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DeJuan Blair predicts 'great year' ahead with Wizards

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DeJuan Blair predicts 'great year' ahead with Wizards

PHILADELPHIA -- A smile on the face of DeJuan Blair comes as often as a solar eclipse. It certainly never made an appearance last season with the Wizards, but he's confident enough to predict a much better 2015-16.

"It's going to be a great year, man," Blair said after posting 15 points and seven rebounds in the Wizards' 127-118 victory vs. the 76ers on Friday night. "That's my goal."

By default it'll be an improvement for him over 2014-15. Blair appeared in a career-low 29 games. He sat in street clothes during the playoffs because he was inactive. He was out of shape. He pouted. He never could work his way into coach Randy Wittman's good graces. But with Kevin Seraphin gone and Nene likely to be in and out of the lineup with aches and pains, Blair will have more chances like this. And it helps that he lost 30 pounds coming into training camp.

"This is probably the best I looked since I've been in the league, for real," Blair said after playing in his just second preseason game and heading into his third tonight at the Milwaukee Bucks. "It's time to switch it up a little bit, trying to better myself in every way.

"It's my body (that's the difference). Last year was a big wake-up call coming from Dallas, went from playing in the playoffs to not playing at all ... This year I worked all over the summer."

Unlike when he had 12 points in six minutes of mop-up duty vs. the Sixers two weeks ago, Blair came off the bench early with Nene sitting out because of a sore right calf. 

He was light on his feet, getting to the rim, finishing reverse layups, launching the one-hand floater, catching difficult passes in traffic and making nifty touch passes of his own.

"Both games he's played in, I thought he's been really good," Wittman said. "Really effective being a big body, rolling to the basket. He's got any uncanny soft touch on his in-between game if doesn't get all the way there."

To keep up with the new way they're playing, pushing the ball at every chance to heighten the pace and possessions, Blair has to remain fit to play. His 25 minutes on the court Friday were his most in any appearance for the Wizards, preseason or regular season.

"It's something that I just got to get used to. But I'm ready though," Blair said. "I'm not far away. I'm just trying to work hard, get in the best shape I can. It's going to be a great season."

[RELATED: Wall gets legendary praise for off-court charity work]

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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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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS