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Jodie Meeks says injuries are behind him, hopes to reset with Wizards

Jodie Meeks says injuries are behind him, hopes to reset with Wizards

In signing Jodie Meeks to a two-year deal in free agency, the Wizards may have solved their problem at the backup shooting guard position behind Bradley Beal with a guy known for scoring in bunches and shooting consistently from three-point range. But in order for that scenario to play out, Meeks will need to overcome some tough injury luck that has plagued him in recent years.

Over the past three seasons, Meeks has appeared in an average of 33 games due to foot, back and thumb injuries. Two seasons ago, in 2015-16, Meeks played in just three games for the Detroit Pistons. Last year he managed only 36 appearances for the Orlando Magic.

Meeks' injury saga began in the 2014-15 season when he suffered a stress reaction in his lower back in October. He would return to play in 60 games, but the next October he broke his right foot and required surgery. He battled back to play in the team's season finale, but had to have surgery again on the same foot in July of 2016.

[RELATED: 5 things to know about new Wizards forward Devin Robinson]

Meeks came back from the second surgery in December of 2016, only to dislocate his right thumb less than a month later, an injury that required surgery.

"It was disappointing," Meeks said. "It was like 'man, what else can go wrong?'"

Meeks returned in March for the Magic and finished the season and he insists those injuries are a thing of the past.

"I would say I'm 100 percent now. Thank the good Lord that I'm past that. It's summer time, so my body feels great," Meeks said. "I came back from my thumb at the end of the season. I played okay and finished out the season healthy. This summer I got some rest. Now I'm working out again and I feel fine."

The last time Meeks was healthy for a full season was 2013-14 when he was with the L.A. Lakers. Not surprisingly, that was also the best season of his career. Meeks averaged a career-high 15.7 points and shot a solid 46.3 percent from the field. His 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, plus his 55.4 effective field goal percentage were all career-highs.

[RELATED: What we learned from Wizards' Summer League]

Meeks hopes to regain that form in Washington.

"The past couple of years have been tough with being injured. Coming off my career year in L.A. a couple of years ago, it felt like my career was going up with a lot of success for me. But the injury bug kind of hit me," he said. "It's been a little disappointing. But I try to make the most of my opportunities and not dwell on the past and dwell in disappointment. Just try to make the most of it. When I have my opportunity, just try to play well."

With the Lakers, Meeks had an opportunity paved by Kobe Bryant suffering an Achilles injury. He still holds on to that year as evidence he can play at a high level in the NBA.

"It was unfortunate for Kobe Bryant, but it was fortunate for me to expand my game and play a lot of minutes. When he got hurt, I was able to show what I can do. I just attribute that to hard work. I feel like given the playing time and opportunity, I showed that I can do it and can play in this league for a long time," he said.

Meeks averaged 9.1 points and shot 40.9 percent from three last season in Orlando. If he can maintain those numbers over a full season, the Wizards should be in good shape with Beal already established as their starter. But if he can get back to anything close to what he was with the Lakers, Meeks could prove to be a very nice pickup.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast - Will John Wall sign the deal?]

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John Wall's new contract with Wizards official: 'It was an easy decision'

John Wall's new contract with Wizards official: 'It was an easy decision'

With his signature now on paper, John Wall's new contract with the Wizards, one that will keep him in Washington through the 2022-23 season, is official. The team made the announcement Wednesday evening with quotes from owner Ted Leonsis, team president Ernie Grunfeld and Wall himself included in a press release.

Wall, 26, will make around $170 million over four years beginning with the 2019-20 season. He was already under contract for about $37 million total for the next two years.

Once Wall made the All-NBA team following this past season he became eligible for the $170 million supermax contract. It took weeks to put together, but Wall says an agreement was never in doubt.

“Returning to the only team I’ve known in my professional career was an easy decision for me,” Wall said. “I want to thank my family, Mr. Leonsis, Ernie Grunfeld, all of my coaches and my teammates for their amazing support over the last seven years. I understand my role as the leader of this franchise and I will continue to work hard to improve my game and make our team better. Washington, D.C., is my second home and I take seriously my efforts in the community and look forward to strengthening that bond. Our fans are amazing and I’m excited to bring them and this city continued success and a team they can be proud of.”

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of commitment rarely seen]

Leonsis touted the organization's plan to build through the draft and how the retention of Wall proves it is working.

"John is an exceptional talent and a cornerstone for our team – and our city,” Leonsis said. “This signing means stability for the Wizards for years to come and solidifies our commitment to drafting and then developing talent here at home.  It’s John’s unique blend of skill and leadership that makes us a championship-caliber team.”

