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5 Things we learned from the Wizards this week

The Washington Wizards are getting back into form after a mid-January layoff due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets
Russell Westbrook takes what would be the game-winning shot in the Washington Wizards’ 149-146 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, Jan. 31.
Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

It is the first week of February and the Washington Wizards now have a good chunk of games under their belts. Along the way, we learned some things about the team over the past week’s slate of games from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4. So without further ado, they are below.

No. 1: The Wizards are still catching up physically since their two-week coronavirus-forced hiatus in mid-January

Washington was already doing poorly this season before they missed six consecutive games last month due to a coronavirus outbreak where seven players tested positive. They were 3-8 and second to last in the Eastern Conference before the forced absences.

But since they have returned, Washington has gone 2-5. The Wizards looked gassed at times toward the end of their first four games back, including their loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 29. Sure, the two weeks of rest can heal injures. But the lack of practice time and cardiovascular activity for affected players has prevented them from hitting their potential.

No. 2: Davis Bertans’ shooting slump makes him more of a liability than an asset

The Latvian Laser was one of six players who were under the NBA’s health and safety protocols for much of January and likely had the coronavirus. Since returning to play on Jan. 29, he only shot 30 percent from the field (9-of-38) and 17.8 percent (8-of-36) overall from three in four games through Feb. 4.

For a player who signed a five-year, $80 million contract because of his elite three-point shooting for most of his career, it’s evident that Bertans just isn’t getting it done. It’s also difficult to see the Wizards benching him for long stretches because he still could get hot at any moment — and his salary is just high to begin with.

No. 3: We may see Russell Westbrook in prime form sooner rather than later

Many Wizards players seem to be out of rhythm since returning from the mid-January hiatus. However, that same hiatus may be a blessing for Westbrook, the star point guard whom Washington traded for last December for long-time franchise star John Wall.

Before the outbreak, Westbrook had a nagging quadriceps injury that made him look sluggish at times and was expected to miss at least a week since Jan. 11 when the Wizards made his injury announcement official. Coincidentally, Washington’s outbreak started at that time, and it “helped” Westbrook miss fewer games than he otherwise may have.

Though the wins haven’t come in droves yet, Westbrook has looked noticeably better in the past week. He has shot at least 44 percent from the floor in each of his past three games (Jan. 29 to Feb. 2) and went 8-of-15 from the three-point line. His most important three came on Jan. 31 when it was the game winning shot against the Brooklyn Nets.

Speaking about the comeback ....

No. 4: The Wizards’ comeback win over the Nets is one for the ages, no matter how this season ends.

I wrote about this last Monday. But let me stress this point again.

Washington won a game where they were losing by five points with less than 10 seconds to go and won the game after back-to-back threes by Bradley Beal and Westbrook. Based on the number of games in the last 25 years through Jan. 31, teams went just 9-23,498 when in that situation.

All things considered, Sunday’s game was a hard-fought win considering that the Wizards had a rough start and then got hit by the coronavirus. And even if this season ends up being another lottery-bound campaign, there’s no doubt that the last 12 seconds of that game will be not be forgotten in franchise history.

No. 5: Bradley Beal deserves to be an All-Star as the NBA’s leading scorer

NBA All-Star voting started last weekend and will run through Feb. 16. Before the season, it wasn’t clear if a game would happen, but according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, a game may happen in Atlanta on Mar. 6-7 after all.

As of games played through Feb. 4, Beal is the NBA’s leading scorer based on per-game average with 34.8 points per game. I know that the Wizards may very well be a lottery team. But scoring 25 points or more a game 17 straight times to start this season is no small feat. And it’s not like Beal has regressed since the Wizards’ last playoff appearance in 2018. He has now become of the best players in the NBA, period.

To vote for NBA All-Stars, you can do so through the NBA’s website or on Twitter where you have to give a hashtag of the player’s name or his Twitter handle and #NBAAllStar. So to vote for Beal, a tweet would say “#BradleyBeal #NBAAllStar.”

Thankfully, he has the most All-Star votes in the East. So let’s keep it up!

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