<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Capital Games]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/capital-games http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usSat, 27 May 2017 17:33:40 -0400Sat, 27 May 2017 17:33:40 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Redskins Sign Final Draft Pick, Injured CB Fabian Moreau]]> Fri, 26 May 2017 14:18:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20161227+Jay+Gruden.jpg

The Washington Redskins have signed the final member of their 10-player draft class, third-round pick Fabian Moreau.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The cornerback out of UCLA tore a pectoral muscle at his pro day in March. He was projected to be a first- or second-round pick before the injury and went 81st overall to the Redskins.

Moreau says doctors told him it was a five-month recovery, putting him on track to be ready by late in the preseason. The 23-year-old was at Washington's practice facility for rookie minicamp and the first sessions of organized team activities.

Coach Jay Gruden says the team is playing by ear the injury situations of Moreau and fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson and hopes they learn the schemes for the secondary as they rehab.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What I Want to Know From the 'Skins' OTAs This Week]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 17:42:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170523+Kirk+Cousons.jpg

We plan and plan and plan, yet sometimes scheduling isn’t ideal. That’s the case this week as other life factors are keeping me away from Redskins Park on Wednesday where the Washington Redskins will be participating in the first of three weeks of Organized Team Activities* (OTAs).

Other opportunities will follow, but here are four questions for four specific folks -- including quarterback Kirk Cousins -- I would hope to ask if there.

(* Each OTA week runs Tuesday-Thursday, but Wednesdays are media days.)

For: Redskins coach Jay Gruden

Question: In light of general manager Scot McCloughan’s exit, were you more involved with the various off-season matters, namely free agency and the NFL draft?

The matter might be different going forward as the Redskins ponder help for the front office and this isn’t a new question, but it’s worth asking. Why? Because when one gains power, one rarely gives it up easily. Washington didn’t replace McCloughan after firing the GM just as free agency kicked off. By that point, McCloughan’s days appeared numbered, but the business of football moved on. Team President Bruce Allen shepherded the process and again during April’s NFL draft. Yet it would be only natural for Gruden, who signed a two-year extension a few days before McCloughan’s official departure, to exert more control or input after directing Washington to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 20 years. Does that mean he pushed for towering wide receiver Terrelle Pryor in free agency? What about drafting Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round or letting veteran defensive lineman Chris Baker walk? Let’s ask and find out.

For: Redskins cornerback Josh Norman

Question: Josh, how are things?

There are some players, nay humans, who don’t need much direction when it comes to sharing their opinion or expressing thought. No. 24 for the Burgundy and Gold, the self-proclaimed “best cornerback on Earth,” is one of them. Sure, we could get into specific topics like his older brother working out for the Redskins during rookie camp, his latest overseas soccer excursion, his rivalries with NFC East receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant or what he thinks of the defense following several changes on all three levels. No doubt, some or all of those matters will come up. Start with a simple question and see where the cover corner’s mind goes. That’s the good stuff.

For: Redskins receiver Josh Doctson

Question: How's that injured Achilles?

Sure, Washington signed Pryor and Brian Quick in free agency. Yes, Jamison Crowder returns as a havoc-causing force from the slot. Yet the most interesting aspect of the Redskins’ receiving corps involves the 2016 first round pick. Doctson appeared in only two games last season after an Achilles injury suffered during offseason workouts impeded his campaign. Gruden told reporters Monday that the 6-foot, 2-inch target is “full for everything” including individual and unit drills during the upcoming practices. Good news. Let’s see Doctson say as much and note his level of confidence when doing so. We essentially never dealt with an upbeat version of Doctson last season seeing as questions about the injury started quickly. If he’s truly good to go, Gruden and Cousins will be upbeat over having the red-zone threat at their disposal.

For: Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins

Question: I don’t really want to ask about your contract situation because you’re probably not going to say anything of note. So is there a topic we can discuss instead, where you’ll provide an interesting response that will make my readers and boss happy?

Fine, that phrasing wouldn’t come out of my mouth, but the thought lives in my brain. We all know the deal: Washington slapped the franchise tag on the starting quarterback back in March for the second straight year. That means Cousins is set to earn just shy of $24 million for the 2017 season if a long-term deal isn’t reached before the NFL’s July 15 deadline. Without a multi-year contract, Cousins once again becomes a free agent next season. The Redskins can go for the franchise tag hat trick, but the cost – no less than $28 million – becomes unwieldy. If Cousins signs with another team and the Redskins let him go, they’ll receive squat in compensation.

The thing is, none of this is breaking news but rather information discussed at great length in various forms all over town and the NFL. The team remains hopeful. Cousins typically says squat. Holding your breath for a positive resolution seems unwise. So, rather than bring up contract talk for the umpteenth time, how about another topic? Kirk, you pick.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mystics, Valor Offer Free Tickets for Military Appreciation ]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 17:30:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WNBA-Washington-AP_16167074634650.jpg

A couple of Washington, D.C., sports teams are offering free tickets to veterans and members of the armed forces for Military Appreciation Day.

They can get up to four free tickets to the Washington Mystics Friday game against the Chicago Sky at the Verizon Center at 7 p.m. They must be requested by 5 p.m. Wednesday here.

To nominate someone you believe deserves recognition for their service, follow @washmystics on Twitter and Instagram to submit their for them to receive complimentary tickets. There will be a video tribute during the game and veterans will be encourage to participate in contests held during timeouts and quarter breaks.

