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.

Listen below:

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. 

 

 

Yes, Washington can make the playoffs!

The scrimmages have come to an end, and now it’s time for the real thing. The seeding games begin on Thursday in the NBA. For the Washington Wizards(24-40), things get underway on Friday when they play the Phoenix Suns. As they enter the final eight games of the regular season, Washington hopes to make up some ground on the eighth-seeded Magic and seventh-seeded Nets. The goal is for the Wizards to get within four games of the Magic or Nets to force a play-in game. Currently, Washington is five and a half games behind the Magic and six games behind the Nets.

Obviously, without their two top scorers, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, making the playoffs will be an arduous task for Washington. As we predict the final eight games for the Wizards, know, we are all guessing at this point because no one knows what’s going to happen in the bubble.

So, how will the Wizards do in Orlando? Let’s take a look.

Suns-Wizards

Washington beat the Suns on the road 140-132 back in November behind Bradley Beal’s 35 points. However, as we all know, Beal won’t be walking through those doors in Orlando. In that contest, Thomas Bryant scored 23 points, and Ish Smith poured in 21 points off the bench, and these two will play a bigger role without Beal and Bertans. Obviously, shutting down Devin Booker won’t be easy, and on paper, the Suns have more talent, and like Washington, is fighting to make the playoffs, which makes this game a tough one to call. But, one thing about the Wizards is they play hard and are scrappy. Expect another high scoring affair. However, the Wizards will find a way to get it done.

The Wizards start 1-0 in the bubble.

Wizards-Nets

If the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they can’t afford to lose this one. On paper and in terms of talent, this is a battle of the two worst teams in the bubble. Brooklyn is without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and more. The Nets don’t have much talent on their roster right now, and Washington appears to be the better team. The Wizards are 2-0 against the Nets this season, including a 110-106 victory over Brooklyn at home back in late February. It’s going to be difficult for the Nets to win a game in Orlando. This game against the Wizards is their best opportunity to get a victory, but because the Wizards are the team chasing, expect Washington to be motivated for this one and get the win.  

The Wizards are now 2-0.

Pacers-Wizards

After initially opting out of Orlando, Pacers G Victor Oladipo changed his mind and played reasonably well in the team’s scrimmages. Unfortunately for Indiana, they may not have Domantas Sabonis, who injured his foot in Orlando. These two teams played very early in the season, and Indiana got the victory at home.

While not official, Indiana will probably have its starting backcourt of Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon back together. That backcourt gives the Pacers a clear advantage, and like Washington, the Pacers always play hard. Additionally, Indiana and Philadelphia are tied for the fifth spot in the East. In reality, the Pacers might want to drop to the sixth spot to avoid the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs, something to watch.

Indiana is the better team and should win this game. Expect the Pacers to get the victory.

The Wizards fall to 2-1.

76ers-Wizards

Washington has had some decent success against the 76ers over the past few years, especially at home. Philadelphia has not won in Washington since 2013, and this is considered a home game for the Wizards(not sure how much that helps). However, If Philadelphia is completely healthy, the talent gap between the two teams is enormous. Based on what we have seen in Orlando with Ben Simmons at the four spot, the 76ers could be a formidable team in the bubble.

Washington will have to play one of its best games to win this one, and even if they do, I don’t think it matters. Philly gets this one, and the Wizards fall to 2-2 in the bubble.

Wizards-Pelicans

The Pelicans are an interesting team entering the bubble. This team is a very talented bunch, and after missing some time in Orlando due to a family emergency, rookie Zion Williamson is back. These two teams will matchup for the first time this season. At this point, we are making an educated guess. New Orleans, like the Wizards, are on the outside of the playoffs. If New Orleans wants to make the playoffs, they need to win, which means they can’t lose any winnable games. 

The Pelicans win this one. Washington falls to 2-3 in Orlando.

Wizards-Thunder

Before the season was suspended in March, the Thunder were playing some excellent basketball. Oklahoma City had won eight of their last ten games and was on a three-game winning streak. These two teams met once this season, and Washington beat OKC on the road back in October. In that game, Bryant(21 points) and Hachimura(19 points) had success. Currently, OKC is fifth in the West. They have an outside chance of getting the third spot(2.5 behind Nuggets).

OKC is a good basketball team and will probably have something to play for in this game. Expect the Thunder to get revenge from earlier in the season and defeat Washington. 

The Wizards are now 2-4 with two games to play.

Bucks-Wizards

By the time we get to this point, Milwaukee will probably have nothing to play for, making it meaningless to the Bucks. Milwaukee is six and a half games up on the Raptors for the Eastern Conference’s best record, so it would take an epic collapse for Milwaukee not to be the number one seed. Forget what happened when these two teams met in the regular season(Milwaukee 2-0 against Wiz), Washington will be battling for their playoff lives, and the Bucks will be on cruise control, which means Washington gets the victory and moves to 3-4 in the bubble.

Wizards-Celtics

This game is the season finale for both teams. Before the league suspended the season, these two teams split the season series. Boston is currently the third seed in the East, and barring anything dramatic, will probably stay there. The Celtics are two and a half games up on the fourth-seeded Heat and are three games behind the second-seeded Raptors. Therefore, this could be another situation where the Wizards could face a team that may not need to win. 

Luck will be on the Wizards’ side because this is another game they steal and move to 4-4 in the bubble.  

In our opinion, Washington finishes the season 28-44. Remember, they only need to get within four games of the eighth-seeded team to be eligible for the play-in game. When you look at Brooklyn, who are six games up on Washington, there is no way that team can win more than two games in the bubble.

Therefore, we believe the Nets will drop to the eighth spot in the conference. To make the playoffs, Washington, as the ninth-seeded team, would have to beat Brooklyn twice, while the Nets would only have to beat the Wizards once.

While it won’t be easy to beat any team twice in such a short span, the Wizards will have a great shot to do it against Brooklyn. 

All this could be wishful thinking, but hey, anything can happen. 

Wizards’ Bryant: ‘I feel like we are going to be fine from an offensive standpoint’

Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant is back with the team after he tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. Fortunately for Bryant and the Wizards, he is healthy. 

Bryant, like the rest of his teammates, has a great opportunity in Orlando. No Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans mean guys will have chances to show what they got. 

The first test for this unit will be on Wednesday in a scrimmage against the Denver Nuggets.

“We have so many unselfish guys that make plays that people really haven’t seen make plays before until now,”Bryant said on Sunday. “You’re gonna see those guys make plays; you’re going to see me make plays. Obviously, Rui(Hachimura) making plays more often as well. Guys have more of an open opportunity they have to capitalize on. So, I feel like we’re going to be fine from an offensive standpoint.”

Washington will have to make up 45 points a game without Beal(30.5 ppg) and Bertans(15.4 ppg). Beal had the ball in his hands quite often this season, and not only was he a volume scorer, but he also got other involved, as he averaged 6.1 assists per game.  

How Wizards head coach Scott Brooks manufactures points should be interesting. Bryant(12.1 ppg) is going to get his touches. Rookie Rui Hachimura(13.4 ppg) will be counted on heavily, and many have been impressed by what they have seen out of him in practice. Ish Smith, Shabazz Napier, and Troy Brown Jr. will have an opportunity to have the ball in their hands a lot in Orlando and will have to try to pick up the slack. Washington played fast throughout the season and scored many points(115.6 ppg), and without Beal and Bertans, this team must continue to play fast and try to get as many easy buckets as possible.  

On paper, it appears the Wizards will struggle in Orlando, but even if that happens, the important part is growth from their young players, which will put this team in a good position when Beal and John Wall return next season.

Photo/courtesy: Washington Wizards