Wizards hoping for turnover-light outing in Charlotte

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Wizards hoping for turnover-light outing in Charlotte

After five days and eight overall practices, the Washington Wizards take the lessons and play designs they have learned on the road for Sunday's preseason opener at Charlotte. Here's what you need to know about the first of eight exhibition games before the regular season opener on Oct. 30 at Cleveland...

Watch those turnovers: Seeing as the game is not televised, I asked Wizards coach Randy Wittman following Saturday's practice's what those of box score-only analyzers should be on the lookout for against the Bobcats. Like a springy defender anticipating an incoming pass, Wittman jumped my question.

"Turnovers," Wittman exclaimed, sounding a like a coach not willing to participate in a second straight season where the team averages 15.3 miscues per game. "Obviously that's got to be one of the areas that we this year. That number has got to come down a lot for us to be successful. You're always going to have someone what to run and push the ball like we want to but its still got to come down.

"That's probably my number one concern. It always is. We threw the ball all over this gymnasium Tuesday morning so, I'm hoping that doesn't happen."

With John Wall (knee) sidelined and Jannero Pargo (abdominal strain) having missed the previous two days worth of practices, the primary ball handling and push the pace responsibilities fall to A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack.

"I don't think we have any pressure," said Price, one of the several players expected to make their Wizards debut on Sunday. "Our job is simple: just not to turn it over. That's the only thing we have to be concerned with, not to turn the ball over. We don't necessarily have to score. We don't have to really rebound. We don't really have to do anything but not turn the ball over, make sure we get into our sets and we get good shots every time down."

To this point in his first training camp as Wizards head coach, Wittman has been pleased with the work done, the effort provided. Now comes the first opportunity to gauge whether the lessons learned (or at least taught) have sunk in.

"I just want to see a carryover of what we've put in and our execution of it both offensively and defensively," Wittman said. "We've got a long way to go still with what we're going to add, that's my main thing. On the flight back here to George Mason I want to look at the film and say 'oh that's petty good carryover' or it's not and we've got to get right back in here and get to work. That's what I'm looking for."

The Wizards return to George Mason University Monday and Tuesday for the final two days of the formal portion of training camp.

Beal vs. MKG: Wizards rookie Bradley Beal's de facto NBA debut comes against a team sporting another first-year player he's quite familiar with. One pick before Washington selected the University of Florida shooter, Charlotte tabbed another Southeastern Conference stud, Kentucky's grinding small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

"Im pretty sure were going to guard each other," the 19-year-old Beal said. "Hes a competitor and I love playing against him because he never takes it easy on anybody. I mean Im real close friends with him, but that doesnt mean anything to him. He just wants to beat you, he wants to be competitive, he wants to be the best that he can be.

During his one season at Florida, Beal faced Kentucky three times. After shooting 6-for-25 in the first two games, the 6-foot-4 Beal turned in arguably his best game of the season against the Wildcats during the SEC Tournament, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists and sank 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

"So, whenever I match up against him, its always a competitive battle. I love his game. I love the way he plays. I love his heart and passion and how hard he plays. I just have to be able to retaliate and hopefully play better than him."

Wittman is simply looking forward to seeing Beal play when the lights come on.

"I want to see what he can do," Wittman said. "As (for) what he's done here these five days and if any of that carried over into a game like situation against another team, that's all I'm concerned about right now as we move forward. I want to see where we're at retain wise and how we execute from where we're been."

While Beal's thoughts are focused on the upcoming events in Charlotte, the St. Louis native confidently offered a prediction for a certain National League Divisional Series that kicks off today in his hometown.

"Cardinals. Thats all Im going to say," Beal said as St. Louis hosts the Nationals for two games before the series shifts to Washington on Wednesday. "Im trying to actually go to the game, if were free. Itll be a close series. I know the Nationals are good, but I still got the Cardinals."

As for whether he caught any of the Cardinals playoff win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday, Beal cracked, "I knew they were going to win, so there was no point in watching."

Charlotte who?: Last season the 20-win Wizards finished 4-0 against the Bobcats. They weren't the only ones to find that winning feeling against a Charlotte team that underwent significant changes this offseason after a seven-win campaign and finishing with the lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Former St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap was named head coach while the roster shakeup included the additions of NBA veterans Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood along with Kidd-Gilchrist.

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Need to Know:Redskins starters quick hitters—Kelley, Lauvao top depth chart, for now

Need to Know:Redskins starters quick hitters—Kelley, Lauvao top depth chart, for now

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 26, 32 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 22
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 47
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 59
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 111
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 159

Redskins starters quick hitters—offense

QB Kirk Cousins—No need to worry about him; he has plenty of incentive to play well even if he remains a “lame duck”. His is long-term contract, wherever he may be, can be either enhanced or reduced by how well he plays in another contract year.

RB Rob Kelley—The word is that they like Kelley and that he will line up with the first team when the time comes for them to do such things. But it could be a “love the one you’re with” type of situation and if someone bigger and faster is on the draft board Kelley could find himself in a serious competition to hold on to his spot.

WR Terrelle Pryor—I’ve never been a big fan of the Wildcat formation but it may not be a bad idea to get Pryor behind center occasionally. He was a 57 percent passer the one season where he got over 150 attempts and in 2013 he had a 93-yard touchdown run from the quarterback position.

