Cavs’ Bickerstaff on Garland: ‘He’s the spirit of what we do’

Injuries have been a big issue for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. At times, key players, including Kevin Love and Larry Nance jr. have missed significant time due to injuries, and on Friday night against the Wizards, Cleveland was missing six players, but they did get their leading scorer in Collin Sexton back, who missed the last three games with a concussion. 

These two teams met last Sunday in Washington, and the Wizards defeated the Cavs 119-110.

On Friday night, Cleveland(21-42) competed in the first half against Washington(29-34) and trailed 58-52 at the break, but things went south when their point guard Darius Garland left the game early in the third quarter and did not return after rolling his ankle.  Following Garland’s exit, Cleveland was outscored 33-16 in the quarter, and a six-point lead turned into a 23-point lead at the end of three for Washington, and ultimately, the Wizards would defeat the Cavaliers 122-93 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Wizards have won two straight and 10 of their last 11 games, while the Cavs have dropped five consecutive games.

Bradley Beal led Washington with 19 points, and Russell Westbrook had his NBA record-setting 14th triple-double in the month of April with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Sexton had a game-high 22 points for Cleveland.

Garland is Cleveland’s floor general, and without him, Cleveland’s offense sputtered, which Cavs head coach J.B Bickerstaff discussed after the game.

“Darius is our lead guard,” he said. And it’s disappointing, obviously, for him having the injury, but he’s our leader; he’s the spirit of what we do, and he was playing at an extremely high level. It’s sad; it’s disappointing that the injury happened at this point, or at any point because his confidence was growing. He’s playing so well. The best month of his career by far… Obviously, him not being there hurt us a lot.”

Also, Love, who had 10 rebounds on Friday night, did not take a shot and ended the game with zero points in 22 minutes. According to Bickerstaff, Cleveland has to keep Love involved on the offensive end of the floor.

“I think he’s(Love) an important piece of what we do on that end of the floor,” Bickerstaff said. “So, we gotta find ways to get him involved, find ways to get him shots.”

At this point, the Cavaliers are going through the motions. They are not a healthy team, and they are not playing good basketball right now. However, this season was not about winning, it was about the development of young talent, and Cleveland must continue to do that in the final nine games of the season. 

The Cavaliers continue their five-game homestand on Saturday night against the Miami Heat.

 

Wizards’ Westbrook: ‘Brad(Beal) is a superstar talent’

Nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook is officially a member of the Washington Wizards. This week, the Wizards acquired the 32-year-old Westbrook from the Rockets in exchange for John Wall and a first-round draft pick. 

In Washington, Westbrook will join two-time All-Star Bradley Beal. Last season, the 27-year-old Beal averaged career-highs in points(30.5) and assists(6.1), and was an All-Star snub in 2019-20. 

On Saturday, Westbrook met the D.C. media, and he discussed doing his part to make things easier for Beal. 

“Brad(Beal) is a superstar talent,” Westbrook said. “He proved that and showed that last year with what he had, and he’s only going to get better. My job is to come in and continue to uplift him, try to push him to be better. That’s all I’m here for, man. I’m happy to be his counterpart and try to make the game easier for him.”

On paper, Westbrook and Beal are one of the best backcourts in basketball. The key is these two being able to complement each other on the floor. Beal had the ball in his hands a lot last season, and Westbrook is another player that flourishes with the ball in his hands, so it will be something that both players have to figure out.

Making the playoffs won’t be easy in the Eastern Conference for Washington. Out of the eight teams(Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Pacers, Heat, 76ers, Nets, and Magic) that made the playoffs last season, there’s probably one team you could see possibly not making the playoffs, which is Orlando. Other than that, those other seven teams either have gotten better or pretty much stayed the same. However, every year in the NBA, some teams become surprisingly good and others become surprisingly bad. 

Therefore, Westbrook and Beal must have big seasons and stay healthy. Also, Davis Bertans, an elite shooter, must live up to his big contract(five years, $80 million). In addition, the younger guys like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown Jr. must take that next step as players. No matter what happens, having Westbrook in D.C. will bring new energy to the team and fanbase, which should be fun to see this season.

 

Wizards’ Brooks: ‘We have to see what we have at a lot of different positions’

The effort was there; the energy was there, but unfortunately, the talent is not there for the Washington Wizards. On Monday, Washington cut a 22-point 4th quarter deficit to seven but would lose to the Pacers 111-100. With the loss, the Wizards(24-43) fall to 0-3 in Orlando.

Fresh off a 53-point performance against the 76ers on Saturday, T.J. Warren had another strong game for Indiana. Warren had a game-high 34 points, and 11 rebounds, and Malcolm Brogdon added 20 points. For Washington, Thomas Bryant poured in 20 points and 11 rebounds. After Washington cut Indiana’s lead to two in the third quarter, the Pacers went on a 22-2 run to close the quarter and take complete control of the game. 

