WASHINGTON — Deni Avdija was standing on the court at Capital One Arena Wednesday night just before the pregame national anthem when Kristaps Porzingis turned to him.
“I need ‘Turbo’ tonight,” Porzingis said.
It was a reference to Avdija’s new nickname, which was unveiled late last month, right after his role was increased due to the trade of Rui Hachimura. That moniker has embodied his recent surge on the court.
Porzingis got his wish, as Avdija put in another impressive game to help the Wizards get a win against the Hornets. Avdija had 20 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-5 from three.
The third-year forward is thriving at the moment, producing the very effect team president Tommy Sheppard said he was aiming for when he opted to trade Hachimura and clear the way for Avdija to do more. In the seven games since Hachimura was dealt, Avdija is averaging 15.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47% overall and 40% from long range.
“Aggressiveness,” Avdija said when asked for what’s changed. “I think I shoot the ball better with more confidence. The game has slowed down for me.”
Avdija, 22, went on to say the next step in his development is counters off the dribble. He knows teams like to force him left, so he needs to make them pay when they do.
You can tell how much more aggressive Deni has been in transition as well.
Right out the gate: pulls down a strong board, pushes pace, hits Gafford with a nice give-and-go. Love to see it. pic.twitter.com/Rg9Sm3bZV4
— Bijan Todd (@bijan_todd) February 9, 2023
But Avdija is starting to deliver more consistently on the offensive end, which hasn’t always been the case this season or in years past. It’s easier said than done and something that usually takes NBA players time to achieve.
Porzingis has been through that process before, now in his Age 27 season. It’s just part of the experience he feels he can impart to Avdija, the youngest player in the Wizards’ rotation.
“I don’t think there’s anyone happier than me seeing him play at a high level and giving us this spark,” Porzingis said, adding:
“Deni, he’s a great teammate and a great guy. What I love the most about him is you can tell he really wants it. He wants to be a great player… I believe this is just the beginning for him in his career.”
Porzingis, who has two actual brothers, said Avdija is like a “little brother” to him. Avdija separately referred to Porzingis as his brother during his postgame press conference on Wednesday night.
They spend time off the court, though apparently not as much as Avdija would like. The Wizards are off Thursday as the league holds its annual trade deadline. They then practice on Friday before hosting the Pacers on Saturday.
Avdija had plans for them on Thursday, but Porzingis declined, opting to stay at home on a rare day with no obligations. Avdija invited him to coffee in D.C. to talk about life and then to listen to house music during cold tub treatment at the facility.
Porzingis politely turned him down.
“So now I’m super mad at KP and I’m probably not going to talk to him for another two days because I’m mad,” Avdija said.