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Season Opener Preview: Washington Wizards Vs. Miami Heat

October 29th, 2014 at 11:39 AM
By Matt Graber

It's time. After a long absence, meaningful NBA basketball is finally back, as the Washington Wizards open their season tonight against the Miami Heat. It's an intriguing matchup, as the Wizards look to build on last season's surprising success and the Heat look to establish themselves in the post-LeBron era. Unfortunately, injuries have taken some of the luster of off tonight's game, as the Wizards will be go into battle with a severely depleted squad.

Bradley Beal will miss a few weeks with a fractured wrist, and forwards Nene and DeJuan Blair are suspended for tonight. And while Kris Humphries and Glen Rice Jr. will be in action, neither are 100% as they deal with hand and ankle injuries, respectively. Their absences will force coach Randy Wittman to get creative with his lineups. Expect Otto Porter Jr. to log heavy minutes on the wing tonight, as the second year man was arguably the team's top perimeter player in the preseason. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce will likely see some time at power forward tonight as a 'stretch 4' in small-ball lineups, a spot where he thrived with the Nets last season.

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Injury-Plagued Wizards Can’t Afford Another Slow Start

October 27th, 2014 at 2:24 PM
By Matt Graber

Big things are expected from the Washington Wizards this season. After a surprising run the the Eastern Conference semis and what was widely considered to be a strong offseason, many have labeled the Wizards as not only a playoff contender, but a dark horse to make a run to the Eastern Conference finals. With a star-studded backcourt, improved depth, and a nice mix of young talent and veteran leadership, the Wizards certainly have the look of a promising young contender. But if they hope to make a serious run, they can't afford to get off on the wrong foot like they typically do.

Year after year, the Wizards manage to get off to a slow start, crippling their momentum and dropping them to the bottom of the standings. During the 2011-2012 season, the team began the season with eight straight losses. The 2012-2013 squad started off with twelve straight losses and limped to one of the NBA's worst records. Even last year's playoff team didn't manage to crack .500 until February. While the Wizards managed to get away with a poor start last year due to playing in a shallow Eastern Conference, this year's competition looks to have taken a step up.

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Rasual Butler Earns the Wizards’ 15th Roster Spot

October 25th, 2014 at 2:53 PM
By Matt Graber

The battle for the Wizards' final roster spot is over, and an unlikely name remains standing. According to J. Michael of CSNWashington, 35 year-old veteran Rasaul Butler has beaten out Xavier Silas, Damion James, and John Lucas III to remain on the Wizards as the 15th man. Butler will sign a one year, non-guaranteed deal at the veteran's minimum. The team able to release him with no salary cap penalty prior to January 10, when contracts become guaranteed. Silas, James, and Lucas have been waived from the team.

It looked like Butler would be a longshot to make the team, as Xavier Silas was the initial favorite. But Butler was able to make the most of his limited playing time, shooting the ball well in late-game situations and proving that he can still hit threes. Shooting became a major team need after Bradley Beal suffered his wrist injury, and Butler's preseason performance and track record made him the best option to fill that need. As a career 36% three point shooter with the versatility to play both wing positions, Butler should be a useful veteran presence on the team.

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Wizards Preseason Wrap-Up: Seven Key Takeaways

October 24th, 2014 at 2:21 PM
By Matt Graber

The preseason is finally over, which means that meaningless games are behind us and the regular season is merely five days away. This preseason was a mixed bag for the Wizards, as solid individual performances were offset by turnovers and offensive sluggishness, while positive results were marred by injuries to key contributors like Bradley Beal and Kris Humphries. Nevertheless, the preseason gave us a closer look at the team and helped crystallize some key observations. Yes, it is still the preseason, so take these observations with a grain of salt, but here’s what we learned over the last eight games.

Shooting guard is still a question mark

Glen Rice Jr. had a solid preseason, demonstrating improved shooting and a newfound aggressive streak. But he was streaky, mixing efficient performances with a few duds, and he still settled for too many bad shots. He’s a talented offensive player and a solid on-ball defender, but he’s still a bit too inconsistent and inexperienced at this point to handle a starting role. Garrett Temple offers similar shooting and defense, and guys like Otto Porter Jr. or even a training camp invitee (should one of them make the team) could snag some minutes at the 2, but the Wizards still don’t have a clear-cut solution. They should be able to stay afloat with Beal hurt, but the sooner their star guard returns, the better.

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Preseason Recap: Wizards 100, Knicks 103

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:30 PM
By Matt Graber

Now that's more like it. After a series of disappointing outings, the Wizards and the Knicks put on a show last night in an entertaining and competitive matchup that felt like a regular season game. With the starters playing big minutes and both teams battling it out until the end, this felt like a meaningful season preview rather than yet another pointless game. Here's a few takeaways from what may have been the Wizards's best performance of the preseason.

Otto Porter Jr. is legit

Porter has gone a long way towards silencing his doubters after a disappointing rookie year. From Summer League on, he's looked healthy, confident, and ready to contribute. He's playing solid defense and rebounding well for his position, and he looks much more comfortable on offense, moving without the ball well and making threes (4-7 last night). It remains to be seen if he'll get minutes at shooting guard in Bradley Beal's absence, but he's earned the opportunity to play significant minutes behind Paul Pierce and he should be ready to step into an even bigger role if needed.

Good players will be left off this team

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