The Washington Valor is giving away tickets for Saturday's 1 p.m. game against the Philadelphia Soul, also at the Verizon Center. Same deadline as the Mystics: Request tickets here by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

To nominate someone to receive complimentary tickets, follow @washingtonvalor on Twitter and Instagram. The Valor also will have veterans participate in contests and a video tribute. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Projected No. 1 Pick Fultz Praises His No. 1 Supporter]]> Tue, 23 May 2017 12:53:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000018867314_1200x675_950684739635.jpg

DeMatha Catholic High School alum Markelle Fultz is projected as the first pick in this year's NBA Draft, but he told News4's Carol Maloney he wouldn't be anywhere without his mother, Ebony.

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<![CDATA[World Champion Blind Golfer Leads Local Clinic]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 16:58:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Phil+Blackwell.jpg

At Woodmont Country Club, world champion blind golfer Phil Blackwell is teaching other visually impaired golfers they don’t need to see to succeed. Blackwell’s clinic is part of the fifth annual Shot in the Dark Golf and Dinner Classic hosted by the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. News4’s Sherree Burruss reports.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[DeMatha's Markelle Fultz Projects as Top Pick in NBA Draft]]> Mon, 22 May 2017 14:35:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Markelle+Fultz+GettyImages-633133574.jpg

Prince George's County, Maryland, native Markelle Fultz talks with Carol Maloney about his rise to the projected top pick in the NBA Draft at his alma mater, DeMatha Catholic High School.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Otto Porter Jr. Ready for Game 7]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 16:18:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Wizards+Celtics+Game4.jpg

News4's Carol Maloney catches up with Wizards Forward Otto Porter Jr. before Monday night's big game seven in Boston.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Schedule Set for Washington Redskins Training Camp]]> Mon, 15 May 2017 14:50:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-453831984.jpg

Fans who want to check on the Washington Redskins' progress this summer can start making plans. The team announced the schedule for training camp in Richmond, Virginia.

Training camp begins July 27 and runs through Aug. 13. Fan Appreciation Day will be Saturday, Aug. 5.

Between practices, fans can meet cheerleaders and former players. After practices, coaches and players will sign autographs and take pictures as their schedules allow. The team also will schedule theme days.

All sessions are free and open to the public. Online registration opens in early June.

Fans can bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on, as there are no bleachers available.

Richmond will announce parking options closer to the beginning of camp.

Alcohol, illegal drugs, weapons, firearms, glass bottles, video cameras and animals (except for certified guide dogs assisting disabled guests) are prohibited. Food and drinks can be bought at the site. All fans and their bags are subject to search.

Thursday, July 27
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Friday, July 28
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Saturday, July 29
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Monday, July 31
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Tuesday, Aug. 1
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Wednesday, Aug. 2
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Special Teams Practice

Thursday, Aug. 3
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Saturday, Aug. 5
Fan Appreciation Day
1:30 p.m. Practice

Sunday, Aug. 6
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Monday, Aug. 7
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Tuesday, Aug. 8
1:35 p.m. Practice

Saturday, Aug. 12
1:35 p.m. Practice

Sunday, Aug. 13
10:35 a.m. Walkthrough
3 p.m. Practice

Learn more about the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center here.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Why the Wizards Are Here]]> Sun, 14 May 2017 16:54:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Wizards+Wall+Beal.jpg

There will be no Game 7 predictions here. This is about how the Wizards reached this point beyond John Wall’s season-saving 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left in Washington’s 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics Friday night

These teams are level – give me Washington at a neutral site – but Boston has the home-court advantage. In 10 games this season including six in their best-of-7 series, the road team remains winless. Bad odds, but who imagined the Wizards one win from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1979 when they started the season 2-8.

There are role players to appreciate and stats worth discussing, just not now. We’re looking at the faces of the franchise and on the Ben’s Chili Bowl mural, Wall and Bradley Beal. We’re looking at their never-rattled head coach, Scott Brooks.

Pointing out the contributions of the two best players and the man in charge on the sideline is as obvious as a bad toupee. Together, they bailed Washington out of that hairy start to a point where growing a playoff beard might be more than a one month endeavor. That happened for two precise reasons: Wall and Beal were healthy in the same season and Brooks added calm in his first campaign with Washington.

Wall played through pain in previous seasons and had surgery on both knees just over a year ago. Beal missed 81 games over his first four seasons. Washington missed the playoffs last season. The duo played 78 and 77 games respectively this season, marking the second time both played at least 70 games in the same year.

Fewer trips to various knee and leg specialists alone doesn’t equal success. You need the goods.

Wall finished second in the NBA in assists this season. The four-time All-Star’s 2017 playoff averages of 27.9 points and 10.9 assists top his regular season numbers. The signature play of his career came after he missed 12 of his first 13 shots. Despite those clanks or uniformed shots from critics during his 7-year career, the confidence never vanished.

Beal set career-highs in virtually every category this season. His Game 6 performance – 13 of his 33 points came in the fourth quarter – was absurd for the production and high degree of difficulty. With his textbook jump shot absent until a clutch 3-pointer during the closing stanza, Beal relied mostly on a dribble-drive game honed during offseason workouts. He rocked the top-seed Celtics with one twisty layup in traffic after another.

If you watch games and check stats, there’s a decent chance you knew those various factoids involving Washington’s cornerstone pieces. The key to grasping Brooks’ help is far more subtle.