At this point, it’s about developing players for the Wizards, and for a good part of the fourth quarter, we saw Troy Brown Jr. at point guard, a position he played in high school. Brown had some nice moments at the point, including a great pass to Thomas Bryant that led to a dunk.

 

 

“For me, it felt natural,” Brown, who finished with 10 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds, said after the game about getting time at point guard. “Today, I had more turnovers than I wanted to, but at the end of the day, I feel comfortable calling the offenses, bringing the ball up, and just initiating the offense and kind of getting us into a flow.”

After the game, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks hinted at the 21-year-old Brown getting more minutes at the point guard position.

“We have to see what we have at a lot of different positions,” Brooks said. “These are great minutes. We’re not just giving minutes to give them. Players gotta earn them, and if you’re not playing well, we’re going to throw other guys in there. That’s why we are here. 

“We are here to get better; we’re here to improve, and there might be another game where Troy(Brown) maybe starts at the point. You never know; we just have to be ready. We want to continue to build him as a multiple position player. If you want to call him a positionless player, that’s even better, but I think he has to be ready to play all spots.”

The next five games should interesting for the Wizards in terms of development. This is now the time to start experimenting. Brown at the point is a good start, and if he flourishes at that spot, maybe he’ll get some backup point guard minutes next season, or at times, Brown could get minutes at the point, which could free up John Wall.

Young players grow by playing, and the Wizards will continue to have that opportunity the rest of the way.

Notes:

-After struggling earlier in the game with his shot, Washington’s Jerome Robinson got hot in the fourth quarter. Robinson scored 16 of his 17 points in the quarter, which got the Wizards back into the game.

-The Wizards are 7.5 games behind the Nets for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington must be within four games of the 8th-seeded team to force a play-in game. 

-Rui Hachimura did not have a big scoring game( 9 points) on Monday, but he did have seven rebounds and a career-high six assists, and his coach was happy with his performance

Brooks on Hachimura:

“I thought he had a great game. He rebounded, he passed.”

-Washington returns to action on Wednesday against Philadelphia.

Brooks on Bonga: ‘His effort, his energy, his work ethic is outstanding’

The Washington Wizards have a roster full of youth, which in many ways, is exciting. The four players Washington will rely heavily on in Orlando are 22 years old and under. The Wizards are hoping Rui Hachimura(22), Thomas Bryant(22), Troy Brown Jr.(20), and Isaac Bonga(20) will all get better during their time Orlando. 

That excitement was on full display on Saturday night in the team’s second scrimmage game against the Clippers. Washington was led by Bonga, who was very active. The German native scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 28 minutes, but it was not enough as the Clippers defeated Washington 105-100.

Everybody has been talking about how much Bonga has improved, and you saw that improvement on Saturday. The second-year player, who was acquired in the offseason from the Lakers, is one of those guys that can impact the game without plays being called for him.

“He impacts the game because of his enthusiasm, his effort, just his spirit,” Brooks said about Bonga after the game. “Everybody wants to play with him because he plays so hard. He plays to makes the right plays. He’s not thirsty out there; he wants to make plays for his teammates. That’s why he is loved by everyone. When we first got him, Tommy Sheppard(Wizards’ GM) told me, ‘You’re going to love this kid. He’s going to grow on you the first day you have him,’ and he has. 

“I just love his way about him. He has just a great disposition. That’s why he does so well without any plays called for him because he just plays the right way, and it’s contagious. He’s going to keep getting better. He’s 20 years old. His effort, his energy, his work ethic is outstanding.”

Hachimura, who had a double-double(15 points, 10 rebounds) on Saturday night, was impressed by Bonga’s performance against the Clippers.

“He(Bonga) did a great job,” Hachimura said. “He does a lot of little things for the team and stuff. I want him to play like that in the next game, too. We gotta a lot of young, good players, so it’s going to be fun.”

What happens in Orlando is really not about wins or losses for Washington. If they find a way to make the playoffs, that’s great. If they miss the playoffs, that’s great as well because it’s about growing for the future. There will be some growing pains, but if those four players(Hachimura, Bonga, Bryant, and Brown) get better, the future could be very bright in Washington. 

Notes:

Troy Brown Jr. did not play against the Clippers after spraining his thumb at practice on Friday. According to Scott Brooks, the injury is not considered serious.

Washington will play their final scrimmage on Monday against the Lakers.

 

Wizards’ Brooks impressed with the play of Hachimura against Nuggets

On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards got their first taste of life without Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, and while they would fall to the Denver Nuggets 89-82, in the team’s first scrimmage, there were some bright spots.

