By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — For all of the changes Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks wants to see John Wall, Bradley Beal and other players implement this season with an eye to finally making a deep playoff run, the most important might have nothing do with better shot selection or a more concerted effort on defense or taking every opponent seriously.
“Stop talking,” Brooks said. “There’s enough talk. Players and teams that talk are the ones that usually don’t have success. The players that just let their play speak for themselves are the teams that are successful.”
The Wizards are coming off a 43-39 finish, No. 8 seeding in the Eastern Conference and first-round playoff exit, hardly the sort of showing they seemed to think they were capable of a year ago.
One major problem, acknowledged by all, was that they tended to fail to show up against lesser teams.
“The professionalism is going to be a big thing for us,” forward Markieff Morris said.
“We’ve just got to perform,” Morris said. “Quite honestly, I’m tired of talking about our roster.”
With starters Wall, Beal, Morris and Otto Porter Jr. returning, the only change to the lineup was adding center Dwight Howard in place of the traded-away Marcin Gortat.
How Howard will fit in, on the court and away from it, is anyone’s guess. That’s because he sat out training camp and preseason games with a lingering back injury that he said stemmed from sitting on flights to and from China for promotional appearances.
“All of us feel like we have some chips on our shoulder,” Howard said, “and I think that’s how we’re going to play this season.”
Some other things to know about the Washington Wizards heading into the 2018-19 season:
Washington’s hope in shipping Gortat out and bringing in Howard, who turns 33 in December, was that a more mobile player with defensive and rebounding bona fides would be what was missing. “People still forget who Dwight is,” Wall said. Maybe, but even the Wizards are still waiting to find out exactly who Howard is as he joins his fourth club in four years. Last season with Charlotte, he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds. “I kind of hate that people are saying he has to ‘revive’ his career here and kind of start all over,” Beal said. “Dwight is Dwight. Dwight has always had an impact on the game.”
Wall was a No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He’s a perennial All-Star. He’s the point guard whose quick-as-can-be style dictates Washington’s offense and off-and-on defense is punctuated by chase-down blocks. But he also acknowledges that he does not want his legacy to be that of a guy who never made it past the second round of the playoffs. After missing half of last season with knee problems, Wall was ranked as the 32nd-best NBA player by ESPN.com. Asked about that, Wall said: “If there’s 31 players better than me in the league, prove it. That’s all I’ve got to say. Just prove it.”
Brooks wants more 3-point shots from everyone, everywhere and at any time. He wants more corner 3s. He wants more kick-out 3s. He wants Beal taking more 3s. He wants Porter taking more 3s. He even wants backup center Ian Mahinmi — who has never taken so much as a single 3 in a game in his 10-year NBA career — to put ’em up from long range, which has been happening in the preseason. Porter, in particular, has been implored by his coach to take advantage of his skill from beyond the arc. Last season, Porter made 44.1 percent from 3-point range, but only attempted 4.1 such shots per game. Brooks wants that doubled, at least. “He needs to shoot more. He passes up three or four shots a game. He passes up 3s,” the coach said. “I tell him, ‘It’s green.’ I can’t make it any greener for him.”
With the additions of F Jeff Green (free agent), G Austin Rivers (Gortat trade with the Los Angeles Clippers) and F Troy Brown (draft), the Wizards are certain, as Wall put it, that they “can depend on our bench a lot more.” Perhaps most importantly, Rivers can fill in for both Wall and Beal, who both could stand to get more rest along the way. “Austin gives us that added spark off the bench, which we need,” Brooks said. “We haven’t really had that.”