At his press conference 90 minutes before Friday’s potential elimination game, the 51-year-old Northern California native cracked jokes and answered questions without any trace of nervous energy. If the coach isn’t frantic, good bet the players follow. That’s largely been the case for 94 games.

That poise also comes with the game plan. No-lurching, no rash decisions with strategy or lineups, certainly not based on any short-term results. Brooks sharpened his philosophy during his year away from the game after Oklahoma City fired him in 2015. He discussed the mindset during the season and again several hours after Washington’s thrilling win, which came two days after a 21-point loss.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about all season, especially in the playoffs,” Brooks said Saturday following practice at Verizon Center. “You’re going through a playoff series. … It’s the first to four (wins) and you can’t go crazy after a big win you can’t get to down after a tough loss. Basically we had both situations the last two games. A tough loss in Game 5, but it was one game and we didn’t lose the series. An incredible win in Game 6, but we didn’t win the series. We just have to stay focused on what we have to do. It’s going to be a tough challenge ahead of us Monday night, but our guys are excited about it We’ve put ourselves in this position to go seven (games) against one of the best teams in the East.”

That response comes across as pure coachspeak unless you have watched Brooks remain composed in the storm and under clear skies.

The Wizards are one win away from facing LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re one win away from becoming the first of the four major professional teams in town to reach a conference finals since 1998. They’re a win away from any and all of these things because their star guards played and roared, and their poised coach stuck with the plan.

The D.C. area is one win away from a severe case of Wizards Fever. Now you know why.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Angry Capitals Fan Knocks Over Woman in Penguins Jersey]]> Thu, 11 May 2017 16:24:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/Angry+Capitals+Fan+051017.jpg

WARNING: This video contains graphic language.

A video posted to YouTube Thursday shows an angry Washington Capitals fan knocking over a female Pittsburgh Penguins fan after Wednesday's 2-0 loss ended the Caps' season.

Not only was the fan upset about the Caps' loss as he stormed along in downtown D.C., he also seemed perturbed about the Wizards being down by double digits to the Boston Celtics at halftime of what would be a 123-101 loss, putting Washington down 3-2 in that series.

The Washington Nationals' comeback 7-6 defeat of the Baltimore Orioles in the Battle of the Beltways was no consolation.

"I don't care about the Nationals!" he barked.

When he passed a few Penguins fans, he body-checked one of them to the ground.

“Don’t be so bloody happy about it!” the man screamed at her.

Apparently in defense of his action to onlookers, the man reasoned, "I didn't hit her, I just walked through her."



Photo Credit: YouTube
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<![CDATA[#Winsday! 3 DC Teams Vie for Wins Wednesday]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 12:46:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc+sports+team.jpg

Three D.C. sports teams will battle it out for wins Wednesday night. The Capitals will confront the Penguins, the Wizards will take on the Celtics and the Nationals will play game three of the Battle of the Beltways. News4's Justin Finch has more. 

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<![CDATA[Battle of the Beltways Comes to Nats Park for 3rd Game]]> Wed, 10 May 2017 09:33:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-681166876.jpg

The Washington Nationals will take on the Baltimore Orioles for game three of the Battle of the Beltways Wednesday night.

The Orioles are leading the series after rallying from a late three-run deficit Tuesday to complete a two-game sweep of its neighbor.

Singles by Adam Jones and Manny Machado, along with an intentional walk to Chris Davis, loaded the bases for Mark Trumbo against Jacob Turner (1-1). Trumbo hit the first pitch to left field, ending the game just seven minutes short of four hours. 

The interleague series shifts to Washington for two games on Wednesday and Thursday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warning: Wizards' Markieff Morris Isn't Messing Around]]> Tue, 09 May 2017 20:14:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/674625010.jpg

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the top scorers and players for the Washington Wizards. When it comes to headline-generating quotes – along with in-game toughness -- nobody is doing more than Markieff “The Enforcer” Morris.

The key during the Wizards’ playoff run is Washington’s power forward isn’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

The numerous lines dropped by Morris over the course of the season, including those not safe for work (warning: graphic content), could fill a news segment and kill at comedy roasts, at least if filled by NBA minds.

We’re not talking ha-ha, but cutting jabs at times laced with straight up defiance. The edge is real and omnipresent yet never forced.

Morris rarely cracks a smile behind his prominent beard, yet is approachable. His deep voice rarely spikes around reporters, but it’s clear who is in command.

Here’s a sampling of his recent work:

• When Atlanta Hawks star Paul Millsap suggested the Wizards defense was akin to Mixed Martial Arts maneuvers, Morris responded, “Just see where he's at now. I guess if that's MMA, then what we do next might be double MMA." Morris later called Millsap a “crybaby” before the Wizards dispatched the Hawks in round one.

• After suffering an ankle injury in Game 1 of Washington’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against Boston by landing on Al Horford’s foot, Morris confronted Boston’s center before the next game tipped over the potentially intentional placement of said foot. Soon after Morris tossed Horford while the two chased for a loose ball, sending the 250-pounder crashing into photographers

• The Wizards backed up their 27-point rout over the Celtics in Thursday’s Game 3 with a 121-102 romp Sunday, evening the best-of-7 series 2-2. Asked about the team’s approach during the decisive 26-0 run in the third quarter, Morris said, “"Blow them the f--- out. Just keep pressing them. Go up by 50 if we can. That's the mindset I feel like all of us had.”

