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Brooks: John Wall sets career pace despite knee surgeries holding him back

Brooks: John Wall sets career pace despite knee surgeries holding him back

The streaks are piling up for the Wizards, nine wins in a row at Verizon Center and eight of their wins this season coming back from double-digit deficits. It's not ideal and a lot of the latter has to do with slow starts defensively when opponents score 30 or more points in the first quarter. 

But coach Scott Brooks pointed to one key area for their revival going into Tuesday night's game vs. the Chicago Bulls: John Wall. 

Although most of the country doesn't recognize not only what he's doing from a statistical standpoint, evident by Wall being just seventh among East guards in All-Star voting, but the context in which he's doing it. Wall had surgeries to both knees May 5 after he averaged 19.9 points and 10 rebounds in a 41-41 2015-16 season. Now he's at a career high 23.1 points per game, 10.1 assists (0.1 off a career-high), 4.4 rebounds and a career-high 2.3 steals. He's also shooting 46.6% from the field (also a career-high) and has 22 double-doubles which far outdistances any guard in his conference.

RELATED: Wade may miss matchup vs. Wizards

"I always give a lot of praise to players that put  (themselves) out there when they’re not NBA ready 100 percent. He had the two knee surgeries over the summer. His first practice was October 7th. He was working himself into shape while we were playing games for real. A lot of players don’t do it," Brooks said after Monday's afternoon practice session. "You hear it a lot, 'I’m not coming back until I’m 1,000 percent ready.’ We’re not going to put anybody out there if they’re not physically ready but you still have to get past being game ready, being in shape and playing through the conditioning that you need. He has done that."

Given what has happened with Derrick Rose as of Monday night, Brooks' perspective could be even more appropriate (Note: He was not referring to Rose or any other player other than Wall so the timing here was pure coincidence). Rose, who had a checkered history when with the Chicago Bulls of holding himself out of games after knee surgery, didn't report to Madison Square Garden for a game with the New York Knicks. The reasons remain unclear. If this turns out to be a voluntary decision and that he didn't clear it with the team first, it would be nothing short of stunning.

Rose, too, is among the six East guards ahead of Wall in All-Star voting. Wall had 10 double-doubles in December. That's nine more than Rose has had all season, and Wall was on an early-season minutes restriction and held out from both games of back-to-backs. 

"He hit is stride in early December. Now he lost some weight that he gained when he wasn’t able to do anything and he’s down to his fighting weight and he’s playing well," Brooks said. "He’s moving well. He’s making shots. He’s locking up defensively. When John has good games for us, he’s one of the best defending point guards in the league. It’s a hard position to defend with so many great point guards offensive minded and every team is built on 70 or 80 pick-and-rolls each game."

The Wizards began 2-8. Wall has led them back to 18-18 and they have a chance to be over .500 for the second time this season. It would be the first time they get over that hump since they were 6-5 on Nov. 24, 2015. They had four chances only to fail last season at 14-14, 19-19, 30-30 and 35-35.

MORE NBA: NBA Insiders Notebook: Paul Millsap to Toronto?

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Wizards vs. Jazz: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Wizards vs. Jazz: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards host Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz on Sunday evening as they aim to continue rising the ranks of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS vs. UTAH JAZZ

Where: Verizon Center
Tip-off: 5 p.m.
TV: CSN (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

Bounceback needed

The Wizards came out of the All-Star break on Friday night with their most disappointing performance in nearly two months. They didn't just lose to the lowly 76ers, they lost to the 76ers without their best player, Joel Embiid. Offense wasn't the issue for the Wizards, it was their defense. They allowed Philly to drop 120 points and shoot 49.4 percent from the field.

The Wizards need to come out and play much better on defense if they plan to beat the Utah Jazz, who at 36-22 currently hold the fourth seed in the West. Working in the Wizards' favor is the fact the Jazz are among the worst scoring teams in the league. They rank 28th out of 30 in points per game (100.4). That said, the Wizards have let a few teams this season - the Sixers, Heat, Mavericks and Magic, for example - surprise them on that end of the court.

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings: Post trade deadline outlook]

Bench scoring needed

The Jazz may have trouble scoring, and because of that probably should have done more at the trade deadline, but they are as good as any team on defense. The Jazz rank first in opponents points per game (95.7) and third in opponents field goal percentage (43.9). They are very good at defending the perimeter and have one of the best shotblockers in basketball down low in Rudy Gobert.

What could help the cause for Washington is some scoring from their bench. They only got 11 points from their second unit in Friday's loss to Philly and that won't cut it against a good team like Utah. Perhaps Bojan Bogdanovic, the Wizards' most notable trade deadline acquisition, can do better in his second game than he did in his debut (two points).

[RELATED: Backup point guard remains trouble spot for Wizards]

Mahinmi's health

The Wizards were without backup big man Ian Mahinmi in the second half of Friday's loss to the Sixers because Mahinmi's back tightened up at halftime. He was limited to just seven minutes in the game, but was able to go through a full practice on Saturday at the Verizon Center. All signs point to Mahinmi playing on Sunday, but we will know more about his status when coach Scott Brooks speaks pregame.

If Mahinmi does play, it will still be something to watch. The Wizards signed him to a four-year, $64 million free agent deal in the offseason and he can't seem to find any luck in the injury department. He has missed 50 of the Wizards' 56 games this season due to knee injuries.

[RELATED: Mahinmi leaves Wizards loss to Sixers with injury]

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Morning tip: Figuring out Wizards' new rotations a challenge for Scott Brooks

Morning tip: Figuring out Wizards' new rotations a challenge for Scott Brooks

The mood changed immediately after the Wizards' embarrassing loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, with John Wall leading a lively discussion with the bigs in practice about coverages that were busted time after time.

Today's opponent, the Utah Jazz, are much better and a repeat performance will lead to another one.

"Whether we were in our pick-and-roll coverage, whether we were in our pindown coverage, our switches, everything was always a second late," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 120-112 defeat. "When you do that you're always behind. You're always playing catch-up every possession. It wasn't just one guy. It was two or three guys on the same possession which has been rare for us.. Hopefully we can put it behind us."

The Wizards trailed 43-41 in the second quarter with mostly starters on the floor in Philadelphia. By halftime they were down 61-49. The only player in the last eight minutes of the second to make a field goal for the Wizards was Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 40 points. 

When Trey Burke entered, he appeared uncomfortable running the offense. Tomas Satoransky, who has played in combination with him recently, didn't log any minutes. Jason Smith, who was displaced with the arrival of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi in the lineup, only played four minutes but was a spark early in the fourth when the Wizards mounted a comeback. 

Mahinmi only lasted seven minutes after back spasms, which flared up before the game, kept him on the bench in the second half. Bogdanovic had a full practice with his new team for the first time Saturday.

"We're trying to find some consistency. Getting Ian back, hopefully we can get him back to a stretch of games where he can play and build a chemistry with the group he's out there with," Brooks said. "Now Bojan so we can have him out there with that group. It's consistency and understanding where we can get some points. Trey and Tomas, I got to try to figure out what's the best minute-wise and who plays and the matchups."