- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kelly Oubre Jr. did not have any mojo in a road game against the Toronto Raptors last week. His paltry line of two points, two turnovers and three fouls was accomplished in 14 listless minutes on the floor. It was as if Otto Porter’s return to the starting lineup had zapped the energy out of the rookie, who was again entering games from the bench after starting when Porter was out.

Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman talked to Oubre following his foot-dragging performance.

“Toronto, he was kind of just out there,” Wittman said.

Last Friday, against the Orlando Magic, was different. Oubre was active. A back cut earned him an easy two-handed dunk. It took some time for him to be sent into the game — he didn’t enter the court until 5:43 remained in the second quarter — but he was out there at the end. Oubre played the whole fourth quarter.

“He was involved in this game,” Wittman said. “He was rebounding. He was running. He missed two alley-oops, we’ll have to work on that, but he was running. Activity. That’s what I talked to him about [Thursday]. He’s a kid that’s got to go out and play one way. That’s getting after it defensively, rebounding the ball and running the floor.”

These efforts prompted Wittman to call the evening Oubre’s best defensive game in the embryonic stage of his professional career.

More interesting was the time he spent on the floor with Porter. Once Porter returned on Dec. 26 from a thigh bruise, the assumption was that Oubre’s minutes would be curtailed accordingly. The two were an either/or proposition, not a duo that could cohabitate.

Against the Magic, that line of thought was provided a wrinkle. Oubre and Porter played the first 3:42 and final 4:21 of the fourth quarter together. Porter, technically, slid to the four, which he addressed in typical Porter fashion when asked about his comfort level at that position.

“I’m just comfortable out there, period,” Porter said.

On Jan. 3 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Oubre and Porter were paired again. This time, much earlier in the game.

Though this is in part out of necessity — the Wizards have only so many healthy players — together, they are an lanky and intriguing duo. Each has an expansive wingspan: 7-foot-2 for Oubre, 7-foot-1 for Porter, according to draft combine numbers. Oubre, despite being a 20-year-old rookie, could well be the best wing driver the Wizards have. He has also shot a surprisingly high percentage from behind the 3-point line. In December, Oubre did not shoot a lot of threes, but when he did he was highly effective at 54.2 percent for the month.

Since returning to the starting lineup on Dec. 28, Porter is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in four games. It’s another small sample, but a flash of what could be.

“I’m really happy with his progress being this is his first year getting extended minutes,” former Wizards forward Paul Pierce said when the Los Angeles Clippers visited last week. “It’s about consistency now with what he does. If he can continue to put in the work, be consistent … the Otto Porter they need is the Otto Porter we had in the playoffs last year. Also, he came off the bench. It’s different when you start the game and you play against starting players. That’s an adjustment he has to make.”

Oubre was thankful to play the end of a close game on Friday.

“I control what I can control,” Oubre said. “Otto is a great player. He came back and he was hot fast and coach made a decision to put him back in the lineup and that was a great decision. All I can do is continue to do what I’ve been doing, trying to get better to help this team. I can’t do anything more or anything less.”

Anderson, Beal attend president’s speech

Guards Bradley Beal and Alan Anderson attended President Obama’s speech about gun control at the White House on Tuesday.

The Wizards expected to send additional players, but the speech overlapped with their practice, freeing the injured Anderson and Beal to attend.

The two sat in the front row, continuing the NBA’s recent move into the discussion about gun violence.

“It was awesome to represent my teammates, and the league, period,” said Beal, a St. Louis native who mentioned friends of his were shot and killed in the past two years. “Myself and my family. To stand up for a cause that’s tragic in our world, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to go. The whole speech itself and the atmosphere, it was something different.”

Wizards slowly healing

Power forward Nene (calf) and shooting guard Gary Neal (quad) were able to participate in practice Tuesday. Nene last played on Nov. 27 at the Boston Celtics. Neal has missed five games. Wittman said both are day-to-day.

Beal, battling a stress reaction in his right leg, worked on a treadmill on Sunday. He has not yet participated in basketball activity and has missed the last 12 games.

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