Rookie Rui Hachimura played very well for Washington. He was able to get anywhere he wanted on the floor. Hachimura was 6-14 from the field and scored 18 points, along with nine rebounds. The 14 field goal attempts were a team-high. 

Hachimura shined, and Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was happy about what he saw from him against Denver.

“I thought he was good,” Brooks said about Hachimura after the game. “He was obviously aggressive. He got good shots. He gets to his spot. I love this about his game. He gets to his spots, and he gets on balance, and he takes the shot. Those are very high percentage shots. He just needs to keep doing that. There’s going to be games where he doesn’t have the high in shots.

“I like the way he played tonight. I was really pleased how he came back. You can just see that he just has a good feel for the game for being a young player in the league.”

Hachimura is going to get a lot of touches in Orlando. He is the team’s best weapon, and without Beal and Bertans, Hachimura knows he and others have to do more on the offensive end for Washington to be successful. 

“John(Wall) is not here, Brad(Beal) is not here, and DB(Bertains) is not here,” Hachimura said after the game. “So, me, Ish(Smith), and TB(Troy Brown) gotta be the ones that gotta score a lot.”

Notes:

Troy Brown Jr. had a solid game against the Nuggets. He did it all for Washington as he scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out five assists. Ish Smith added 10 points off the bench for the Wizards. 

Washington’s next scrimmage is Saturday against the Clippers.

Bol Bol:

Nuggets rookie Bol Bol made his NBA debut on Wednesday. The 7-foot-2 Bol, who missed most of the season due to a foot injury, was impressive against the Wizards. The son of former NBA player Manute Bol had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bol also added six blocks.

The Nuggets had only eight players available against Washington on Wednesday, and because of that, C Nikola Jokic started at point guard.

Watch Bol highlights below:

 

Wizards’ Brown on Orlando: ‘This is a big opportunity for me’

The goal for the Washington Wizards in Orlando is to try to make playoffs. However, the players who will try to make that happen have changed. 

In the NBA, it’s next man up, and with Bradley Beal(injury) and Davis Bertans out, one of the next men up is Troy Brown Jr. The second-year player has a lot of versatility. He can play multiple positions, and at almost 25 minutes a contest, the 20-year-old Brown is averaging 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Without Beal and Bertans, Brown will have more opportunities to have the ball in his hands, and more of a chance to showcase his talents.  

“For me, I feel like it’s a big opportunity,” Brown said about playing in Orlando on Friday. “I’m fully trying to lock in for the minimal six weeks we have, so this is a big opportunity for me, and I want to take advantage of this, especially having this time, especially getting those three to four months off to focus on my body, and focus on things and get right, and get an opportunity to come back and make a statement, so I feel like this is a huge opportunity for me..

“You know how the NBA works. I’m sad for Brad’s(Beal) injury. It just sucks that he is not here with us, but at the end of the day, we have to go out and do our job. Brad is a big part for us, so it’s one of those things where we have a lot of guys through the age of 20 to 23. It’s a lot of opportunities here. With him(Beal) and DB(Bertans) being gone, we have to find people that can fill that role of scoring, so I definitely feel like it’s going to be a huge opportunity for a lot of us.”

The former 15th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, will get minutes, touches, and every opportunity to help get the Wizards to the playoffs. Brown has the ability and can get into the lane and finish around the basket. He still needs to improve from three-point range, which could develop in time. But in the end, the time is now for Brown to make his mark in Orlando. 

 

Beal on Bertans’ decision to opt out of NBA restart: ‘I 100 percent understand it’

When the NBA returns in late July, the Washington Wizards will be without one of their best shooters and could be without their best player. Davis Bertans, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, has decided not to play when the NBA restarts in Orlando, and at this point, Bradley Beal is unsure if he is going to play. 

“I am still working my tail off every single day as if I am playing,” Beal said via a video call with the media on Wednesday. “It is more or less a decision that will come down to the medical staff and coming back from zero to 100, and then I have some nagging stuff from the end of the year that we are trying to clean up, too. We are looking at it from all angles. I am definitely working out every single day here. It is good to be back in the facility.

“I am not swayed one way or another.”

Beal also revealed that he talked to Bertans before the third-year player made the decision to opt out public.

“I didn’t feel any type of way about Bertans’ decision,” Beal said. “He actually contacted me before he officially announced it… He explained it and just seeing where he comes from, seeing his situation, and understanding what’s at stake for him and his future.  I 100 percent understand it.”

The 27-year-old Bertans, who in 54 games averaged 15.4 ppg this season, has an opportunity to make a lot of money in free agency. He has the size(6-10) and is a knockdown three-point shooter(42% from three-point land), so his decision to skip Orlando is understandable.

