Wizards forward Deni Avdija is emerging as a reliable shot-blocker for the team, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Avdija doesn’t have a reputation as a rim protector, but has recorded 18 blocks in 20 games, surprising even himself.
“Wow,” Avdija said. “I’m just taking pride, to be honest with you. I’m stepping onto the court, trying to guard the best guys, trying to help the team to really protect the paint.”
As Hughes notes, Avdija recorded just 15 blocks in the 54 games he played last season. Washington has harped about the importance of playing better defense this season, a philosophy that Avdija and his teammates have bought into. The team ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference at 14-9.
Here are some other notes from the East:
- Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat could be in danger of burning out their veterans. Players such as Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Dewayne Dedmon have been tasked with carrying bigger workloads in the absences of Jimmy Butler (tailbone), Bam Adebayo (thumb) and others.
- The Pacers are hitting the reset button after losing four straight games, James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star writes. Indiana lost to Miami on Friday 113-104, had an off day Saturday, then had an intense practice on Sunday. “I thought we had a great practice (Sunday),” Malcolm Brogdon said. “It was honestly like a training camp practice. We went hard (Sunday), and I think that’s what we needed. We just gotta come out and compete, man. We gotta play with desperation on a high level.”
- Nets head coach Steve Nash believes the Eastern Conference is as deep as it’s ever been, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. In addition to Brooklyn, the East has the defending-champion Bucks, the wild-card Heat and several other teams that could compete for a championship. “The simple answer is it’s about as strong as the East has been for a long time,” Nash said after his team lost to the Bulls on Saturday. “There aren’t any ‘gimmes,’ so to speak. The West is terrific and has some great teams at the top, but the East is deep. Every night, it seems like a battle. I think it’s good for the balance of the league and for this kind of depth and parity. It feels like since the ’90s, we haven’t seen that, but it’s been exciting to see such a competitive Eastern Conference so far.”