• Before the team flew to Boston for Wednesday’s Game 5 (8:00 p.m.), Morris was reminded of a Bleacher Report article earlier in the season inexplicably didn’t rank him among the NBA’s top 30 power forwards. “Whoever those guys who wrote that are [expletive], don’t know anything about basketball and never watch basketball in your life if you don’t rank me in the top 30,” Morris stated.

• As for this current series with the Celtics, Morris bluntly stated after Game 4, “We’re the better team and we feel like we’re the better team. If we go out there and we play like that I think we’ll get the win.”

“He’s great,” Wall said of Morris, who made his playoff debut this season. “That’s what he is. He’s the enforcer of our team. … Whatever you say or whatever you do isn’t going to bother him.”

What bothers Washington is when the multi-faceted Morris isn’t on the court because of foul trouble or injury. His basic statistics – 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks – don’t fully convey the 6-foot-10 forward’s importance. One key advanced number does.

Net rating expresses a team's point differential per 100 possessions when a player is on court. During the playoffs, four of the top five spots are occupied by members of the Golden State Warriors, otherwise known as the odds-on-favorite for the 2017 NBA title. Morris (17.9) is the interloper, one slot ahead of fifth place Kevin Durant.

“For playing in his first playoff series, he doesn’t get fazed by the moment,” Wall continued. “He just goes out there and plays his game and do whatever we need to do.”

Morris has the gumption to tangle with bigger bodies inside and the agility to guard shooters at the 3-point arc. On offense, the NBA twin – his brother plays for the Detroit Pistons -- flashes his own deep touch at times along with a deft passing touch.

Morris showed compassion earlier this season by providing teammate Marcin Gortat a lifeline when the Wizards’ center publicly criticized the team’s reserves. He will also look for ways to implement lessons learned. On the constant chirping with Millsap, Morris said, “You’re just trying to put something in their head, remember you from the last game. Got that from KG.”

KG is Kevin Garnett, one of the NBA’s all-time great power forwards and trash talkers. Morris certainly emulates the future Hall of Famer’s no-backing-down demeanor. Good. Washington needs to win at least one of the remaining two games in Boston in order to reach the Eastern Conference finals. Problem: Washington is winless in four games at Boston this season.

The Wizards are hot entering Game 5, but winning this series defines rough and tumble. Good thing the Wizards have their enforcer.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Things About The Redskins' Next Steps]]> Sun, 07 May 2017 10:55:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170507+Jonathan+Allen.jpg

The 2017 NFL Draft is officially part of the past, along with the majority of free agency. Time for a look at what’s on deck and around the corner for the Washington Redskins.

What’s Your Name?

Rookies report to Ashburn for a three-day minicamp starting May 12, meaning that is the first chance to see first-rounder Jonathan Allen and Washington’s other nine draft picks. Well, except for those injured, like cornerback Fabian Moreau (torn pectoral) and safety Montae Nicholson (torn labrum). But it does include a contingent of undrafted free agents, including Maryland wide receiver Levern Jacobs and Kansas safety Fish Smithson. 

Allen, a star defensive lineman at Alabama and a Northern Virginia native, is the true headliner. Washington desperately needed help with its defensive front and was fortunate the All-American slipped into the middle of round one. The talent is undeniable, but that 16 other players went ahead of him is curious, especially with concerns of arthritic shoulders.

The veterans enter the mix for three consecutive weeks of Organized Team Activities (OTA) May 12 through 14. Expect the vast majority if not every single player on the roster at Redskins Park for the "non-mandatory" sessions. Expect reports of players appearing "in the best shape of career" or "focused" for the upcoming season.

Don’t fall hard for all the positivity though -- it was in this stretch when buzz of unknown rookie running back and future starter Robert Kelley began to grow.

Speaking Of The Backfield…

One of the more intriguing battles involves the running back unit. That includes the starter – Kelley faces a stiff challenge from fourth-round pick Samaje Perine – and who makes the roster. The power-packed Perine set the NCAA’s single-game rushing record in 2014 with 427 yards against Kansas. Kelley rose up Washington’s depth charts to lead the Redskins in rushing last season, though the overall ground game faded in the final weeks.

Matt Jones went from starter to inactive because of fumble woes and his lack of special teams ability. Now he faces steep odds of sticking around long-term. Chris Thompson’s pass-catching role is the only secure part of the group. Holdover Mack Brown rounds out the likely challengers.

The Doctson Is In House

Josh Doctson’s painful rookie season began with an Achilles injury suffered during last season’s minicamp and ended officially in October when Washington placed its 2016 first-round selection on injured reserve. In between the wide receiver rarely participated in practices and caught just two passes before being shelved. Since then there have been reports of physical improvement plus the occasional short video of the 6-foot-2 target running drills.

The Redskins need a healthy Doctson this season, and not just because DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left in free agency. The weekly questions about Doctson to head coach Jay Gruden eventually became awkward in part because of the apparent uncertainty. Now it’s time to see what tangible qualities he can provide. Getting on the field during OTAs is the first step.

Hi, Kirk

There are position battles. There are free agent debuts, including wide receiver Terrell Pryor and linebacker Zach Brown. Intriguing stories will emerge. All will be overshadowed by the never-ending drama surrounding quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract. By now you know the deal about his lack of a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 15 to agree on an extension or Cousins, for the second consecutive year, plays on the NFL’s franchise tag.

