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State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

State of the Wizards: Aiming for a winning record, Otto's always moving

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Can they get above .500? - After beating the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, the Wizards find themselves at the .500 mark (18-18) for the second time this season. Last time they got here, at 16-16, they promptly lost two straight games. But those were on the road, where the Wizards have had major trouble this season. This next stretch in their schedule will offer plenty of games at the Verizon Center for them to rack up some Ws. 

Four of the Wizards' next five games are in Washington, where they are an impressive 14-6. And two of those games are against teams well below the .500 mark, the Sixers and Blazers. Securing a winning record would be a nice short-term goal for the Wizards and they are likely to reach it soon. They are 16-10 since beginning the season 2-8. That 16-10 mark is a 51-win pace over the course of a full season and it's not that small of a small sample size.

RELATED: Beal proving he is the opposite of soft

The Wizards' first opportunity will come against the Bulls on Tuesday night in Washington. If they win, they will go above .500 for the first time since Nov. 24, 2015 when they were 6-5.

Easier to score 50? - Sports Illustrated unearthed an amazing stat last week following Jimmy Butler's ' 52-point masterpiece against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 2. Butler was already the eighth different player to hit the 50-mark this season, tying the record for most in one NBA season with the 1989-90 campaign and last year. Considering there are three-plus more months of the NBA regular season left to play, that's very noteworthy.

Basically, there has been a huge increase in 50-point games in recent years. One of those performances this season was by John Wall, who had 52 himself on Dec. 6. Wall and others on the Wizards were asked this past week if they think it's easier now to score 50 points than it was in the past. The opinions varied:

Wall: "Might be so. There's more spacing out there. There's more spacing, there's a lot more fouls called and flagrant fouls, technical fouls; all of that's called that wasn't called back in that era. It was a lot more tough to get to the basket with hand-checking and all of that. I don't think those bigs back then would let us get to the basket so easy and score layups."

Bradley Beal: “I disagree. But at the same time I do agree because our eras were different. Foul calls were different. Guys shooting 20 free throws these days vs. however many they shoot back in the day. Guys are putting up, 50 you got to respect it.”

Scott Brooks: “I would probably say I disagree because it’s hard to score 50 points in a pickup game let alone an NBA game no matter what generation you’re playing in. Doesn’t happen often. The points have gone up. I think more teams are averaging more points this year than have in the last 25 years. It’s tough to score. Fifty points, that’s a number that’s not easy to get... There’s no question that [no hand-checking is] the biggest change. It was hard. You got these bigger point guards like Gary Payton, Derek Harper, hand-checking was part of the game. So you can basically where that point guard is going if they’re a bigger, stronger point guard. The rules are better now. It’s much more free-flowing. There’s so many more opportunities to drive and kick for threes. The three-point ball is exploding. There’s not a lot of guys that can score back to the basket. But I think if you’re growing up now days you walk in the gym you start shooting threes."

The other six besides Wall and Butler to drop 50 this year are Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Who will be the ninth, if there is one? Beal has scored 40 or more twice already this season, so he's certainly capable.

Beal, by the way, suggested he thinks Westbrook's 17 triple-doubles this season are more impressive than the 50-point games:

"I would say Russ, having that many triple-doubles that many times in a row and being able to play that hard and at an elite level, that is kind of impressive and amazing to me. Just being able to play hard every single time you're on the floor and have no injuries and no splinters, just jumping and flying on the floor. Those things are impressive, but those are numbers. Guys are going to put up numbers every night. This is the game of basketball. It's not the first time we've seen guys score 40, 50 and above. It's just a trend where there's a lot of them this year. That's just the flow of the game. Guys are getting better."

Otto's always moving - Otto Porter may not be as fastest guy or play the most minutes, but every time he's on the court he's active on both ends of the floor. On offense he's cutting towards and away from the basket, while on defense he's usually guarding a mobile swingman. The result of all that has Porter near the top of the NBA in distance traveled per game.

Porter covers an average of 2.47 miles per game, which is tops on the Wizards and 11th overall in basketball. Beal offered a theory as to why that is:

"Otto's always moving without the ball. That's just a tale of what he does for us and the type of player that he is. He doesn't move at a fast pace, but he moves comfortably and he moves well without the ball probably better than most of us on the team. It's tough logging those many miles and putting that stress on your body, but he handles it well. He plays the three and the four, so it's a little tough on him. But he accepts it."

Eastern Conference standings

Stat line of the week: Marcin Gortat 1/6 vs. T'Wolves - 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 9-for-9 FG

RELATED: VIDEO: Kid has meltdown during danceoff at Wizards game

Quote of the Week

"That's a little crazy to me. There's no way he should be that low. He averages a double-double. He's probably playing the best out of all the guards in the East."

- Beal on his teammate Wall placing 7th among guards in the East in NBA All-Star fan voting

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road ahead

Mon. - OFF
Tue. - 7 p.m. vs. Chicago Bulls (CSN)
Wed. - 8 p.m. at Boston Celtics (CSN)
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - OFF
Sat. - 8 p.m. vs. Philadelphia 76ers (CSN)
Sun. - OFF

RELATED: Oubre tries to pronounce Antetokounmpo, has trouble

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All signs point towards Boston Celtics being major players in NBA free agency, trade market

All signs point towards Boston Celtics being major players in NBA free agency, trade market

The Boston Celtics have what some might call an embarrassment of riches between a deep roster that made the Eastern Conference Finals, many draft picks - including this year's No. 1 - and money to spend in free agency. According to multiple reports, they plan to go big this offseason as they aim to reach the next level.

CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely reported on Friday that Boston wants to acquire another star in free agency or by trade. Here is what he wrote:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

That should add legs to the rumors they will pursue Gordon Hayward this summer. An All-Star small forward, Hayward will be one of the top free agents available and happened to play in college under Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

[RELATED: Lonzo Ball turned down Celtics, but will listen to... Sixers?]

Also set to hit the open market will be other frontcourt stars like Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap. But they could acquire one via trade with guys like Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony already having been linked to them in rumors over the past few months.

All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, for one, seems to want his Celtics to go the free agency route and he is ready to make a recruiting pitch. This is what he told ESPN:

"We need the best possible player that's gonna help us win, and I'm with that," Thomas said. "Anything Danny [Ainge] and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I'm all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more."

The Celtics are in an enviable spot with many ways to get better this offseason. And running the show is one of the best GMs in the business in Ainge. 

Acquiring stars is easier said than done, but the Celtics look like the team to watch this summer as they appear ready to get very aggressive in trying to improve. The Wizards will certainly be paying attention as they do their own work to get better.

[RELATED: Durant says don't blame him for lopsided NBA Playoffs]

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Scott Brooks proved a great fit in his first year with the Wizards

Scott Brooks proved a great fit in his first year with the Wizards

If you had doubts about the 2016-17 Wizards once they flumped out to a 2-8 start back in November, you weren't the only one. Head coach Scott Brooks will even admit, that as confident as he and his team remained during that early season tumble, it wasn't easy.

"The thing that I look back at, is that the start was tough. Let's face it," he said. "We were 2-8 and I didn't really know what I was getting into."

What happened after those 10 games might be Brooks' greatest achievement in his first year in charge of the Wizards. Washington went 14-8 to get back to .500 and then never really looked back. From January 6 until the All-Star break, the Wizards won 18 of 21 games and firmly established themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Brooks recalls those trying times with an appreciation for how his team responded. John Wall was coming off two knee surgeries and limited by a minutes restriction. The Wizards had turned over most of their 15-man roster. And Brooks was installing a new system with the help of a new coaching and training staff.

Yet, they ultimately righted the ship and put in the best season for the Wizards/Bullets franchise since 1978-79.

"The thing that I really appreciated is that our guys really stuck together, kept believing in one another and kept believing in our system and wanted to keep working for each other," Brooks said. "And our fans stayed with us. That's not always easy to do, either."

[RELATED: Scott Brooks knows one area of Wizards' offense that can improve]

A lot can be leanred through difficult times and Wizards players didn't need long to find out what Brooks was about. Through that dreadful start, he remained steady and never panicked. That resolve did not go unnoticed.

"Just to never quit. Even when we were going through tough times, all of us - the coaching staff, video staff and players - we all came together," Wall said. "We all came in and kept working. Never point the finger at anybody. He always gave us courage and told us that we can compete through anything, through adversity.

The adversity didn't end once they recovered from the 2-8 start. There were other times where Brooks had to bring out what Bradley Beal once described as his "dark side." Often, it would come out at halftime and almost always because of his team's defensive effort.

Brooks is gracious and affable to the media and fans, and is easily to get along with for players as well. But he can set players straight when he needs to with intensity and a fire to win.

"He made us a better defensive team when we showed it and when we didn't, he let us know," Wall said.

The best coaches can find a balance between those sides, to have players generally like them but also dread making them angry. Beal summed up Brooks' approach well.

"I think as a team we respect him," Beal explained. "On the outside of coaching, he's a really down-to-earth guy. He has a relationship with everyone on the team. I think everybody loves that. He holds everybody accountable. Me, I loved him. He granted everybody confidence and freedom on both ends of the floor, especially offense. At the same time, he knows when to have fun and when to be serious... I think we did a good job responding to him whenever he got on us about things."

[RELATED: Will John Wall help recruit free agents to Wizards?]

Brooks, 51, signed a five-year contract worth $35 million to coach the Wizards last April. He replaced Randy Wittman, a coach who had led the Wizards twice to the second round of the playoffs, but missed the postseason entirely in his last year before getting fired. Brooks got the Wizards back to the second round, and by losing in Game 7, took them one game further than they had been in decades.

Over and over during his first season, Brooks was effusive in praising his players and the bright future ahead of them. He loves the opportunity to coach young and improving players like Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and others.

He says working with the players is part of what he missed most in his one year off after the Oklahoma City Thunder fired him following the 2014-15 season.

"I love this game. I missed everything. When you sit out, you enjoy having time spent with your family and you get to do things that you don't normally get to do during an NBA season. I appreciated that year off and I appreciate being with them, but I missed the competition. I missed being around the players. The players, when you have a good group of guys, you love to come to work. You come to work excited and you have enthusiasm for the day. That's one thing that I missed. When you're not on the bus going to a game, that's not a good feeling. It's great when you have a group of guys that are committed to winning every game. That's fun and something that I don't want to be without," he said.

Brooks is back where he belongs coaching an NBA team. And through one year, so far so good.

[RELATED: 10 best games of the Wizards' 2016-17 season]