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If Wall snubbed for All-Star game, Thomas likely culprit


If Wall snubbed for All-Star game, Thomas likely culprit

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, wearing neither a shirt nor superhero cape, held court with the media after his latest dynamic performance against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. The 10 or so people holding recorders or cameras asked the 5-foot-9 guard various questions about his latest big time performance and Boston's season sweep over Washington when the Q&A was briefly interrupted.

"Get that man to the All-Star Game," one his teammates bellowed at the group from across the locker room.

Thomas is worthy of inclusion for the upcoming 2016 game in Toronto. Wizards coach Randy Wittman, one of the coaches tasked with picking the Eastern Conference reserves, said pregame, " I think he's having one of those years, I really do."

We'll know Thursday afternoon who is in. If Thomas gets his first-ever All-Star nod, it just might come at the expense of John Wall.

Before the outrage over such a notion turns you from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hunk, realize nobody would suggest Wall isn't worthy, but also note not all think he's a lock.

The two-time All-Star leads the Wizards in scoring with 19.6 points and is tied for second in the NBA with 9.7 assists per game. The double-double machine was selected Eastern Conference Player of the Month in December and recently Player of the Week in January. Take him off the Wizards and the focus is already on draft lottery ping-pong balls. Smart money says All-Star appearance number three is happening this year.

But Thomas' case is also strong. Same goes for other guards and players in the mix for the other seven spots.

As a reminder, coaches must vote for two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild cards, but not any of their own players.


Fans voted in Miami's Dwyane Wade based on the three-time NBA champions past, thus taking away one spot. Toronto's Kyle Lowry will also start. No issue there.

DeMar DeRozan, Lowry's backcourt partner with the Raptors and a savant this season with generating free throw opportunities, is ninth in scoring with 23.2 points. Impressive, yet Chicago's Jimmy Butler owns the title of best two-guard in the East.

Andre Drummond, Chris, Bosh and Paul Millsap are strong candidates if not the likely choices for the three frontcourt spots. Pau Gasol and Al Horford have their backers.

If we give Anthony, Gasol or Anthony one wild card spot, one remains. There will be five guards some way somehow. For now, let's assume Kyrie Irving missing a chunk of the season with injury takes him off the board.

These selections are not viewed as head-to-head choices big picture, but that surely changes when we're talking about perhaps the final spot. If so, Thomas' camp can make a strong case over Wall.

Thomas averages 21.7 points, ranking 12th in the NBA. Averaging 27 points in Boston's four-game season sweep over Wall and Washington helps. Two of those wins are within the last 10 days, meaning recency bias could be in play.

Not that the two are matched up every minute, but Thomas averaged 27 points, 6.2 assists and 47.8 percent on 3-pointers in four games against Wall and the Wizards this season.

"Numbers don't lie," Celtics forward Jae Crowder said about whether there's extra motivation for Thomas in this matchup. "That's all I can say."

There's more than just numbers in Thomas' favor. Along with Crowder, he's the straw that stirs the drink for Boston, now the fifth seed in the East. His ability to shoot from deep, scoot inside and feed open teammates puts defenders in a "pick your poison" scenario, Wizards guard Garrett Temple noted after the Wizards latest loss. Thomas, who produces against others besides Washington, had nine assists in the 116-91 romp.

"Every night you’re facing one of the top guys in the NBA, so you’ve got to be up for that, you’ve got to be motivated. And I’m a competitor, so whether you put John Wall or anybody out there, I just want to outplay them and get the win," he said.

Wall admittedly wasn't playing at his best the first month of the season. Unlike Boston, Washington is currently outside the playoff picture. Every player mentioned above plays for a team with a better winning percentage than the Wizards. If one seeks a tiebreaker, such things matter.

It's possible Wall and Thomas hear good news this week. Both are worthy of an All-Star bid. If the coaches on their respective ballots decide only three guards go, they might pick one or the other. 

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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