The difference this time is the rising price of a third franchise tag becomes extra costly – $28 million at least. That means Cousins could taste free agency in 2018. This topic will come up early and often, if not hourly, during OTA sessions. You've been warned.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Remain Guarded About Wizards' Backup Plan]]> Thu, 04 May 2017 16:14:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170504+Bradley+Beal.jpg

Let’s start with this: Don’t panic about the Wizards.

No doubt a 2-0 hole in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series with the Celtics is the opposite of ideal. It’s also not doom and gloom. Washington now hosts the next two contests starting with Thursday night’s Game 3. Few teams were better at home all season than the Chinatown 15.

There is, however, reason to be on guard when it comes to the Wizards’ backcourt.

No, this isn’t about John Wall. The four-time All-Star looked like an MVP for much of Tuesday’s 129-119 overtime loss. Yes, the point guard missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation and more attempts in the extra period. Playing 47 of a possible 53 minutes and having to guard Boston superhero Isaiah Thomas for most of them will wear out even the NBA’s fastest player.

This isn’t a jab at Bradley Beal, who rebounded Wall’s miss but came up short with his own game-winning attempt. The starting wing guard’s performance Tuesday night might be described by a certain someone in the DMV as low-energy. Beal’s textbook jumper isn’t working in the playoffs – 27.5 percent on 3-pointers. He’s also averaging 25 points per game.

The Wizards aren’t in the semifinal round without their starry backcourt. This is inarguable.

They might not advance any further because of the replacement options when either rests. That’s the honest truth.

Tired legs are no joke. Starting in the Tuesday’s fourth quarter, Wall began settling for jumpers instead of attacking Boston’s defense off the dribble. He made his first two 3-pointers – and then missed eight of nine. Beal is averaging 40 minutes in the postseason, five above his regular season average.

Teams play their best players more and more in the playoffs. That’s common. For Wizards coach Scott Brooks, it’s a necessity.

Fans and analysts alike questioned Washington’s bench options starting last summer when new players joined the returning nucleus led by Wall and Beal and a quality frontcourt.

It took some time but Brooks eventually found enough help from reserve centers and forwards. Ian Mahinmi's (calf strain) absence in the playoffs hasn’t helped, but also isn’t new. Injuries sidelined Washington’s most expensive free agent signing for 51 of 82 regular season games.

Even with the center’s lingering absence, those backcourt backups remain the biggest fear. That hasn’t changed over 90 games.

The Wizards signed Brandon Jennings in late February hoping the enigmatic veteran would provide needed oomph backing up Wall. At his best – typically when playing with a natural partner in Beal -- he’s kept Washington playing at a fast place while setting up teammates for buckets. At his worst – this series hasn’t been so swell -- he’s a defensive liability with a broken jump shot.

The latter version becomes excruciating each game when Brooks uses Jennings with Wall. Ghastly Match.com first dates have more chemistry. The eye test and analytics agree. Leads disappear with these two together quicker than a bystander’s wallet at a pickpocket convention.

Whatever upside comes with Jennings evaporates when he isn’t getting his preferred lead guard chances. When on the court with Wall, he shouldn’t. Turning him into supporting cast on offense combined with his inability to stop most opposing guards on the other end defines double negative.

In fairness to Jennings, the situation improved when he arrived, but that’s damning with faint praise. In fairness to Brooks, his options are limited.

Trey Burke, another off-season acquisition, went from Wall’s primary backup – even though his head coach declared early on that he wasn’t a point guard –to playing in just four of the last 30 games. Czech transplant Tomas Satoransky offers size and enthusiasm, but the postseason might be too big for his first NBA season. Rookie Sheldon McClellan rarely played during the regular season.

This backup group combined with no singular force among the frontcourt options leads Brooks to keeping Wall or Beal on the court at all times. This leads to tired legs. This leads to concern over a seven-game series against a team like Boston with ample and productive backcourt depth.

Maybe Brooks should see if Burke’s 3-point shooting (44 percent during the regular season) offsets his ball handling woes. Maybe the 25-year-old Satoransky, a long-time professional player overseas, won’t wilt under the postseason lights. Maybe McClellan’s grit helps in spot duty. Maybe Jennings finds a rhythm playing before a sellout crowd wishing him well.

Those maybes should scare Wizards nation more than trailing 2-0. Only three teams won more home games than Washington did this season. Boston lost both its matchups at Verizon Center. Wall is rolling. Look for a Beal bounce back. Those two just can’t play every minute. When they sit, be on guard, just like the first 90 games.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Penguins Chase Holtby, Beat Capitals to Take 2-0 Series Lead]]> Sun, 30 Apr 2017 07:19:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Caps+Pens+Game+2.jpg

With Sidney Crosby continuing his brilliance for the Penguins and Braden Holtby not having the same response in net for the Capitals, the second-round series between the NHL's top teams has tilted in Pittsburgh's favor.

Crosby set up two goals and the Penguins chased Holtby in a 6-2 victory Saturday night in Game 2, taking a commanding 2-0 lead back home. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced in his second consecutive strong performance and Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel scored twice to put the Presidents' Trophy winners in a historically difficult hole.

Teams that have lost the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home are 18-69 (21.7 percent) all time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. To attempt their own comeback, the Capitals might turn back to Holtby for Game 3 Monday night in Pittsburgh after backup Philipp Grubauer allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced in relief.

Holtby had surrendered three goals on 14 shots before getting the hook after the second period Saturday. The goals by Matt Cullen (short-handed), Kessel and Guentzel weren't all Holtby's fault because of miscues and odd-man rushes, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner didn't make the timely save his team needed.

