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Inside access: What's behind Wizards' offseason moves and what's next

Inside access: What's behind Wizards' offseason moves and what's next

LAS VEGAS -- The Wizards are in the midst of a good run at summer league, with Kelly Oubre’s playing like a lottery pick and quality free agents battling for just a training camp invite going into today’s quarterfinal game vs. the Chicago Bulls.

The result is important to the players who want to win. But the bigger picture takes precedent. If it wasn’t clear how much different the Wizards’ roster was shaping up after the start of free agency when they shifted to Plan C and D, it should be now. Whether or not it works out won’t be known for months:

  • Yes, there were other plans and anyone who suggests otherwise were overreacting to what they thought was inaction. Ernie Grunfeld didn’t buy a second-round pick in the 2016 draft or land Kevin Durant. That didn't mean there was no plan. It's just that everything paled in comparison after no Durant. Al Horford, Luol Deng and Ryan Anderson were strongly considered. That the Wizards were one of the final two teams Horford, a four-time All-Star, decided between isn’t a monumental failure of some sort. This was a 41-41 team that didn’t make the playoffs and unlike Durant he gave the Wizards a face-to-face meeting in Atlanta. That Horford thought highly enough to have the Wizards on his short list counts for something though ultimately it resulted in nothing. Acquiring him would’ve caused other dominoes to fall given his skill set and position but after Horford there weren’t many attractive options out there to extend a monster contract with an exploding salary cap.
  • Marcin Gortat is the starting center. Multiple league sources, as late as Friday night, told CSNmidatlantic.om that it’s not in the cards to make a move with the 6-11 center because of Ian Mahinmi’s signing (four years, $64 million). Of course, it's never safe to say never but as for now that appears to be the case.
  • Mahinmi being brought in as a backup isn't problematic but what about the size of the contract? It’s an indication of how highly Grunfeld regards him because of his defensive strengths. He has been a backup most of his career but doesn’t have the mileage of a 29-year-old. It’s still a hefty raise for a player who made $4 million as a starting center on a playoff team, the Indiana Pacers, last season. The Wizards could’ve had Zaza Pachulia, CSN has confirmed with multiple league sources, for less (two years, $20 million) but went with Mahinmi instead. There were discussions between the sides but the Wizards were non-committal and Pachulia ended up signing with the Golden State Warriors for just one year and $3 million. Pachulia is three years older and faded down the stretch last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Mahinmi could end up being better in 2016-17, but $13 million-a-year better? How both perform next season will be worth monitoring.
  • The Wizards aren’t done with summer league because more roster changes look imminent. Getting Jarell Eddie to agree to push back is guarantee date Friday makes that obvious. The Wizards want to keep flexibility to do something else with the promise to Eddie that he’ll be taken care off ($980,000). Eddie has done more than enough to earn his regular-season roster spot. The Wizards still will have a couple spots open and have paid small guarantees to Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon McClellan to attend training camp in September. At least one of them makes the cut and they'll keep that final spot open, likely for a veteran, as this roster has quickly skewed younger in age and experience.

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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:


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. 


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.


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.


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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.


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.


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.