WR Jamison Crowder—His 126 receptions are the most for any Redskins player in his first two season in pro football and his 1,451 yards are the fourth most. The acquisitions of Pryor and Brian Quick should allow Crowder to stay in the slot where he is best suited to be productive.

WR Josh Doctson—Although he got extremely limited practice and playing time last year due to his Achilles injury don’t underestimate the value of time spent in meeting rooms and around the team. The point is that he’s not going to be a raw rookie out there. He could surprise some people.

TE Jordan Reed—Over the last two years, Reed’s stats project to 95 receptions for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns if he had played 16 games per season. Those aren’t just Pro Bowl numbers for a tight end, they’re first-team All-Pro numbers and, if they are extended over a decade or so, Hall of Fame numbers.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

LT Trent Williams—Speaking of first-team All-Pros, Williams had a great shot at getting those honors last year but he had that bump in the road in the form of the four-game substance abuse suspension.

LG Shawn Lauvao—He’s not a fan favorite but the coaches plan on having him with the first team. As with Kelley, if a better option pops up on the draft board Lauvao could find himself in a battle. The difference is that even is Kelley doesn’t start he isn’t going anywhere; the team may not want to pay Lauvao $4 million to be a reserve.

C Spencer Long—He didn’t allow a sack in 13 games until the Giants got one on him in the last game of the season.

RG Brandon Scherff—He also didn’t have a sack on his record all year until the season finale. The Redskins are hoping that 2016 was the first Pro Bowl season in a string of many for the 2015 fifth overall pick.

RT Morgan Moses—He proved his mettle by playing through an ankle sprain that would have sidelined many others. Moses suffered the injury the game before Trent Williams was suspended, forcing top reserve to play on the left side. Don’t be surprised to see him get a contract extension at some time prior to the start of training camp.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Morning tip: Secret weapon Kelly Oubre is no longer a big secret

Morning tip: Secret weapon Kelly Oubre is no longer a big secret

CLEVELAND -- The athleticism and 7-2 wingspan covers for whatever shortcomings second-year forward Kelly Oubre, 21, has as a player. The Wizards moved up to draft, developed and cultivated the lockdown defender into a key piece of Scott Brooks' rotation.

How far they can go in the postseason will hinge on if Oubre is able to maintain his recent form. 

"The game for Kelly, to me, is simple. Just compete," coach Scott Brooks said after Saturday's 127-115 win at the Cavaliers. "Deflections. Getting into the passing lanes. Contesting at the rim. Switching on our pick-and-roll coverage because he can guard one through four depending on the matchup and then rebound. The game rewards him when he does that."

Oubre was a nuisance, much like he has been recently against the likes of Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Schroder and Jeremy Lin. Saturday, it was Kyrie Irving's turn. 

Though Oubre spent most of his time chasing LeBron James in relief of Otto Porter, he went back to the familiar fourth-quarter role of making it difficult on the guards.

And when the Cavs tried to make him defend size, such as Kevin Love, he was too quick.

"I was being guarded by bigs," said Oubre, who played 26 minutes, his most time since Feb. 8 vs. the Brooklyn Nets when he started for an injured Markieff Morris. "I knew I was going to be more energized than them."

Deron Williams telegraphed a feed to James and Oubre jumped the passing lane for a steal and converted a layup for a 107-98 lead with 9:05 lef in the fourth quarter.

Following a missed jumper by John Wall, Oubre put back the rebound for a 113-105 lead. Morris missed a post-up shot and Oubre's putback streched the advantage to 10 points with 5:29 left.

"He took advantage of who was guarding him, shots going up. He got two or three offensive rebounds, putbacks. Those are easy points," said Bradley Beal, who had 27 to go along with Wall's 37. "They're momentum-changers."

Indeed, the Wizards have been on the receving end. They gave up 20 offensive rebounds in an eight-point loss to Boston. They were victimized by the Charlotte Hornets in a five-point loss. 

Irving shot just 8-for-23 and found himself trying to get free from Wall. He'd run the pick-and-roll and end up with Oubre on the switch, an actual tougher matchup. This wasn't what he faced from the Wizards a year ago, when Irving and James isolated the weaker, less athletic defenders such as Jared Dudley in a similar situation. 

Then-coach Randy Wittman didn't trust the then-rookie to do the job. Brooks, who has been steady in guiding Oubre, has gone away from him in small stretches when he was undisciplined but always gave him a chance to play his way back in the rotation. 

Brooks deployed Oubre in the "funeral game" victory over the Celtics as he kept Thomas, the NBA's leading scorer in the final 12 minutes, to just one field goal in the fourth quarter. In a loss last week to Boston, the Wizards cut the deficit to six in the final minutes with Oubre hawking Thomas in to repeated mistakes down the stretch. 

His defense translates to easy offense. Oubre made 7 of 8 shots for 16 points, and had a team-high seven rebounds.

"He's been on a nice (run) for six games, " Brooks said, "just locking in and focusing in on what his role is and being a superstar in that role."

There is a market for wing defenders like Oubre, who the Wizards swapped picks to move from 19th to 15th in 2015. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Jason Smith knees LeBron James in the groin on play at rim]