Wizards eliminate Mavericks in first game after Rui Hachimura trade

Wizards eliminate Mavericks in first game after Rui Hachimura trade


DALLAS – When Wes Unseld Jr. woke up early Tuesday morning, he had an unusual item on his long to-do list before the Wizards. 127-126 beat the Dallas Mavericks. Washington’s second-year coach had a new player to meet.

Kendrick Nunn had taken a 5 p.m. flight from Los Angeles to Dallas on Monday after learning he’d been switched four hours earlier, packing what he could from his home and saying goodbye to his two young children. Suddenly, the third-year guard had a 10-day road trip on the record and Rui Hachimura headed west.

The Magi sending Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for Nunn and three second-round picks opened the trade season well before the Feb. 9 NBA deadline. The move gave Washington some salary flexibility and the kind of draft capital that president and general manager Tommy Sheppard has historically used to fatten future trades: Tomas Satoransky, drafted in 2012, was the most recent second-round pick round to become a rotation player with Washington. .

Practically, Sheppard said Tuesday that the move allows the Wizards to play 2020 lottery pick Deni Avdija more. The front office believes the 22-year-old will play a key role in the team’s future.

“Defensively, I think we need Deni on the floor more,” Sheppard said. “Best secondary playmaker, just turned 22, I think he’s got a bright future. I think when you take away his minutes and they’re cut in different ways, it’s tough.”

Sheppard called Avdija, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward averaging eight points, six rebounds and 2.5 assists entering Tuesday, the team’s second-best defender behind backup point guard Delon Wright and noted his talent as a defender on the wing. and in the pick and roll. The third-year player is averaging 25.8 minutes, up slightly from his second year in the league (24.2), but has been in and out of the starting lineup.

On Tuesday, he scored 15 points and added 10 rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench in a light, low-scoring struggle that came down to the final seconds.

But Avdija is not the only player who could benefit from Hachimura’s departure. Unseld said Tuesday that there is also more opportunity for Kyle Kuzma to slide from small forward, where he has recently started alongside Kristaps Porzingis at power forward and Daniel Gafford at center, back to power forward, where he initially flourished for the Wizards last season

Kuzma started at forward Tuesday alongside point guard Corey Kispert at forward and Gafford at center because Porzingis is sidelined with a sprained left ankle.

“At the start of the season, we’re playing more KP at the five, [Kuzma] he was predominantly at the four, and I think that helped him offensively. So [this] it pushes him a little bit into that four spot, allows him to play off the rebound, attack four in coverage, which has been really good for us,” Unseld said. “Deni obviously will benefit a little bit as a playmaker, to be able to have the ball in his hands and play a little bit more, but at this point, those minutes are kind of on the line. Whether Deni is at the three, Deni is at the four, KP is at the four, that gives us a lot more flexibility.”

The Wizards (21-26) also now have more financial flexibility, which Sheppard said will go, at least in part, toward the standard contract of reserve guard Jordan Goodwin. Washington plans to make the player two-way once they open a roster spot by waiving a player or making a trade. Goodwin was inactive on Tuesday and under his current contract can only play six more NBA games this season.

Against Dallas (25-24), the elusive Wizards fought hard until the last minutes.

Without Porzingis, their second-leading scorer, Washington tried to match Luka Doncic’s scoring by committee. He had six players in double figures behind Kuzma’s team-leading 30 points. Bradley Beal had 22 points and four assists, and Kispert added 14 points in his 25th start.

No player on the court was more impressive than Doncic, whose 41 points came without a 3-pointer and who added 15 rebounds. But the Wizards didn’t need to be flashier. They just had to be sharper down the stretch.

Washington closed the game with Avdija on the floor and a small lineup after Gafford fouled out with nine points in 19 minutes. Beal hit a 3-pointer with 1:32 to play that put his team ahead, and Kispert made a smart play as he pounced on a loose ball to save a possession that ended with Avdija at the line of scrimmage pounds, where he hit. both shots for a three-point lead.

Doncic hit a jumper to put the Mavericks up by nine. He stole the ball from Beal on the other end and drew a foul on the layup to tie the score with 12.5 seconds to play.

Kuzma hit a Hail Mary jumper from the wing and drew a foul on Doncic, but made only his second free throw, which proved to be enough. Wright stole the ball from Doncic on the final play, giving the Wizards their third straight win to open their five-game road trip.

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