Grubauer allowed goals to Kessel and Evgeni Malkin early in the third, but the Penguins continued to pour it on and got an empty-netter from Guentzel in the final minute. It was his playoff-leading seventh goal.

After outshooting the Penguins 35-21 in their Game 1 loss, the Capitals came out firing with 10 of the first 11 shots Saturday night. They dominated territorially and tested Fleury but couldn't crack him as the teams went through another first period without a goal.

Complaining of no power plays in Game 1, the Capitals did nothing with their two first-period chances and gave up the first goal on the third early in the second. Cullen blocked Kevin Shattenkirk's shot from the point, blew around Washington's big trade-deadline acquisition and slid the puck between Holtby's legs for the short-handed goal 1:15 into the second even as T.J. Oshie hooked him from behind.

When Backstrom won a puck battle in the corner, Niskanen answered right back 54 seconds later with a power-play goal to tie it.

Then the quick-strike Penguins were at it again.

Crosby's between-the-legs move made Alex Ovechkin, Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov converge on him, leaving Kessel wide open for a snipe from the faceoff circle at 13:04. Three-plus minutes later, Crosby went down to block Justin Williams' shot, slid the puck go Guentzel while still on his belly to jumpstart the 2-on-1 and the rookie from Omaha, Nebraska beat Holtby clean to make it 3-1 Pittsburgh.

That marked the end of Holtby's night after two periods as the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner was again not at his best as Fleury stole the show. Holtby has a 2.62 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in eight games in these playoffs, a far cry from his career postseason brilliance.

But Grubauer couldn't rescue the Capitals, allowing a power-play goal to Kessel on the second shot he faced 2:19 with Shattenkirk in the penalty box for putting the puck over the glass. Backstrom's rebound goal 3:44 into the third period cut the Penguins' lead to 4-2, but Malkin tipped a shot by Ian Cole past Grubauer at 5:31 on a play that was called goaltender interference on the ice and reversed on a successful coach's challenge by Mike Sullivan.

Grubauer allowed two goals on nine shots.

NOTES: LW Carl Hagelin returned to the Penguins' lineup after being out since March 10 with a lower-body injury. He replaced Scott Wilson. ... Pittsburgh RW Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot by John Carlson and did not return. ... RW Paul Carey replaced Brett Connolly in the Capitals' lineup. ... Washington D Karl Alzner remained out with an upper-body injury, though coach Barry Trotz said Alzner was close.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Fans #RocktheRed for Playoffs]]> Fri, 28 Apr 2017 16:53:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/160*200/a6b0625819f947ebadf49b6e8b8a236b.jpg Share your #RocktheRed pics! Tweet them to @nbcwashington or email them to isee@nbcwashington.com.

Photo Credit: @smrivet]]>
<![CDATA[Four Things to Know About the Draft -- Redskins Edition]]> Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:30:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170427+Kirk+Cousins.jpg

The Washington Redskins enter the 2017 NFL Draft with 10 overall selections, including the 17th overall pick in Thursday’s first round. Here are four things to know about the draft -- and the Redskins' situation before the three-day event begins.

What is their biggest need?

Defensive line. Washington ranked 28th in defense last year in large part because of limitations up front. At best this unit broke even with the offseason additions (Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee) offsetting two key subtractions (Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois). And, on paper, that’s not nearly enough for real improvement.

Problem: There aren’t any lineman projected in the range of the Redskins’ first round pick and this isn’t a particularly good deep crop overall.

The good news is there are several other need areas – inside linebacker, edge rusher, cornerback, safety, guard – where they can find help throughout the draft.

How did free agency affect their situation entering the draft?

Honestly, not much. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and inside linebacker Zach Brown will bolster their respective units this season, but both only signed 1-year deal. That’s why speed receiver John Ross and ILB Haason Reddick are names worth considering at 17.

Neither McGee nor McClain play nose tackle, a major weakness last season. Neither does Michigan’s Chris Wormley, but the hard-working and productive lineman would upgrade the talent level on Day 2. Safety D.J. Swearinger might be the best safety on the roster in a couple of seasons, but the Redskins shouldn’t be shy about adding more help on Day 2 like Utah’s Marcus Williams.

What about the quarterback situation?

Here we are: NFL Draft week and there’s seemingly no progress in agreeing on a long-term contract with Kirk Cousins.

At this point, all we know is that Cousins is slated to play the 2017 season on the franchise tag that will pay him just shy of $25 million. Not bad. The thing is, if there’s no extension signed by July 15, then negotiation time is over.

Though the Redskins can slap the franchise tag on Cousins for a third time next year, the salary increase would make it seemingly impossible or at least unwise for that to occur. That makes Cousins in leaving in free agency – with Washington receiving minimal compensation – the odds-on favorite.

As for the 2017 draft, the Redskins could hedge their future by selecting a passer in the early rounds – Deshaun Watson? Pat Mahomes? Nate Peterman? -- or take a flyer on Day 3. If they actually go QB in round 1 AND keep Cousins, hang on for a wild 2017 season.

Who will they draft in the first round?

Crystal ball time. This draft is the toughest to predict in recent years due to various factors – injuries, off-the-field issues, grading the quarterbacks, lack of stud offensive linemen.

Some aren’t convinced the first pick is obvious, though Texas A&M’s pass rusher Myles Garrett is the likely call. If Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster falls to 17 because of his injury and temperament concerns, the Redskins should make a bold move that would provide their defense with a needed inside presence.