Grunfeld noted how this could further cement Wall's legacy with the franchise. Wall will have played 13 years with the Wizards by the end of this deal.

“John’s passion for winning, dedication to his teammates and commitment to the community have been on display since we drafted him seven years ago,” Grunfeld said. “He has constantly worked to improve and expand his game and has developed into an All-NBA player who has elevated our franchise and electrified our fans. We are thrilled that he will continue to lead us through the prime years of his career and look forward to watching as he solidifies his place among the greatest players in our team’s history.”

Last season Wall averaged 23.1 points, 10.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He and the Wizards won 49 games and their division for the first time in 38 years.

[RELATED: Continuity was key in Wizards' decision to retain Otto Porter]

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Continuity was key in Wizards' decision to retain Otto Porter

Continuity was key in Wizards' decision to retain Otto Porter

One of the prevailing themes from the Wizards' press conference to announce Otto Porter's new contract last week was the simple fact the Wizards really like what they already have, enough so that making major roster changes did not seem wise. By bringing Porter back, they maintain an element of continuity which they collectively see as pivotal to success.

Majority owner Ted Leonsis referenced continuity often during the press conference and afterwards in his off-camera meeting with the media. With Porter under contract for four more years, plus the deals already signed by John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have ensured that trio will have played together for eight years by the end of the 2020-21 season. That's a long time in professional sports.

"The data points are, for the most part, the teams whose core has stayed together have good results," he said. "The hodgepodge grabbing of players, throwing free agents in and expecting them to get it and fit, that hasn’t been the case. So, you try to be guided by data and continuity works. You look at the best team in the league, [the Golden State Warriors], their core has been there for a long time. They were able to bring in a free agent [in Kevin Durant]. We have tried to bring in free agents and we’re not going to stop. We have to manage things well, but I still think we can improve our team."

[RELATED: Otto Porter sees Wall and Beal as examples to follow]

The Wizards aren't the first team Leonsis has owned or business he has run and says the same concepts apply to other ventures he has been successful with in the past. That includes the Washington Capitals, who have a proven formula for the regular season. Three times in the last eight years they have won the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the NHL.

Leonsis believes keeping the same players together has had major benefits in chemistry.

"What I’ve learned is that a lot of times it’s better the devil that you know than the devil that you don’t," Leonsis said of retaining players a team drafted. "You get to see how they practice. You get to see who they hang out. You get to see their commitment to their health. The coach now has a real, loud voice. [Scott Brooks] told us how important Otto was to what he’s trying to do. You want coachable players. You want good people and that’s what was happening with the Caps, too."

Brooks has one year under his belt as head coach of the Wizards and that one season was characterized by change. Beyond the starting lineup, there were many new players on the bench. There was a brand new coaching staff and training staff, as well.

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of commitment rarely seen]

Next year should be different in that regard and Brooks believes continuity will keep them trending in the right direction. He sees a core group that is continuing to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses.

"I think it’s huge for our success moving forward. It’s nice to have players who can do it on both ends of the floor," he said. "Now we have three perimeter guys who are basically interchangeable on the defensive end. They can all guard each other’s players."

Porter fits well within that strategy given his complementary style. He can play off the ball while the Wizards' offense runs primarily through Wall and Beal. Last season Porter was super efficient with a team-best 60.8 effective field goal percentage, yet he was seventh in usage percentage among the Wizards' core rotation players. He doesn't need plays run for him or a high volume of shots to still make an impact offensively. 

Porter feels that comfortability and fit will help the Wizards continue to reach new heights after posting their most wins (49) and first division title in 38 years.

"Sticking with the guys and keeping that small core, we can only go up from here. There’s no going backwards," he said.

Keeping teams together can be easier said than done, of course. Stars leave their teams all the time and especially in the NBA. Leonsis believes there are reasons why he has been able to prevent that with both the Wizards and Caps.

"I think when players are young and you can develop a relationship with them that’s built on trust and that they internalize that Washington, D.C. is a great city and when you’re in it together, it makes these things easy," he said. "It’s not like I’ve had to sell Alex [Ovechkin] and Nick [Backstrom] and John. If you’ve noticed, players are leaving other teams that the team didn’t want to lose. That happens all the time. That’s not happening with us. The players that we want to keep, they believe in us."

[RELATED: Kyrie Irving sees Wall's role with Wizards as a model to follow]

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