- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2017

A training camp that was expected to start next week with few questions received a large, new one Friday afternoon: Who will start at power forward?

The Washington Wizards announced Friday that Markieff Morris had the expected sports hernia surgery he was scheduled for. The team also projected Morris to miss 6-8 weeks. That could mean Morris will miss around 18 games.

The timing of the surgery puts the Wizards in a bind. They can’t adjust their roster to account for Morris’ absence. They also lose a chance to open the season with their starting group intact, unlike other contenders in the Eastern Conference, Cleveland and Boston, which made major roster changes in the offseason. The Cavaliers and Celtics swapped All-star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. Boston starting small forward Jae Crowder was also part of the trade. The Celtics added former Utah star Gordon Hayward, too.

Washington has a trio of options to replace Morris, a 6-foot-10 versatile forward who averaged 14 points per game last season. Jason Smith, who has pick-and-pop ability and worked well with the starting group last season, could play in his place. Washington could go small by inserting Kelly Oubre into the starting lineup and sliding Otto Porter to the second forward spot. It could also consider offseason signing Mike Scott. Scott was signed after a variety of on- and off-court problems ended his time with Atlanta last season.

Morris is also in the midst of a felony assault trial which is taking place in Phoenix. He and his twin brother, Marcus, are among five men accused of beating Erik Hood in 2015. Two of the men pleaded guilty. The Morris brothers have pleaded not guilty. The trial is scheduled to end Sept. 28. Sentencing, should their be reason for it, would take place Oct. 16. The Morris brothers are each charged with two counts of aggravated assault. If convicted, the Morris twins could face probation or prison time. They could also be in line for a 10-game suspension from the NBA.

Following a 2-8 start last season when point guard John Wall was still recovering from dual offseason knee surgeries, the Wizards looked at the start of this season as a chance to move toward the top of the conference. The aforementioned continuity they paid such a hefty amount for this offseason and last — signing Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to almost $407 million in new contracts — will be knocked aside to start. And, instead, the Wizards‘ main problem last season, the bench, will be relied upon for temporary relief until Morris returns.

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