The review: Two games in, the Mystics sport a 1-1 record following 64-61 win over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. Obviously, that is ahead of last seasons six-win pace. Averaging 27 turnovers is as well. Despite losing the ball a whopping (but not franchise-record) 32 times and blowing nearly all of a 16-point second lead, Washington survived behind 49 points combined from Matee Ajavon, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie. We didnt particularly play well but we were able to come out with the win, said Ajavon, who led all scorers with 19 points. We have a lot of things to work on and we will practice and come out better. Playing the woeful Shock winless this season after three victories last year helped, but the competition is about to go up several notches.The preview: The Mystics finish their season-opening a three-game homestand against the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx (4-0). Led by former Connecticut star Maya Moore, the Lynx have won their opening games by an average of 15 points. The turnovers: The first time they touched the ball against the Shock, the Mystics coughed up possession. There was no containment for the faulty control as it spread throughout the roster each of the 10 players that received playing time had at least two. On Saturday, there were 16 in each half, at least seven in each quarter. There were bad passes and dropped throws. Dribblers lost their handle in traffic and the open court. In some cases, credit the Shocks smart use full court pressure. In other cases, pure head scratchers.Its good to win, however I am not pleased with the types of turnover or the number of turnovers, said Wizards coach and general manager Trudi Lacey, already frustrated after the team committed 23 turnovers in the season opening loss. We definitely have to make better decisions with the basketball. The turnovers were silly, I dont know any other way to put it, and we have to continue to work on that.The return: After missing the opener with a sore knee, Ajavon attacked the basket relentlessly from her wing position and sparked the Mystics early offense in the process. She took 10 free throws in the first half, sinking eight en route to 15 points before halftime. On the defensive end, Ajavon tacked on four steals.It was very nice to have Matee back, Lacey said. She provides a lot of energy and shes tough and thats what Ive asked of the team, she has stepped up and shown a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.The point guards: Usually the ball handling duties fall to this position, but the Mystics are still searching for a clear solution. One of the many newcomers on the retooled roster,Dominqiue Canty received the start against the Shock. Less than two minutes in, the 13-year veteranhad already committed three turnovers. Shefinished with five, matching Ajavon and Langhornes unwanted team-high total. Second-year floor leader Jasmine Thomas tacked on three turnovers in 13 minutes. Including Natasha Lacy, the Mystics' point guards finished with five assists with 10 turnovers.The third quarter: Lacey needs to bottle her halftime speeches or at least find a way to spread out thesubsequent good play throughout the second half. In both games, the Mystics held their opponent to less than 10 points in the third, finishing with a combined 35-15 advantage. In the fourth quarter, opponents have outscored the Mystics 42-23.The Lynx: Washington cannot afford to give away possessions against a Minnesota team which scores a a league-high 90.2 points per game and tops the WNBA in field goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting. Moore averages 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and has knocked down 9-of-17 shots from beyond the arc. Seimone Augustus tops the Lynx with 19 points per game.
There may not be much drama when the March 1 franchise tag deadline comes around. It appears that a Kirk Cousins tag is inevitable.
According to a Pro Football Talk report, Cousins will not sign a long-term deal prior getting tagged by the Redskins. PFT cited a source with knowledge of the situation.
This is not exactly a surprising report. The situation has seemed to be destined to reach this point since minutes after the Redskins’ final game of the season when Cousins, whose one-year franchise tag deal expired when the game ended, was asked if he wanted to remain in Washington.
“It’s really not my decision to make,” he said. “They chose to tag me and the same is true this year, so if they don’t choose to tag me then I think that question is answered at that point, but right now the ball’s not in my court.”
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Actually, the ball is in his court; he could instruct his agent to hammer out the best deal he can get to stay in Washington and then sign it. But apparently, he will choose the tag, a solid business decision for a number of reasons.
For one thing, if he gets tagged and quickly signs the tender as he did last year he would guarantee a salary of $23.94 million, a 20 percent raise over the $19.95 million he earned last year. If he plays out the season on the tag he would be virtually guaranteed of never getting tagged again since such a move would give him a 44 percent raise over his previous year’s cap number. The number is designed to make a third tag cost prohibitive and it does.
For the team’s part, there have been scattered reports that some in the Redskins organization pushed for letting Cousins hit the open market and letting his value be determined there. But that changed after Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator for the first two years of Cousins’ career and a big Cousins fan, became the head coach of the 49ers. There is no question that San Francisco would make a strong play for Cousins and the most likely scenario now is that the will tag him.
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Where does this go after Cousins is tagged? The Redskins would have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term contract. It would still take a strong offer for the team to keep Cousins around for the long term.
Team president Bruce Allen seems to be optimistic about getting a deal done eventully.
"I don’t think it’s as complicated as everyone wants to make it,” he said earlier this month. “And we’ll get together with his agent, and I’m sure we’ll come to an agreement."
