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Moritz Wagner expects to play Monday vs. Nets, wants to improve shooting this season with Wizards

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The Wizards’ newest center didn’t let rumors get under his head and is familiar with some of their staff.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers
Moritz Wagner practiced with the Wizards on Sunday, July 7 and may play in Monday’s game.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards center Moritz Wagner practiced with the Wizards on Sunday, July 7 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center in Las Vegas, Nev., soon after he was officially acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a postgame media session, Wagner said that he expected to play in Monday’s game against the Nets. “Honestly, [the Wizards and I] haven’t ever talked about it, but I think so. I mean that’s why I’m here right now.”

There were many rumors surrounding Wagner and the Lakers until he was traded. But he would let them distract him over the last several weeks.

“You never know what happens in this league. ... But there’s a possibility that you kind of have to prepare beforehand for it,” when asked in regard to the trade rumors and previous reports that he was traded in late June.

In many traded players’ situations, they go to new cities with staffs whom they are unfamiliar with. But Wagner is already familiar with the Wizards. He was invited to player workouts on May 23, 2018 and became familiar with some members of the Wizards’ staff.

“The fact that I was here last year for draft workouts and there was mutual interest made it a lot easier for me,” Wagner said.

Wagner averaged 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game for the Lakers in the 2018-19 season and will probably not start at the center position. Thomas Bryant is entering his third year in the NBA after a strong sophomore campaign in Washington last season while Ian Mahinmi is still under contract.

“I know Thomas pretty well since I played against him in college. It’s a very vocal guy, which I’m excited about because I kind of put myself in that category too,” Wagner said when asked about how he would fit in with his new teammates. Wagner played college basketball at the University of Michigan and Bryant played at the University of Indiana.

Still, Wagner could find significant minutes as a shooter in the long run.

When asked by Bullets Forever on how he expects to impact the court, Wagner said “I’m here for what I do and that’s just what I gotta to continue to do. I obviously want to shoot the ball well and think that’s one of my strengths. And I have to keep finding my niche in this league.”

Last season, Wagner shot under 30 percent from three for the Lakers. However, he averaged two made three pointers per game and shot 32.4 percent from deep in 22 games for the South Bay Lakers while on G-League assignment. Moritz also shot nearly 40 percent from deep as a junior for the Wolverines in the 2017-18 season.

Speaking about the Wolverines, Wagner also gave praise on his college head coach John Beilein, now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The biggest praise wasn’t about game planning or player development though.

“The best job he did was off the court, they way he puts in integrity, a very valuable spot for you and makes you understand that that’s very important in life,” Wagner said. He also added that he wasn’t surprised that Beilein made the jump to the NBA.

The Wizards are going through a period of major change and are putting in players who fit in a newer style of play and mindset. Like many of the Wizards’ newest draft picks and acquisitions, Wagner is a good fit with the new youth movement that Interim President of Basketball Operations Tommy Sheppard wants to implement. Hopefully Wizards fans can see this come to fruition over the long run.