moral victories at any point in my career. I always like to go out and try to win the game. I’ve gotta be better, and I’ll be better next game.”

Last season, moral victories were acceptable for the Wizards, who won only 25 games a year ago. However, this year is a different story. With Westbrook, Bradley Beal, and Davis Bertans on the court, Washington is looking to make the playoffs, and like Westbrook, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is not interested in moral victories.

“The results matter. We’re not happy. There’s no moral victories,” Brooks said. “Last year, I thought we had just a different mindset. Not good or bad, we were just in a different place. This year, there are no moral victories. We have to come out and keep competing.”

Washington played well against the 76ers and had a legitimate chance to win the game, but they could not make the plays and get the stops down the stretch to get the victory.

In a loss, it’s clear that this team is going to put up points. Beal, who led the way with 31 points against Philadelphia, averaged 30.5 ppg last season. Also, Bertans scored 14 points, including 4-6 from downtown. He would only play 20 minutes, which was due to him being on a minutes restriction. So, scoring points won’t be an issue for Washington, especially when the team starts to gel.

On another note, we might be seeing a lot of triple-doubles out of Westbrook this season. The 12-year veteran is second in NBA history in triple-doubles(147). According to Elias Sports Bureau, Westbrook is the 6th player in NBA history with a triple-double in his team debut. With all the scoring they have on this team, Washington could offer Westbrook an opportunity for many assists. Furthermore, without a big-time rebounder on this roster(Thomas Bryant led the team with 7.2 RPG last season), Westbrook will get his rebounds, and he’s most definitely going to score. Based on this roster, if Westbrook remains healthy, he might mess around and average a triple-double this season for the fourth time in his career.

Wizards’ Bertans believes the team will be defined by how well they defend this season

For the Washington Wizards, last season’s struggles came down to the team’s inability to defend. Washington allowed 119.1 points per game, which was 29th in the NBA. In addition, the team was 29th in opponents’ field goal percentage(48.8). 

It isn’t easy to win in the NBA if you’re not defending, and Washington has to improve on that end of the court if they want to have success this season. 

Conversely, on the offensive side of the court, Washington was one of the top-scoring teams in the league. In the 2019-20 season, the Wizards averaged 114.7 points a contest, which was 7th in the NBA. 

Now, Washington will have more firepower with the addition of nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook. You add that to what you got out of Bradley Beal last season, who was second in the NBA in points per game(30.5). Plus, they have arguably their best shooter back in Davis Bertans, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason, and was the team’s second-leading scorer last season(15.4 ppg).

With Westbrook and Beal, Bertans expects to get easier looks, and he expects the team to be tough to stop this season.

“I think it’s just going to be easier for everybody in a sense,” Bertans said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of defensive attention toward Brad(Beal), and now having Russ(Westbrook), too. We got, I think, more shooters. Everybody improved in the summer. You can see that Rui(Hachimura) is making threes. Deni(Avidja) is a pretty good shooter, so I think, in that case, it’s going to be a lot easier for Brad and Russ to attack the rim, and the defense has to pay more attention to them, and everybody else going to be open around the perimeter. So, I think the team is built, offensively, pretty great.”

However, according to Bertans, Washington has to play better defense if they want to have a productive season.

“It’s going to be more on what we going to do on the defensive end,” Bertans said. “How we’re going to talk on defense. How hard we’re going to play on defense. That’s going to be the main differential on whether we’re going to win games or lose games.”

Defense wins championships, and Washington has to be committed to defending this season if they want to make the playoffs and contend in the Eastern Conference, which means the back end of the defense has to be better, especially C Thomas Bryant, who will be called on to anchor the defense. Adding a defensive center in Robin Lopez should help, but time will tell if it will be enough for Washington to improve on the defensive end next season.

Instant analysis: Wizards trade John Wall, first-round pick to Houston for Russell Westbrook(VIDEO)

In a move that has been rumored for weeks, the Washington Wizards have reportedly traded six-time All-Star John Wall and 2023 protected first-round pick to the Rockets for former league MVP Russell Westbrook, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Both Wall and Westbrook reportedly wanted to be traded, and if that’s true, they both got their wish. Both players have three years left on their contracts at $132 million. The 30-year-old Wall missed all of last season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Wall will now be teamed with James Harden in Houston, which should be interesting because there were reports that Harden wanted out of Houston. However, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Houston hopes to be competitive with him this season and does not envision a scenario where Harden would be traded before the opener.

