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Lochte, Phelps stunned in freestyle relay

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Lochte, Phelps stunned in freestyle relay

From Comcast SportsNet

LONDON (AP) -- The United States broke out the big guns in hopes of taking down the favored Australians in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay Sunday night.

Michael Phelps was swimming for the Americans.

So was Ryan Lochte.

The U.S. coaches decided to send out a completely different lineup in the evening final, going with Nathan Adrian in the leadoff spot, followed by Phelps and Cullen Jones, with Lochte taking the anchor leg.

While that quartet sounds imposing, the Americans remained underdogs against the defending world champions from Down Under. Australia had three of the four members from its 2011 team in Shanghai, leading off with James "The Missile" Magnussen, followed by Matt Targent and Eamon Sullivan. The only newcomer to the squad was no surprise: James "The Rocket" Roberts going against Lochte in the final spot.

Magnussen has the fastest 100 free time ever in a textile suit, posting 47.10 seconds at the Australian trials in March. Roberts has the second-fastest time in the world this year, 47.63.

The Americans hoped to ride Lochte's wave to an upset victory. He was coming off a dominating win in the 400 individual medley on the opening night of the games, beating Phelps by more than 4 seconds. But Lochte could be a bit tired, having to swim both the prelims and semifinals of the 200 free before he competed in the relay.

But there are also questions about Phelps after his disappointing fourth-place finish in the 400 IM. This was the first time since 2000 that he didn't win a medal in an Olympic race, having captured 14 golds and two bronzes in Athens and Beijing.

Phelps had a chance to swim another eight-event program in London, but he dropped the 200 free because he said he wanted to be at his best in the 400 free relay. The Americans were looking to defend their Olympic title after winning in dramatic fashion at Beijing when Jason Lezak pulled off an improbable rally to edge France's Alain Bernard at the end, keeping Phelps on pace to win a record eight gold medals.

"We were open-minded coming in," Gregg Troy, head coach of the U.S. men's team, said after the prelims. "We did talk to eight guys and told them they could be on the relay. Quite frankly, we feel like any of the eight could do a real good job. It's just a matter of which ones. We can only swim four. So we put our heads together and decided which four it was."

Jimmy Feigen, Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens and Lezak competed in the morning, posting the second-fastest time behind an Australian team that included Magnussen and Roberts.

While Grevers posted the fastest split time, he seemed resigned to being left off the evening relay even before he got the news. He had no problem giving up a spot to Lochte, even though he has never swam in the 400 free relay in the Olympics and doesn't have a lot of experience at that distance.

"You've got to play with what's hot, and that's a good hand right now," Grevers said. "Ryan Lochte is a good hand."

Adrian and Jones earned their spots on the relay by going 1-2 in the 100 free at the U.S. trials.

"All four of those guys have proven themselves time and again," Grevers said. "I don't have any doubt Michael will throw out an incredibly fast split. Nathan and Cullen showed themselves at trials. They're always very trustworthy. And Ryan, you saw him blow the 400 IM out of the water. That guy's hot, and you've got to go with what's hot.

"It's a strong group no matter what happens."

Troy insisted it was more than a two-country race. France has another strong team with Amaury Leveaux, Fabien Gilot, Clement Lefert and rising star Yannick Agnel. Russia could also be a contender, the coach added.

"It's a great field," Troy said. "It's probably the best 400 freestyle relay field ever."

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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

The Wizards have two players sidelined at the moment and both happen to play the same position. Markieff Morris was already out following the sports hernia surgery he had in September, then Jason Smith sprained his right shoulder defending a dunk attempt by Joel Embiid in the regular season opener on Wednesday night.

This has put head coach Scott Brooks in a tough predicament. He's trying to acclimate new players into his rotation, but now has no choice but to get creative. Smith is considered questionable for Friday night and is likely going to be limited, regardless when he returns.

If Smith misses time or is not 100 percent, the onus will fall mostly on third-year forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. with Mike Scott behind him. Oubre is not a power forward, but is versatile enough to co-exist with Otto Porter alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards utilized that lineup last season at times and relied on it heavily once Smith departed Wednesday night's game. Porter could be looked as the four in that group, but he and Oubre are essentially interchangable on defense.

Oubre, 21, came through with 14 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals against the Sixers. He knocked down three three-pointers and shot 5-of-10 from the field overall.

"I'm ready. I've worked for this moment. The season is here, so it's time to put the work to the test," Oubre said. "I feel very confident. I feel very relaxed. This is Year 3, so I'm excited for all the opportunities that may come."

[RELATED: OUBRE THREW DOWN A CRAZY DUNK VS. SIXERS]

Those eight rebounds stand out, in particular. Oubre averaged 3.3 rebounds last season, his second year in the NBA, in 20.3 minutes. Oubre had 14 in one of their preseason games and has clearly put extra focus on that part of his game.

One reporter (me) asked Oubre about his 'seven' rebounds in the opener and Oubre issued a quick correction, showing exactly how much attention he's paying to the stat.

"I had eight in the opener, but yeah," he said. "It's a big emphasis because that's what we need. We need guys to go in there and rebound, push the break and keep up the pace. That's the style of play that we're looking for, to play fast and play tough. Crashing the boards is something that I need to do to help the team."

Brooks sees a lot of potential in Oubre's ability on the glass. 

"I look at rebounding as a stat that Kelly can really be consistent with. He has the size, the strength, the length and the athleticism and the toughness to get in there and get some rebounds. I think you should be able to see [eight] every night. It's one of the things we talked about to improve defensively. We have to be a better defensive team," Brooks said.

The Wizards miss a lot more than rebounding if Morris and Smith aren't in the picture, of course. But Oubre's development in that area could be important in the Wizards' effort to compensate for two key injuries at the same position.

[RELATED: GORTAT PLAYED WITH A HEAVY HEART VS. SIXERS]

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John Wall's new motto Wolf Season has reached a new level

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John Wall's new motto Wolf Season has reached a new level

It started as an offseason hashtag. After Wednesday night's win over the Sixers, it was legitimized with a postgame quote.

John Wall wants everyone to know that it's Wolf Season and, according to another favorite hashtag of his, nobody is safe.

Wall brought it up himself on Wednesday when asked about dunking all over the Sixers. When asked what Wolf Season means, he replied: "Just keep watching."

Wall used the hashtag #wolfseason all summer long in photos on Instagram. He also used the phrase #wolfwall:

It's reminiscent of the Wolf of Wall St. He also referenced "Michael Jackson Thrilla Mode" on Instragram and the music video for 'Thriller' very famously had Jackson turn into a wolf:

Michael Jackson Thrilla Mode spilling sauce everywhere I go !! #WallWay #5Deep #BYB #WolfWall

A post shared by johnwall (@johnwall) on

Whatever Wall means by it, the rest of the NBA might want to take notice.

[RELATED: PODCAST - MCCULLOUGH EXPLAINS HIS NICKNAME]