That remains to be seen. The only thing that seems certain in this saga is that it won’t be coming to a resolution any time soon.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Wizards are the NBA’s most surprising team going into the All-Star break. No one expected them to have 34 wins regardless of how this season shook out, but that was especially true after a 2-8 start. Now that we’re 55 games into an 82-game season -- and with the trade deadline approaching Thursday afternoon -- my takeaways on what's transpired, why and what has to happen next to solidify their standing and advance deep:
-- Bradley Beal has avoided injury. The revamping of the medical staff was headed up by VP Tommy Sheppard and has worked. The system that the Wizards put in place to be more clinical in dealing with how to treat injuries and be more forward-thinking has kept him stress-reaction free in his lower right leg. Beal missed three games with a right thigh strain early in the season and one game after rolling his ankle but he has played 51 of 55. Twenty-three more appearances and he sets a career-high for games played. And this is the healthiest that John Wall has been this deep into a season in several years and he had surgeries to both knees May 5.
-- The evolution of Jason Smith. He was all thumbs when the season started, so much so that Brooks joked that he was starting to question his spot on the roster (pre-emptive strike: It was said in jest so do NOT hastily extract this nugget to fashion into your own blog post that misrepresents the tone). Smith has grown into a fan favorite because of his effort, hustle and energy he brings off the bench. He’s hitting the mid-range jumper when he pops on the pick-and-roll and is flashing some of his underrated athleticism with highlight-reel blocks and dunks diving to the basket. Most nights, he’s the best player off the bench.
-- The second-biggest free-agent acquisition, Andrew Nicholson, is completely out of the rotation. He has the old-man game but appears out of place when the game is played at a faster pace. Nicholson is a bench player so there was no mystery as to what his role would be. But he has accrued 25 DNP-CDs (did not play coach’s decision). Nicholson last played double-digit minutes Jan. 14. Given the length of his contract (four years), moving him will be next to impossible unless the Wizards sacrafice a draft pick to do so.
-- Wall’s decision-making late in games or at the end of quarters has gone through the roof. He’s had his hero-ball moments but that was early. As his judgment has become more sound, so has everyone else’s. The Wizards late-game execution is a strength and it’s why they’re 11-4 in games decided by six points or less since Dec. 1.
-- The diversity in the offense has taken the ball out of Wall's hands more often but he's actually more productive. generates 108.1 points per game (seventh). Since Dec. 1 when the turnaround began, the Wizards average 110.4 points (fifth), shoot 49.1% from the field (second) and 39% from three (tied for second). They're 28-10 in that stretch. For the season, Wall is 15th in the league in passes made per game at 59.8 and third in passes received at 76.3. Last season, Wall made 70.9 passes and recevied 83.9 which was the most per game of any player in the NBA in both categories. He created 24.7 points which was second-best in the league then. By involving more players in the offense, even though Wall handles the ball less to pass and receives fewer passes per game, he's actually averaging more points created at 25.3, second only to James Harden (Rockets).
-- Kelly Oubre has had an up-and-down season, but the 6-7 forward being inserted into the rotation with Otto Porter as the "stretch" option is what led to the surge. So Oubre's stat line (6.2 points, 29.6% three-point shooting) isn't neccessarily indicative of his importance to the Wizards. When he was dispensed to defend Isaiah Thomas in the fourth quarter of the last meeting with the Celtics, it solidified his spot as three-position defender. He held Thomas to four points in the fourth. His 7-2 wingspan and athleticism can't be duplicated anywhere else on the roster.
-- Beal isn’t an All-Star is one thing, but that he received so little respect in the initial voting process was stunning. He was 14th among fans and eighth among media voting. It shouldn’t have come down to a commissioner’s pick as to whether or not he made it. Defensively, he's been the most consistent perimeter defender all season.
-- If Sheldon McClellan or Marcus Thornton has to fill void behind Beal as a scorer, a trade has to happen. Tomas Satoransky has had mixed results, but he's 6-7, starting to be more confident in his shot and can defend because of his size helps him bother smaller guards. To give up on Satoransky would be a mistake because his IQ and effort can't be taught.
-- Otto Porter’s three-point shooting. That he’d become better with the deep ball isn’t a surprise. He was sub-par for most of last season shooting in the low 30s. Then he raised it to about 37% by season’s end which is better than average. But he’s now almost 10% better and taking a career-high 4.6 three-pointers per game.
-- Brooks is an elite coach. I’ve never been a fan of the logic that states because a coach either didn’t win at a previous stop or didn’t take a team with a lot of talent far enough (see Brooks with the Oklahoma City Thunder) then that coach isn’t a good coach. That’s not how you measure coaches. The same was said about Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat. First, coaching is about much more than what happens during 48 minutes on the court. It has to do with more than Xs and Os. And it has to do with having players who allow themselves to be coached. College basketball is about coaches. It’s their system vs the other coach’s system. The NBA is about players. It’s no coincidence that those who make the most money determine that tone. It was proven in last year’s Western Conference finals that Brooks wasn’t the problem with Oklahoma City. Boxscores don’t necessarily tell you who are the best players in a game. Neither does a coaching record. And Brooks’ was already pretty good.