For the 32-year-old Westbrook, this is an opportunity to reunite with his former coach in OKC, Scott Brooks, and a chance for Westbrook and Bradley Beal to lead the Wizards back to the playoffs, which should happen for Washington. 

Both players probably needed a change of scenery, and both players will have a lot to prove. Is Russell Westbrook, who averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game last season, a declining asset? For Wall, can he become the player that he used to be before the injuries? 

Time will tell.

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Wizards’ Avdija on team’s roster: ‘I think it’s very talented’

With the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards selected Israel’s Deni Avdija, the first Israeli born player to be drafted in the lottery. The 19-year-old forward has been a professional in Israel since the age of 16, so while he young, he does have some experience.

While in Israel, the 6-9 Avdija played small forward, but he has shown the ability to handle the ball, and some believe he could be a point forward at the NBA level. And when it’s all said, Avdija hopes to work hard and maximize his talents. 

When asked what his goals are in the NBA, Avdija said the following.

“First of all, to bring my work ethic from back here. Just keep improving every day, be a better player every day, help the team as much as I can. At the end of my career to look at it and say I was the best Deni Avdija I could be, and I don’t regret anything. It’s a great journey ahead of me, and I’m super excited.”

Avdija’s father, Zufer, played professionally in Serbia and Israel in the 1980s, and according to Avdija, he has learned a lot from his father.

“It was great. It was great to have another competitive spirit in the house,” Avdija said. “He was a great player himself, so he had a lot of good things to teach me and teach me how to act on the court, some small tricks maybe in my game that I use that he used, and just how to be a professional, how to work hard, how to have good work ethic, and just always be competitive and just play to win. That was big for me.”

Next season, the Wizards are expected to have their dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal back together, which will help immensely. According to Avdija, the Wizards have a talented team.

“I think it’s very talented,” Avdija said. “I’m ready to meet everybody and get straight to work. Hopefully, we can grind and have a good season. I’m just going to bring the best for the team, and hopefully, we can win as many games as we can.”

Don’t expect Avdija to come into the NBA and contribute right away. He’s a young player, so it will take time for him to develop. In the end, this pick was not about today; it’s about tomorrow. 

 

Wizards’ Brooks on Brown against Bucks: ‘He just didn’t have a good feel for the game tonight’

Troy Brown Jr. got his chance on Tuesday night to start at point guard for the Washington Wizards against the Milwaukee Bucks, and just like a lot things for the Wizards in Orlando, it was a learning experience.

The 21-year-old Brown, who played point guard in high school, struggled at that position against Milwaukee, and the Wizards’ offense did not have much of a flow. Brown finished the game 3-15 from the field with nine points, six rebounds, and three assists in 30 minutes. The second-year player has played well in the bubble, but Tuesday night’s performance, which ended with the Bucks winning 126-113, was a very forgettable night for Brown.

With the loss, the Wizards are 0-7 in Orlando. The team has one more chance to get a victory when they battle the Celtics on Thursday.

After the game, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks assessed Brown’s performance against Milwaukee.

“He got a learning experience,  and sometimes it happens that way,” Brooks said. “He didn’t play well; we didn’t have a good start. I’m not throwing it all on him. We just didn’t have any rhythm. We have some decisions to make on some of the things that we do. 

“I’m not going to judge Troy off of one game. He didn’t have a good shooting game. He just didn’t have a good feel for the game tonight for some reason. I know being a bad, former point guard, there’s so many things; there’s so many intangibles, and there’s so many things that you’ve done your entire life, so the instincts just come out. Troy does not have that right now at that position.”

Brown has a lot to learn in the NBA. Rarely do players in the league get the opportunity these young Wizards’ players have in Orlando, and no matter their record, this learning experience will be beneficial for Brown and the Wizards moving forward. 

Wizards’ Brooks: ‘We haven’t won a game, but we’re still going to teach’

In every game in Orlando, the Washington Wizards have played hard, but on Sunday, at times, the energy was not there against Oklahoma City. Behind Darius Bazley’s 23 points and Danilo Gallinari’s 20, OKC would beat Washington 121-103. Washington(24-46) is now 0-6 in Orlando.

Oklahoma City(43-26) was without Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel on Sunday, but it didn’t matter. The Thunder were up by nine after one and pushed the lead to 16 at halftime. Washington was never in this contest and trailed by as much as 22 points. For the Wizards, Jerome Robinson led the way with 19 points off the bench. 