Otherwise, UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley would offer pass rushing presence for a team facing dealing with Trent Murphy’s four-game suspension, Preston Smith coming off a down sophomore season and Junior Galette hoping to play after missing two consecutive years with Achilles injuries.

Washington Redskins picks:

Round 1, Pick 17, 17th overall

Round 2, Pick 17, 49th overall

Round 3, Pick 17, 81th overall

Round 4, Pick 7, 114th overall, via Jets

Round 4, Pick 17, 124th overall

Round 5, Pick 10, 154th overall, via Saints

Round 6, Pick 17, 201th overall

Round 6, Pick 25, 209th overall, via Texans

Round 7, Pick 2, 220th overall, via 49ers

Round 7, Pick 17, 235th overall

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast and is the Redskins Insider for BreakingBurgundy.com. He tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Home, Sweet Home: Beal, Wall Lead Wizards Past Hawks, 103-99]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:38:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/John+Wall1.jpg

Back at home, and back in charge, Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and John Wall added 20 points and 14 assists, leading the Washington Wizards to a 103-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night for a 3-2 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points, making a career high-tying five 3s, and 11 assists. But after his basket from beyond the arc pulled Atlanta within 101-99 with 70 seconds left, Wall responded with a 21-foot pull-up jumper.

A miss followed from Paul Millsap, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but after Wall's jumper was off the mark, the Hawks seemed to waste too much time at the other end and the buzzer sounded.

The host has won every game in this series so far.

Washington can close out the best-of-seven series and move into the conference semifinals by winning Game 6 at Atlanta on Friday night.

The Wizards won 30 games at home during the regular season, the second-most in the East, and they have now collected six consecutive first-round home playoff games.

The crowd filed in on the late side, which perhaps wasn't all that surprising given that this was an earlier-than-usual 6 p.m. tipoff time on a weekday. But they were sent away happy.

In a series that has been filled with plenty of physical play, referee whistles and smack talk, including a "Crybaby" accusation and a comparison to MMA fighting, there were fouls galore in stretches once again.

Dwight Howard and Millsap both had three fouls at the half. Then Howard, who finally came to the fore in Game 4 with 16 points and 15 rebounds after a quiet start to the series, exited after picking up his fourth foul with 2minutes left in the third quarter. His fifth arrived on an offensive foul off the ball with 8 minutes to go.

Washington's Markieff Morris picked up No. 4 after 2 minutes of the third quarter and didn't return until there were less than 6 minutes remaining in the fourth.

Still, Washington stretched out a one-point halftime edge to 69-58 on Wall's 3-pointer, before the Hawks responded. Tim Hardaway Jr. delivered eight of his 15 points in an 11-0 run that tied things at 69.

The Wizards were ahead 83-79 entering the final quarter.

About 2 minutes after going back in, Morris drew his fifth foul, plus a technical for arguing, eliciting derisive chants about the officiating from spectators.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Howard only took three shots and accounted for five points. ... Schroder started 4 for 4 on 3-pointers and had scored a game-best 16 points by halftime.

Wizards: Led 50-49 at halftime, led by Beal's 14 points. ... C Marcin Gortat attempted his first free throws of the entire series with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter. He made the first, rolled his head back as if to say, ``Finally!'' and then made the second, too. Those were his first points of Game 5; Gortat finished with five.

VEEP

Former Vice President Joe Biden received the loudest ovation of the first half, with plenty in the sellout crowd of 20,356 rising to salute and cheer him when the videoboard showed him sitting courtside.

INJURY NEWS

Wizards front-court reserve Jason Smith left in the final minute of the third quarter with a bruised left calf and did not return. Washington has been without backup C Ian Mahinmi (strained left calf) all series.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Things We Know Now About the Hawks and Wizards]]> Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:58:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20170426+John+Wall.jpg

Welcome to a new voice on Capital Games: Ben Standig, host of the "Locked on Wizards" podcast and blogger for Breaking Burgundy!

The Wizards left town last week with a 2-0 series lead over the Hawks. Now both teams are headed back to D.C., all tied. Here are four things we’ve learned about Washington and Atlanta after four games of this NBA Eastern Conference first-round matchup.

John Wall Is So Good – But So Is Paul Millsap

The two best players in the series are meeting expectations and then some, especially in their wins.

Wall’s blinding speed and relentless attack mode fueled Washington’s victories in Games 1 and 2. Millsap’s versatility, strength and smarts helped tie the series. Wall is one of only two players currently averaging at least 28 points and 10 assists in the playoffs. Millsap is also filing up the stat sheet: 23.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals and a whopping 10.8 free throw attempts per game.

The point guard and power forward aren’t in any kind of head-to-head battle, yet whichever one ends up as the unofficial best player in the series probably advances to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

3s and Free Throws

The Wizards finished the regular season eighth in 3-point percentage (37.2). Having Otto Porter, Bradley Beal, Jason Smith and Bojan Bogdanovic each sink around 40 percent helped. Through Monday, Washington is last among 16 playoff teams (29.7). Having those four players shooting in the 20s has hurt.

The Wizards went 9-19 when shooting under 32 percent from deep during the season. They’ve done that three times this series with only Game 4’s 34.4 percent pushing across that line.

Most teams in the modern NBA will struggle if the 3-point shots aren’t falling. Atlanta (31.7) isn’t lighting it up either, but that wasn’t a strength for the Hawks (23rd) during the season.

