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Chris Paul's withdrawal opens Olympic path for John Wall


Chris Paul's withdrawal opens Olympic path for John Wall

John Wall's chances of making the USA men's basketball roster for the 2016 Olympics just improved with an assist from Chris Paul.

The Los Angeles Clippers star and the top NBA point guard of his generation won't be part of the 12-player squad headed to Rio this summer. Paul, a member of the 2008 and 2012 gold medal-winning teams, made the revelation to SI.com.

After more than a decade of contribution to USA Basketball, Paul told SI.com on Monday that he is withdrawing from consideration for this summer’s Olympic team, likely ending his international career. “I feel my body telling me that I could use the time,” he said.

No doubt Paul was a lock for 2016 if he wanted in. If he doesn't, then a spot is open, which brings us back to Wall. The three-time All-Star and Wizards teammate Bradley Beal were among 30 players named as finalists for the upcoming Olympic team. Wall admitted he didn't have high hopes for making the team at the time of the January announcement. The point guard position is stacked even beyond the three clear frontrunners: Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. Wall, Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley are the other options among the finalists along with Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers' leader initially passed on being part of the team, but was added to the working roster in February.

Having three point guards is common practice and good business. Even though the recent versions of Team USA lacked ball hog-itis, having a pass-first playmaker like Paul helped the talented ship sail smoothly. Wall is third in the NBA in assists (10.2) behind Rajon Rondo and Westbrook. Irving is certainly more shooter than passer, but he's also a former player at Duke under Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski

Odds remain against Wall making the team simply based on the depth available, but they're better than they were before CP3 told the world his plans. 

[RELATED: Can Markieff Morris be Wizards' Draymond Green?]

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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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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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