“The name of the game is to win,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after the game “We are all in it to win. We haven’t won a game, but we’re still going to teach, and we’re still going grow, and we’re still going work on the correct habits. That’s what we’re all here to do..

“I thought our guys competed. It’s about working on the right habits; we been doing that. I would like to see all of us get rewarded in the next two games.”

Washington has two games left against Milwaukee and Boston. Both of those teams have secured their playoff spots. Boston is locked in the third seed, and the Bucks have clinched the number one seed in the East. Therefore, if you see Milwaukee and Boston’s starters, it might not be for long, so hopefully, for Washington, they can get one or both of the final two games.

Notes:

Oklahoma City matched a season-high with 18 three-pointers made against Washington on Sunday.

-Isaac Bonga played well for the Wizards on Sunday. He was active and finished the game with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

-Wizards G Shabazz Napier missed Sunday’s game against the Thunder with a high ankle sprain.

-Washington gets back at it on Tuesday against the Bucks.

 

 

 

 

Wizards’ Brooks is happy with his team’s progress in Orlando

The Washington Wizards had their moments on Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans and led the game at halftime, but a bad third quarter buried them. In that quarter, they were outscored 37-25 by New Orleans. Ultimately, behind Jrue Holiday’s game-high 28 points, the Pelicans would cruise to a 118-107 victory over Washington. 

The Wizards(24-45) are 0-5 in Orlando, and with the loss, Washington is officially eliminated from the playoffs. There were some bright spots for Washington against New Orleans. Rui Hachimura led the way with 23 points. Thomas Bryant added 22 points, and Troy Brown Jr. had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists. 

While Washington will not make the playoffs, head coach Scott Brooks is happy with the team’s growth.

“Coming down here, that was our goal, get involved in the play-in game,” Brooks said after the loss to the Pelicans. “We didn’t reach that, but we also had other goals to develop, and keep getting better, and keep playing the brand of basketball that we want to play. A lot of guys are getting great experience. I couldn’t ask for better effort over the last five or six weeks. We still got a week to go—a lot of good things. We’re not winning any games, nobody is happy with that, but I’m happy with the progress..

“Our job is to keep evaluating and figure out before next season starts who’s going to be with us and who’s not.”

No one wants to lose, but Bryant understands Washington is still growing and looking toward to the future.

“It is difficult because everybody wants to win,” Bryant said. “I know everybody in our locker room; coaches included, players included want to win every time you step out on that floor, but sometimes you gotta look at the bigger picture on how things are going to work out.”

Development is the name of the game for the Wizards, and we have seen that from the young players on this team. Bryant, Brown, Jerome Robinson, and Hachimura have played well at times in Orlando, which is good news for a team expected to have two All-Star caliber players in John Wall and Bradley Beal next season.

Not many expected Washington to do much in Orlando without Beal and Davis Bertans, and in reality, 0-5 is not surprising when it comes to this team. On paper, it appeared Washington and the Brooklyn Nets were the two least talented teams in the bubble, and after five games, Brooklyn is 3-2, and Washington is the only winless team. The Wizards have three games left, and that’s three games to get better, and hopefully, find a way to get a victory.

Notes:

-Wizards’ Ish Smith finished the game with 18 points, 10 assists, and six rbounds against the Pelicans.

-Pelicans’ rookie phenom Zion Williamson, who played on Thursday against the Kings, missed Friday’s game against the Wizards due to rest.

-Washington will battle the OKC Thunder on Sunday.

Wizards’ Brooks on Bryant: ‘It was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen him play’

At the NBA level, they’re no moral victories, but when you’re the Washington Wizards, and you’re without three of your best players, well, maybe they’re moral victories.

On Wednesday, the Wizards(24-44) fought and played hard against the Philadelphia 76ers(41-27), but it was not enough as they would lose 107-98. Philly’s Joel Embiid scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and for the Wizards, Thomas Bryant had another strong performance as he had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Bryant not only played well on the offensive end, but he was stellar on defense. The third-year player had a career-high four blocks against Philadelphia. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was happy with Bryant’s performance, especially what he saw on defense.

“It was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen him play,” Brooks said about Bryant after the game. “I think he needs to continue to focus on that end. We talked to him about it; we showed film on it, and he’s steps up. He’s getting better. He’s a young player that’s developing. Sometimes we want it to be right now, but it takes time.”

According to Bryant, he has been working hard to get better on the defensive end. 

