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Ariza's chill remains despite Rockets bizarre start


Ariza's chill remains despite Rockets bizarre start

The Washington Wizards were surging in third quarter against the Houston Rockets with John Wall scoring, assisting and talking trash. The playful words weren't for a player in the game, but an old teammate watching from the visitor's bench while nursing a bad back.

"[John] was yelling at me," said a smiling Trevor Ariza. "I don't know what he was saying."

The words didn't matter as much as the passion Wall generated. Ariza, now a starting forward with the Houston Rockets, understood this based on two seasons and one playoff appearance with Wall in Washington. He also recognized the point guard's growth even if Houston left town with the 109-103 win.

"He plays off of emotion," Ariza said of Wall. "He's one of those players who feeds off of that type of energy. He's definitely gotten a lot better. His tempo is amazing. His vision is unbelievable. I'm happy to be able to see his growth."

Wall may play of emotion, but Ariza remains the king of chill. The 6-foot-8 forward still speaks with a relaxed cadence, though his competitive nature isn't hard to unearth.

That's what drove Ariza to test out his bruised back pregame even though the Rockets suspected he wouldn't play. The injured occurred in the first quarter of Tuesday's road loss against the Brooklyn Nets. The absence snapped a streak of 173 straight games played. The streak began in Washington during the 2013-14 season. Ariza signed a free agent contract with Houston the following summer.


"I tried, but it's just real sore," Ariza said of the back injury. "I couldn't do things that I'm normally able to do so there was no sense in going out there."

At least the trip wasn't a total loss.

"Yeah, I enjoyed my time [in Washington].  I wish I could have played here. ...I'm happy we were able to get a win and at least I was here to see it, see the fans," said Ariza, who ducked into the Wizards locker room after the game.

Wall finished with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Half of his points came in the third quarter as Washington rallied following a slow start.

"We were just joking," he said of the words with Ariza. "It was a fun part of the game."

The early part of the season hasn't been much fun for the Rockets (11-12). One season after reaching the Western Conference finals, Houston fired head coach Kevin McHale after a 4-7 start. The record reached 5-10, but Ariza and crew have since won six of eight games under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

"Losing our coach was an unfortunate situation because he was well liked in here," Ariza said of McHale. "Sometimes that's what happens in business. We have to continue to get better, continue to trust each other and just play as hard for 48 minutes as we can."

The 3-and-D threat ranks third on Houston this season with 11.6 points per game and remains one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA.

Beyond basketball, Ariza said, "life is great" as he headed with the team out of the arena and to the next stop. This stop has extra meaning. It's one where memories were made an old friend talks trash in your direction because that's what old friends do.

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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

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


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

Special night

It will be an emotional night for many as the Wizards get set to retire Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey. Chenier was not only a great player for the franchise during their heyday in the 1970s, but he was a legendary broadcaster of Wizards and Bullets games for decades and has been an ambassador for the organization for a long, long time. 

His jersey will be raised during a halftime ceremony hosted by Chenier's former broadcast partner and good friend Steve Buckhantz. Chenier will have many friends and family on hand. All fans will also receive emoji signs with Chenier's face on them.

Chenier's ceremony will air live at halftime during the NBC Sports Washington broadcast, so make sure you stick around for that. It should be a great moment for D.C. sports fans.


Harris is out

Like the Wizards and John Wall, the Nuggets will be without one of their best players as star guard Gary Harris is dealing with right knee soreness. Harris, just 23, is Denver's leading scorer with 17.7 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting from the field and 39.9 percent from three. 

The Nuggets still have plenty of firepower beyond him. Nikola Jokic is one of the game's brightest young stars with averages of 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He shoots a ridiculous 39.3 percent from three as a big man. Guard Jamal Murray, just 20, is averaging 16.5 points while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three. Then there is Paul Millsap, a four-time All-Star who is averaging 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season.

The Wizards' defense will be put to the test, as the Nuggets are one of the best scoring teams in basketball. They boast the seventh-best points per game average (109.8) and the sixth-best offensive rating (112.4). 


Last time was interesting

The first time these teams squared off, back on Oct. 23 in just the third game of the season, things got a little weird. In the final minute, Jokic was assessed a technical for bumping into Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.

It was a bizarre sequence that helped the Wizards come away with a win. Given it was an incident between a player and coach, nothing will happen in the way of retaliation, but it's something to keep in mind as these teams go at it again.


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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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