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Grunfeld: 'We're not in the predicting business'

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Grunfeld: 'We're not in the predicting business'

Since last making the playoffs in 2007-08, the Wizards have finished no better than 26th in the 30-team NBA.

Their win totals have fluctuated from 19 in 2008-09 to 26 the following season, 23 in 2010-11 and 20 in a lockout-shortened season last year.

As a result, the Wizards have had five first-round draft picks in the past three years, yielding players like John Wall, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and most recently, Bradley Beal.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis made it clear last May that he hopes his days of agonizing over a bouncing ping-pong ball are over.

Its not a lot of fun, Leonsis told reporters before the Wizards took Beal with the third pick overall. Without pain there is no gain.

Question is, have the Wizards endured enough growing pains to make them a playoff team this season? Are they capable of winning more games they lose for the first time in five years?

Everybody wants to be better and everybody wants to grow and everybody wants to compete for the playoffs, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. We want to see improvement. Theres no question about that. But we dont want to go away from our long range of developing these players.

That rebuilding plan began in 2010 when the Wizards took Wall with the first pick overall of the NBA draft. They added Jordan Crawford, Nene, Cartier Martin and Kevin Seraphin.

Were in Year 3 of the rebuilding process, Grunfeld said. Our goal was to rebuild through the draft. We also wanted to add some solid veterans Nene, Emeka Okafor that can help these players develop and grow.

The development has been slow but steady and Grunfeld is hoping the Wizards can carry the momentum from last season, when they won eight of their final 10 games, into the 2012 training camp, which begin on Tuesday at George Mason University.

Time will tell, Grunfeld. Obviously, it will take some time for the team to gel. We have six new players and those players will probably get some playing time. We want to improve as the season goes along.

We want to continue to be competitive. We want to be a good defensive team, and if things come together for us, hopefully we can compete for the playoffs.

So where does Grunfeld see the Wizards finishing in the Eastern Conference? Are they good enough to catch the Sixers, who finished eighth in the conference last season with a 35-31 record?

Thats up to you pundits to decide, he said. Were not in the predicting business that much. Were in the business of trying to make our players better. I think weve shown this team is better today than it was at the beginning of last year.

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

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

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday 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. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS