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Top Stories of the Week: The Wizards win despite John Wall’s absence, Mystics begin their free agency

NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Hello February! The Wizards are less than one week away from the trade deadline, the Mystics have made some moves of their own, and we’ve also had some bad news to report for both teams. So let’s get to it.

The Wizards are Wall-less until almost April, but still win four in a row!

The Wizards were already without Wall since last Saturday’s win against the Hawks in the last game of their five game road trip when they dished a season high 41 assists without him. But some bad news struck when the Wizards announced last Tuesday that Wall would sit out at least six weeks and get a left knee procedure to relieve discomfort. That’s a blow to the Wizards’ playoff seeding hopes.

There was still a game left to play that same day. Later on Tuesday evening, the Wizards beat the Thunder, 102-96. And last Thursday, the Wizards defeated the Raptors, 122-119 after Bradley Beal scored 25 points in the second half to get the good guys their third straight win. And on Saturday, Tomas Satoransky scored a career high 19 points when the Wizards won 115-98 over the Magic.

In past seasons, the Wizards did poorly any and every time Wall had to sit. But there’s a common theme behind their recent success without Wall. The Wizards are passing the ball a lot more per game, and it appears that the Wizards are filling in Wall’s shoes by committee, even though Tomas Satoransky is starting in Wall’s place. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post wrote a column on Friday on how “everybody eats” in his absence.

NBA Trade and Free Agency Rumors

The NBA Trade Deadline is next Thursday, February 8, which is slightly earlier than past seasons when the deadline came after the All-Star Game. The main reason why is because the season’s games have been spaced a bit further out and the season now starts a couple weeks earlier than before.

But anyway, free agent center Greg Monroe was rumored to be a target for the Wizards last Thursday, but he ultimately signed with the Boston Celtics. And on Saturday, reserve guard Jodie Meeks requested a trade so he can find a team where he can play more minutes.

The Wizards are also trying to get this message out of the way: They don’t intend on trading their first round draft pick for 2018, barring a star acquisition.

The Mystics re-commit to their core despite Emma Meesseman missing this season

WNBA Free Agency officially began on Thursday, but the Mystics let this bombshell out beforehand: Emma Meesseman will miss this season to rest and prepare for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain with the Belgian National Team.

This announcement is a blow for the Mystics’ championship hopes this season, and perhaps completely. But for better or for worse, they just picked up Elena Delle Donne last season. When a team makes a move like that, rebuilding isn’t an option one year later barring something like Gilbert Arenas’ incident in 2009. The Mystics just have to build on what they have and see what happens for the next couple years.

If there’s something I am looking forward to, it’s how Tayler Hill responds. She’s the first round pick from 2013, the same class Meesseman was in. Yet, there always seemed to be players who overshadowed Hill. First, Matee Ajavon started ahead of her for most of 2013. Then, Bria Hartley in 2014 and Kara Lawson in 2015. In 2016, Hill was the team’s per game leading scorer, but it was clear that Meesseman was the centerpiece that made the Mystics play the way they did.

Yes, Delle Donne is the number one option since 2017, but we wrongly assumed that Meesseman would be the top complementary player. That role is Hill’s to lose. If Hill can take advantage of it — and she did for much of last season before her knee injury — then she’ll be an All-Star this summer.

The Mystics also signed Monique Currie who returns to Washington after playing for the Mercury and San Antonio Stars last season. Delle Donne is excited about her arrival. The Mystics also announced that Tianna Hawkins, Allison Hightower, and LaToya Sanders will return this season.

RIP Rasual Butler

The long-time NBA player and one-time Wizard (2014-15) passed away earlier this week after his car crashed in Studio City, California. His wife Leah LaBelle also died with him. His daughter Raven announced on her Instagram account that there would be memorials in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

Not long before he passed away, Butler even wrote a touching message to Raven on his Instagram:

More links

  • Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated wrote a column on the Wizards’ season so far last Friday.
  • Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post wrote up a statistical analysis piece on how the Wizards are probably going to fare without Wall. They are expected to lose three more games because Wall is absent. And based on the Post’s weekly power rankings, they only have a 17 percent chance of winning 45 or more game this regular season. They have an 82 percent chance of winning at least 40 games, so Washington should finish with at least a .500 record.
  • Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports wrote a column on the Wizards earlier this week. In it, Bradley Beal believed that the Wizards haven’t peaked yet.
  • Marcin Gortat has received some criticism on Friday after a celebratory tweet after the Raptors win that said “Great ‘team’ victory!” John Wall replied back with a manual retweet and “LOL” before deleting the post. There are rumblings by the national sports media that some Wizards players aren’t happy with Wall and/or Beal’s behavior, most notably by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN. Speculation would make Gortat a likely candidate considering that he admitted to not being the best teammate at times, and the tweet could have been a dig at Wall. It’s hard to say if there truly is a “beef” between Wall and Gortat, but for what it’s worth, Bradley Beal tweeted on Friday that folks are “reaching.” Victoria Nguyen of The Score has more.
  • Welcome back to the NBA, Emeka Okafor!

That’s what I have for the week. If you have another link you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments, or preferably as a FanPost.