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John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule


John Wall circles big games on Wizards' 2015-16 schedule

Some version of "Circle the date on the calendar" will be uttered numerous times throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. Most likely by an announcer starting the early hype job for an upcoming matchup against an All-Star type player like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, or a title contender like the Clippers, Spurs or Hawks. Recently I said something similar to Wizards guard John Wall, but in question form. Sliding a copy of Washington's entire 2015-16 schedule in front of him, I asked the two-time All-Star to circle the games he's most looking forward to this season.

Standing on the set of various CSN shows, the point guard immediately grabbed a pen and used his renowned court vision to seek out those foes he's most excited to face on the court this season.

"I just like Cleveland," Wall stated. "Where is Cleveland at?"

RELATED: Extension talks between Wizards, Beal haven't progressed much

The Wizards and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers meet four times this season. Wall quickly found and circled the two home matchups on Jan. 6 and Feb. 28, but didn't mark the two road games. Perhaps Wall disagrees with Drew Carey and doesn't believe Cleveland rocks. He does know the Eastern Conference chase runs through Northeast Ohio. "They're the team everybody wants to see. It's a big matchup against LeBron [James] and them," Wall said.

More circles followed. The regular season finale at Atlanta - "big game" pits Washington against a Hawks team that ended the Wizards' playoff dreams. Reigning NBA Champion Golden State's lone Verizon Center appearance received a mark "because of Steph [Curry]." That works because a battle between those All-Star point guards epitomizes must-see TV.

Wall then selected the lone road game on his personal hype list.

"I like [playing] the Clippers," Wall said of the one Los Angeles-based NBA team expected to actually compete for a title this season. (Sorry, Kobe Bryant).

The reasons for picking the Clippers extend beyond the challenge of facing fellow yet another All-Star point guard in Chris Paul. "I like playing at Staples Center a lot. I love playing in LA*. ...I love going to go up against the best point guards, but I love playing in LA."

[* This is reason number 382 why the Wizards were wise not letting Wall sniff free agency]

By the way, there is apparently a difference between Clippers and Lakers games at the Staples Center beyond Jack Nicholson: The lighting.

"That's why I love playing in the Staples Center when the Lakers play there," Wall said. "When the Clippers play, too bright."

Five of Washington's first seven games are against playoff teams from last season. This does not include Wednesday's season opener at Orlando. This certainly includes Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting Verizon Center less than a week after Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs do the same. 

"It makes it fun," Wall said of the early tests. "You always want to get of to a great start, but when you get those tough, tough teams, you see how you are early on. If you take a loss, you take it early. You don't have to worry about it when you're trying to make that playoff push."

Nobody will be thinking about a potential playoff on Nov. 10.  In case you haven't heard, there is some interest locally with Kevin Durant. Something about the Prince George's County product becoming a free agent next summer and everyone in the DMV hoping he brings his talents to Chinatown.

Anyway, the game with the Thunder will be Washington's seventh of the season. The pre-game hype will be considerable, but Durant's one visit per year will also be out of the way. [Washington completes the season series Feb. 1 in OKC.] From Wall's perspective, that's a good thing.

"Yes, because that's going to be a hassle," Wall said, alluding to what will certain become a media frenzy for several days. "On a Tuesday night, that place is going to be rocking with him coming into town."

No need to remind all you Wizards fans about this matchup. Something tells me that like Wall, you've already got Durant's visit circled on your calendar.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards get pleasant surprise from Martell Webster

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."


The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.


For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.




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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."


In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.


Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."