Currently, the Wizards(9th seed) are 5 1/2 games behind the Orlando Magic for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference (Currently, the Orlando Magic) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in the conference. The play-in tournament will be double elimination for Team 8 and single elimination for Team 9.

Therefore, Washington must make up some ground if they want to compete in the play-in tournament. 

It was a tall order for the Wizards to make the playoffs with Beal and Bertans. However, it’s probably impossible for Washington to qualify for the playoffs without them. 

With Beal(30.5 ppg), who is having a big-time year, they have a fighters’ chance. It should be interesting to see what Beal decides, but if Washington wants to make a run at the playoffs, they need Beal out there in Orlando. 

Wizards’ Beal on loss to Heat: ‘We just got stagnant’

Early in the fourth quarter, the Washington Wizards(23-40) took an eight-point lead(83-75) against the Miami Heat(41-23) on Sunday. At that time, with Jimmy Butler sidelined with a foot injury(left the game in the third quarter), it appeared that Washington had a decent shot of winning the game.

However, behind the shooting of Duncan Robinson(23 points, 7-11 from three-point land), Kendrick Nunn(18 points), and the all-around play of Bam Adebayo(27 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists), the Heat were able to overcome the loss of Butler and defeat the Wizards 100-89 at Capital One Arena.

With the victory, Miami captures its first road victory since February 1(defeated Magic in Orlando), and the Wizards continue to fall in the standings. 

Washington struggled shooting the ball in the fourth quarter, including the second-leading scorer in the NBA, Bradley Beal(23 points), who was 0-9 from the field in the fourth quarter. According to Beal, the offense got stagnant, and Miami’s defense got the job done.

“We just got stagnant. We’ve got to keep moving. I feel like, a lot of times, we were just kind of just watching me. We can’t get caught up in doing that,” Beal said. “They took away all my drives, everything pretty much toward the paint. They wanted to kind of force me to shoot jumpers all night.”

Washington’s playoffs hopes continue to fade. The Wizards are now 5.5 games behind the Magic for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with only 19 games to play, 

On a positive note, Scott Brooks has this team competing on a nightly basis, which is a credit to him and the players, and while they are not winning consistently, this team is fighting. Hopefully, that continues the rest of the way.

 

 

 

Wizards’ Beal: ‘We got three at home we gotta get’

The Wizards(22-39) four-game west coast road trip is over, and it ended on a sour note. Washington was blown out by the Trail Blazers 125-104 on Wednesday night.

With the loss, the Wizards end the trip at 1-3 and remain 4.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We had an opportunity to be at least 3-1,” Wizards G Bradley Beal said after scoring a game-high 29 points against Portland. “We kind of laid an egg; we got three at home we gotta get.”

Washington starts their three-game homestand on Friday against the Hawks, which is a very winnable game for this team. Then, they host the Heat on Sunday, and the Knicks on Tuesday.

After the three-game homestand, the next four won’t be easy. The Wizards will have to face the Celtics on the road, come home to OKC, go to Philly to battle the 76ers, and travel to Brooklyn to face the 7th-seeded Nets, which could have huge playoff implications for Washington.

Even with a disappointing road trip, Washington is still in the mix for the playoffs, but with 21 games left, time is not on their side, so they must string together a few wins if they have any hope of making the playoffs. 

Beal jokingly on his performance against GSW: ‘It was God playing tonight’

Bradley Beal is doing everything in his power to get the Washington Wizards to the playoffs, and last night against the Warriors, Beal was flowing. He scored 34 points, including 7-9 from downtown, as the Wizards defeated Golden State on the road 124-110.

With his 34-point outing, Beal broke a 58-year team record by scoring 25+ points for an 18th straight game. 

“It was him. It was God playing. It wasn’t me. I don’t know who that guy was tonight,” Beal jokingly said after the game.

During this streak, Beal is averaging 36.4 points per game, but unfortunately, when Beal scores a bunch of points, the Wizards usually lose. This season Washington is 1-9 when Beal scores 40 or more points. According to Beal, the points are fine, but it’s all about winning.  

“Honestly, I could care less about how I’m playing as long as we’re winning, because my career highs and those good games, what is the record? We’re 1-9 when I score 40 or something. That’s terrible,” Beal said. “I’m not happy about that. I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Oh yeah, but I scored 40.’ No, we’ve got to win, and that’s what I’m about.”

Beal, who should have been an All-Star, is keeping the Wizards alive in the playoff race. At this point, Washington is four games behind the Nets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

Washington continues their four-game road trip when they battle the Kings on Tuesday, and if they want to string together some wins, Washington will need Beal to continue to make things happen.