Media day for the Washington Wizards is a campy occasion. Players are shuffled from station to station, taking pictures spinning a ball, grabbing a ball, holding signs or flexing their muscles. They make television appearances, press conference appearances and talk to radio hosts. Even the new players on the back-end of the roster, who may not make the team, are filtered through.
A notable gruff voice was missing Monday.
Absent was Wizards power forward, resident enforcer and likely expletive-dropper Markieff Morris. Morris had sports hernia surgery Sept. 22. He had to push the surgery to late September because he and his fiancee were expecting his first child, plus Morris had to be present in Maricopa County (Arizona) court last week. He and his identical twin, Marcus, are accused of two counts each of aggravated assault stemming from an incident in 2015.
The Wizards said after Morris’ surgery that he would miss 6-8 weeks. That means he could miss up to 18 games, or nearly a quarter of the season. He is also at risk of being suspended for up to 10 games, depending on the outcome of his court case, in which he has pleaded not guilty.
Those things provide the Wizards specific basketball concerns. When they open the regular season Oct. 18 at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, who will they pop into the lineup in Morris’ place? And, will they use the same plan for two months until he returns?
The answer to each is the ever-elusive TBD and TBD. They at least have viable options, not ones simply provided by other bodies holding breath.
“It’s not ideal having your players out for an extended period of time,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We have a good group of guys that will step up and fill-in his role. He’ll be back in no time.”
Jason Smith, Otto Porter, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre are among them. Each present varied positives and negatives.
First, Smith. The 31-year-old veteran became a father for the second time in July. He also spent the summer working on 3-point shooting. He wanted to expand where he shot from after predominantly being located in the short corners last season. He also wanted to maintain the 47.4 percent he shot last season from behind the 3-point line. Smith moved from power forward to pseudo-center and back last season. Of the four possible Morris replacements, he provides the most size and closest replication of Morris’ burly play.
“I think it’s going to be a tough thing for us to deal with, but we’re going to deal with it because we have to,” Smith said.
Porter would be a slender and versatile choice. He has played the “stretch four” since being moved over to the spot in the 2015 playoffs. Porter is able to spread the floor, dive in for putbacks, and provide his usual multi-function role. He would cost the Wizards size and paint defense — depending on the matchup — if he was moved over from small forward.
“We did it last year and we were pretty successful with Otto playing the four,” Brooks said. “That is something we will consider. But, you don’t want to overextend guys’ minutes.”
Scott is intriguing. At his best in the NBA, he has been an athletic 3-point shooter and defender. He also has some of the rough edges that exist around Morris and provide extra oomph in his game. However, the reason he is in Washington is because his most recent season was troubling on and off the court. For two years, Scott was involved in a court case where the felony drug charges against him were eventually dismissed because a judge believed he was a victim of racial profiling. Scott and his brother, Antonn, were pulled over in Banks County, Georgia, when Antonn Scott was driving in July of 2015. Police found marijuana and MDMA in his vehicle, leading to the drug charges which were later dropped by the judge.
Scott was with the Atlanta Hawks then. His play became progressively worse following the incident. Last season, when he shot 28.8 percent from the field, to use Scott’s word, he “sucked.” Scott said Monday he does not even count last season as a year of basketball. He was trying to work through an injured knee, stressed daily about the court case and watched almost everything unravel.
When Scott is together, he’s a quality rotation player.
Last, is Oubre. His entrance into consideration is contingent on Porter sliding to the four. If Porter moves over against a small lineup, Oubre’s defensive length can be beneficial. Though, Oubre’s offense still has a long way to go entering his third season.
What the Wizards do know is that they will not have Morris to open the season and are not better off for it.
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