Wizards

Clippers look to build on start of something good

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Clippers look to build on start of something good

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers are embracing increased expectations this season, another sign of a deep cultural shift in an organization that hasn't experienced back-to-back playoff berths in nearly 20 years.

The optimism is due in part to last season's success and the attitude of veterans Paul and Chauncey Billups, who have instilled a drive and a belief that was often lacking during the years when the Clippers were the laughingstock of the NBA.

Now they've assembled a deep roster of veterans to surround All-Stars Paul and Griffin, who are expected to play key roles in the team's success.

``We're up there with anybody,'' Griffin said. ``We can play with anybody. With our talent and depth, we can go toe-to-toe with whoever it is.''

The Clippers open the season at home on Oct. 31 against Memphis. Nine of their first 15 games are at Staples Center, including one against the Lakers on Nov. 2, which should offer an early gauge of where the Clippers stand.

Injuries, however, are already a factor, making it a challenge for third-year coach Vinny Del Negro to build cohesion.

Paul is still getting acclimated to playing with a small splint on his surgically repaired right thumb that will remain on until he's given the go-ahead to remove it. Billups continues recovering from surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon, and isn't expected back until sometime in November.

Paul and Billups played 15 games as the Clippers' backcourt duo last season, helping the team to key wins over the Heat, Lakers, Nuggets, Jazz, Grizzlies and Magic. The Clippers were 11-4 when both of them started.

``The depth we have now gives me a little sense of relief to take my time,'' said Billups, who recently turned 36.

Reserves Lamar Odom and Grant Hill, both added in the offseason, have been limited by bone bruises in their knees. Odom and new addition Jamal Crawford give the Clippers two former Sixth Man of the Year winners off the bench.

``Usually there's a lot of young guys,'' Paul said. ``I'm excited about having guys that just know how to play, that are battle-tested and understand the process of a season.''

Crawford chose the Clippers over the likes of Minnesota and Philadelphia after being lured by phone calls from Paul and Griffin.

``Everybody is so close, and when you care about somebody off the court you'll run through a wall for them,'' he said.

Ronny Turiaf is excited to be back in Los Angeles, where he once came off the Lakers' bench.

``Everybody wants to rally around Clipper Nation,'' he said. ``Everywhere I walk in LA I feel this unbelievable love from the fans that gives me a boost of energy.''

Griffin is fully recovered from left knee surgery in July, and spent time during the summer working with a shooting coach, who also helped DeAndre Jordan. It appears to be paying off, with Jordan producing double-double efforts in preseason games.

``We're going to have a really good year,'' Jordan said.

Last season, the Clippers were 40-26, including 24-9 at home, where they averaged a franchise-best 19,219 fans and had 33 sellouts. It was their first winning record since 2005-06, and their first playoff appearance since then. They beat Memphis in seven games in the first round, and then got swept by San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.

Now they're seeking a return trip to the playoffs for the first time in consecutive years since 1991-92 and 1992-93.

``It's much better having the expectations high,'' Del Negro said.

During the summer, Paul exercised his player option for this season while Griffin signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $95 million.

In addition to Odom, Crawford, and Hill, the Clippers added veterans Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins and Turiaf. Odom, Barnes and Turiaf are former Lakers, while Odom and Barnes are back for their second stints with the Clippers.

``We could bring five guys off of our bench that could be starters,'' Paul said. ``That's what you see with the teams that advance and go deep into the playoffs, their bench is usually deep. Not every night is Blake going to be able to score 29 points. The bench is something that you count on for the long season.''

Shooting guard Willie Green is one of seven new players on the roster, but he played with Paul in New Orleans two years ago and they are good friends.

``When you really have that team chemistry and that team camaraderie, it really makes you fight harder,'' Paul said.

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The most overrated Redskins events of 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, February 23, 19 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The overrated Redskin moments of 2017

Originally published 12/30/17

Sometimes in the NFL, something happens that grabs headlines and appears to be a momentous event that has ripple effects that will last all season and perhaps beyond. Other times something that is greeted with a yawn by fans and the media turns out to be something with lasting impact. Yesterday we looked at three events that were underrated at the time they happened. Here, in no particular order, are three overrated events from 2017.

Beating the Raiders—At the time, the Raiders were 2-0 and they still had the status of being one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl. The Redskins whipped them 27-10 and the prevailing view was that the Redskins were on their way to a special year. But that loss started a four-game losing streak for the Raiders. They are currently riding a three-game skid and at 6-9 they are contenders for a top-10 draft pick, not for the Super Bowl. The win became less impressive for the Redskins as the year went on.

Signing Terrelle Pryor—There was plenty of excitement when the Redskins signed the Browns wide receiver, who had 1,000 receiving yards catching passes from a sub-mediocre group of quarterbacks in Cleveland. Imagine what he could do with a quality QB and a good offense around him. The hype grew when a fan captured him making this catch in training camp:

But the production was not there. In nine games before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury Pryor caught 20 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.

Su’a Cravens departure—There was a lot of concern about issues both on and off the field when Cravens abruptly let it be known to teammates that he intended to retire just after the Redskins finalized their 53-man roster on September 2. All offseason Cravens’ name had been written at the top of the depth chart at strong safety in Sharpie. When he walked away and was put on the Exempt/Left Squad list (and eventually on the Reserve/Left Squad list, ending his season), there was plenty of speculation about whether the organization botched the situation and, of more immediate importance, what would happen at safety without Cravens. We’re still not sure about what happened but Montae Nicholson and Deshazor Everett did a respectable job at safety.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 6
—NFL Draft (4/26) 62
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 198