They’re about getting to the free throw line and they’re doing that better than anyone in the playoffs. Meanwhile Washington center Marcin Gortat hasn’t attempted a single free throw this series. If these trends continue, look out, Wizards nation.

X-Factors

Markieff Morris held his own and then some against Millsap during the regular season. That trend continued with 21 points and four blocks in Washington’s Game 1 win. Since then, he has more fouls (15) than field goals (eight). When the 6-foot-10 forward sits, the Wizards don’t have another forward capable of defending Millsap one-on-one.

Washington is already shorthanded in the frontcourt with reserve center Ian Mahinmi sidelined with a calf injury. … Atlanta rookie Taurean Prince looked like the weak link among all the starters for both teams entering the series. Oops. Prince is giving the Hawks efficient scoring – 13.3 points on 64 percent shooting – while providing even more muscle up front beyond Millsap and big-shouldered Dwight Howard.

Home Sweet Home

There’s a saying that a playoff series doesn’t truly begin until the road team wins a game. Whether one buys that premise or not, the good news for the Wizards is that as long as they never lose a home game, they win the series.

All that work over 82 games paid off in giving Wall and company home-court advantage this series. In what looks like a 50-50 series, that might be the decisive factor.

Here’s more good news: Only the teams with the best regular season records – Golden State, Cleveland, San Antonio – won more home games than Washington (30). The Wizards are 4-0 at Verizon Center against the Hawks this season. They’re also just 10-11 overall since March 13.

Washington cannot count on home cooking alone to pull them across the finish line. The time to find that formula that propelled them to the most wins (49) in franchise history since the 1978-79 season is now.

Ben Standig talks Wizards daily on the Locked on Wizards podcast, covers the Redskins for BreakingBurgundy.com and tweets way too much via @benstandig.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps' Semifinal Game Schedule Revealed]]> Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:54:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-672065784.jpg

The National Hockey League revealed the Stanley Cup semifinal game schedule late Sunday night. So when will the Caps be facing off against the Pittsburgh Penguins? Read on:

  • Thursday, April 27, 7:30 p.m.: Penguins 3, Capitals 2
  • Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m.: Pittsburgh at Washington -- airing on NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
  • Monday, May 1: 7:30 p.m.: Washington at Pittsburgh -- airing on NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
  • Wednesday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.: Washington at Pittsburgh -- airing on NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

If necessary:

  • Saturday, May 6, time TBD: Pittsburgh at Washington -- broadcast plan TBD
  • Monday, May 8, time TBD: Washington at Pittsburgh -- broadcast plan TBD
  • Wednesday, May 10, time TBD: Pittsburgh at Washington -- broadcast plan TBD



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Capitals Beat Maple Leafs 5-4, Tie Series at 2 Games Apiece]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 21:51:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Caps+in+Toronto.jpg

Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie each scored two goals, and the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Wednesday night to tie their first-round playoff series at two games apiece.

Alex Ovechkin added his third goal of the playoffs as the top-seeded Capitals regained momentum with the series shifting back to Washington for Game 5 on Friday night. Braden Holtby made 30 saves.

Zach Hyman, James van Riemsdyk, Auston Matthews and Tyler Bozak scored for Toronto, which was coming off a 4-3 overtime win on Monday night. Frederik Andersen stopped 22 shots.

The Maple Leafs rallied after the Capitals scored four times in the first for a 4-1 lead. Bozak, who had the winning goal in Game 3, got Toronto within one with 26 seconds left, but Washington held on from there.

The tight finish came after a dominant start for the Capitals.

Oshie got Washington on the board when he capitalized on a Nate Schmidt point shot sent purposefully wide of the net. Ovechkin then was left wide open for a one-time drive on a power play, making it 2-0 at 4:34 of the first.

It was similar to Game 3 when Toronto also went down 2-0 in the first five minutes, but the club was unable to recover this time around. The Capitals added two more goals in the first in a span of less than three minutes _ both by Wilson, a Toronto native.

Moved up in the lineup for Game 4 as coach Barry Trotz looked for a spark, Wilson first pulled back a Morgan Rielly shot from the goal line after it snuck through the pads of Holtby. He then raced the other way and deflected Lars Eller's harmless shot from the sideboards past Andersen.

On his next shift, Wilson barreled over Rielly near the Washington blue line and then finished off a 2-on-1 sequence with Andre Burakovsky for a 4-1 lead at 16:04.

Van Riemsdyk scored early in the second on a power play, but Toronto wasted nearly two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage.

Washington appeared to go up 5-2 with just under 12 minutes to go, but the goal by Schmidt was waved off on goalie interference. The Caps challenged the play, which saw Nicklas Backstrom get tangled up with Andersen, but the initial call was confirmed.

Matthews scored his second at 12 minutes, but Oshie restored Washington's two-goal lead 59 seconds later.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Fans Travel to Toronto to Support the Team]]> Mon, 17 Apr 2017 19:02:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000018471254_1200x675_923097155606.jpg

News4's Sherree Burruss found a couple of Washington Capitals fans in sea of Maple Leaf blue ahead of game three Monday.

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<![CDATA[Wizards to Play Atlanta Hawks in First Playoff Game Sunday]]> Fri, 14 Apr 2017 12:39:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000018446128_1200x675_921379907804.jpg

Wizards Girl Jamie visits the NBC4 studio to talk about the upcoming playoff game between the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks. The game will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 16. Tickets are still available and fans can win a chance to win tickets to upcoming games.

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