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Bryant said about his defense. “Keep improving  every day. That’s my main thing. Keep improving, especially on the defensive end. Guarding multiple positions, taking the challenge head-on.”

In the last three games, Bryant is averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds. The 23-year-old Bryant is a solid offensive player, but he must improve on the defensive end if he wants to take that next step. 

In the end, what happened on Wednesday is a step in the right direction for Bryant. 

Notes:

76ers’ Ben Simmons left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the MRI on Simmons’ left knee came back clean, and he’s expected to be day-to-day.

-Rui Hachimura continues to struggle with his shot. Hachimura, who scored 8 points against Philadelphia, was 2-11 from the field, and in the last three games, Hachimura has shot 8-28(28%) from the field.

-After scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter against Indiana, Jerome Robinson had another strong game on Wednesday. Robinson scored 19 points, including 2-4 from downtown.

-Washington returns to action on Friday against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

 

Wizards’ Hachimura on loss to Nets: ‘We needed this game badly’

Coming into the NBA bubble in Orlando, the Washington Wizards(24-42) had an outside shot of making the playoffs, but after losing to the Brooklyn Nets(31-35) 118-110 on Sunday, it’s going to be an uphill climb for the Wizards.

Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert led the way with 34 points, Joe Harris added 27 points, and Jarrett Allen added 22 points and 15 rebounds. Washington’s Thomas Bryant finished with a season and team-high 30 points and 13 rebounds, including a career-high four three-pointers.

This was a must-win game for the Wizards, and at this point, Washington is seven games behind the Nets for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. With six games left, the Wizards must get within four games of the eighth-seed to force a play-in game.

“We needed this game badly,”  Rui Hachimura said after the game. “And all of us are frustrated with the loss, but we have another game coming up tomorrow. So, we just have to switch gears.”

Hachumura struggled on Sunday and finished with 9 points. Brooklyn swarmed the rookie any time he touched the ball. Hachimura finished the game with only six field goal attempts.

“They made life difficult for me,” Hachumura said. “At times, they swarmed me with double-teams, triple-teams. I feel like there weren’t many opportunities for me to shoot the ball today.”

The first two seeding games against the Suns and Nets were very winnable games for Washington. The next two games will be tough, as they have Indiana on Monday and Philadelphia on Wednesday. After another tough loss, it should be interesting to see what Wizards team shows up on Monday. Don’t be surprised if this team has a big-time effort against the Pacers.

Notes:

Troy Brown Jr. nearly had a triple-double on Sunday. Brown finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Thomas Bryant registered season highs in points (30), rebounds (13) and made field goals (12) Sunday against Brooklyn. Bryant’s 30 points were one shy of tying a career-high. Bryant made a career-high four 3-pointers, all of which came in the first half.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” Bryant said after the game. “My teammates had the confidence in me to knock down those shots. They kept telling me to take them, and I took them.”

 

Wizards’ Hachimura: ‘Our defense was kind of weak’

The new-look Washington Wizards played their first seeding game on Friday, and unfortunately for them, a lot of things were the same. Washington(24-41) was able to score, but they had a hard time stopping the Phoenix Suns(27-39), and they would fall 125-112.

Phoenix was led by Devin Booker’s 27 points and Deandre Ayton, who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Phoenix was able to score with ease against Washington’s defense and scored 38 points in the first quarter and 36 points in the fourth quarter. According to Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, the Wizards played nervous in that first quarter.

“That first quarter we gave up backdoors, offensive rebounds, blow byes,” Brooks said after the game. “It looked like we were a little nervous. It surprises me. We have not played that way yet. I thought we regrouped and played much better in that second half.”

Rui Hachimura added: “Our defense was kind of weak. We gave them easy baskets.”

Without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, Washington has little margin for error. They need everybody to do their part if they want to be successful, and that includes Hachimura, who led the team with 21 points but was out of rhythm after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter. Jerome Robinson added 20 points off the bench for Washington, including 4-6 from downtown. 

Washington is a very young team, so what we saw against the Suns should not be surprising. However, they have to do a better job of defending.

Fortunately for the Wizards, they get right back at it on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets(lost to Magic on Friday), which is the most winnable game on their schedule and the team they’re chasing for the playoffs. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they have to beat the eighth-seeded Nets. Currently, Brooklyn has a six-game lead on the Wizards, and Washington must trail the eighth-seeded team by four games or less to force a play-in game. 

Friday’s contest was a disappointment for Washington, but they still have time to make it right, and it starts with Brooklyn on Sunday.