NBA: Amid change, Wizards set to face struggling Mavs
The Washington Wizards leave the comforts of the nation’s capital to begin a five-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday already assured their roster will look different when they return.
Currently sitting at 20-26, Washington figures to be one of the more active teams ahead of the NBA trade deadline Feb. 9.
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The Wizards made their first move on Monday, when they dealt fourth-year forward Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round draft picks.
Hachimura, who is averaging 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds, matched a career high with 30 points in Washington’s 138-118 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
Hachimura expressed an openness to being traded after the game.
“I just want to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player,” Hachimura said. “And I want to be somewhere that loves my – likes my game, you know? I just want to be somewhere that trusts, believes in me. Just so I can be myself – that’s my goal.”
Moving Hachimura alleviates a logjam at forward for the Wizards, who also have Deni Avdija pushing for more playing time.
Washington has won the last three meetings against Dallas, including a 113-105 decision on Nov. 10. Mavericks star Luka Doncic is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.6 assists in eight career games against the Wizards.
Dallas is looking to bounce back following a 112-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. The Mavericks have dropped four of their last five games and seven of 10 that followed a seven-game winning streak.
“For now, I think after this loss, we went back into the locker room and it was positive,” said Dallas guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “We know we can hang with the guys and we know defensively it’s starting to get better. I think the mood in the locker room – it’s positive.”
One area of concern for the Mavericks has been their free-throw shooting. Dallas ranks second in the NBA in free throws attempted (26.4 per game), but 28th in free-throw shooting percentage at 74.2 after finishing 15 of 26 from the foul line in Sunday’s loss.
“When you get to the line the most in the league and you’re shooting in the bottom of the league, that doesn’t help you win,” Kidd said.
Tuesday’s matchup was expected to mark the first Dallas appearance for Kristaps Porzingis since he was traded from the Mavericks to the Wizards almost a year ago. Instead, the 7-foot-3 center will be sidelined for an extended period following an injury over the weekend.
Porzingis, who is averaging 22.1 points and 8.8 rebounds, is listed as week-to-week after leaving Saturday’s game against Orlando in the third quarter with a left ankle sprain.
Porzingis’ injury could result in more playing time for Avdija, who is averaging 8.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Avdija has also emerged as a strong defensive force.
“I like the trust that (the coaching staff) has in me,” Avdija said. “They want me to make plays. They want me to help out the team. And I feel like they give me a role that I love and embrace it. It makes you feel like you’re important.”
–Field Level Media
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