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Morning tip: Who's better, John Wall or Damian Lillard?


Morning tip: Who's better, John Wall or Damian Lillard?

Only a few weeks ago, John Wall was being blasted nationally over where he ranked himself among NBA point guards (No. 3) while Damian Lillard was in the midst of his hottest streak of the season. 

Now Wall has rebounded somewhat, though the Wizards have lost two in a row and are still out of the playoff picture in the East. 

Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers lost their third game in a row Sunday, 123-103 to the Detroit Pistons, and could be coming down to earth as they fight to hold their playoff spot in the West. 


They meet for the second and final time Tuesday at Moda Center with every game a must-win for both (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 10 ET). 

In the head-to-head battle, who is better? A year ago, hardly anyone was suggesting that Lillard is ahead of Wall. 

First, the basics:

Wall: 20.8 points on 17.5 shots, 9.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 4.0 turnovers, 42.8% FG shooting, 33.8% 3FG shooting.

Lillard: 25.8 points on 20.1 shots, 6.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 43% FG shooting, 37.3% 3FG shooting.

Next, looking at the more intricate shooting stats:

Wall: 37.2% catch-and-shoot accuracy; 34.8% pull-ups; 57.5% less than 10 feet away; and opponents shoot 43.5% when their shot is defended by him.

Lillard: 42.4% catch-and-shoot accuracy; 37.6% pull-ups; 49.9% less than 10 feet away; and opponents shoot 44.8% when their shot is defended by him.

And some more stats that detail how often they touch the ball and what they create for others:

Wall: 98.8 touches per game (No. 1 in NBA); 71.3 passes per game (3rd); 1.9 secondary assists per game (2nd); 23.7 assists points created per game (2nd); 19.2 potential assists per game if shot attempts were made by teammates (2nd).

Lillard: 89 touches per game (8th); 59.6 passes per game (17th); 1.3 secondary assists per game; 16.5 assists points created per game (9th); 12.7 potential assists per game if shot attempts were made by teammates (13th).

The eye test alone makes clear that while Wall and Lillard are point guards, they're very different and it often is a matter of taste or style of player who better fits their team's offensive scheme.

What the stats don't show, particularly the defensive ones, is exactly who do they guard on a nightly basis. Often with Lillard, he takes the weaker assignment which is an indication of how he's not highly regarded in this area (and makes it easier to be more aggressive/effective on offense).

While Wall's defense has slipped this season, he has been far more accomplished in that area (NBA's Second Team All-Defense in 2014-15). 

Lillard has been on fire lately, with two 50-point games since Feb. 19. But it's easy to hop on the Lillard bandwagon now that he's the flavor of the month with his team is playing well. The Blazers (33-31) are exceeding expectations. The Wizards (30-32) are woefully falling short.

Is it absurd to suggest Lillard is better than Wall? Not at all. They're both top five point guards. But it is easy to forget that less than a year the Wizards came within Wall's broken hand/wrist from making the conference finals. And when Wall played in those last two playoff games, he still averaged 18 points and 10 assists with one hand. He has earned the right, even if someone disagrees, to rank himself so highly. 

Wall has played second fiddle to every other elite player at his position in the NBA, including Lillard who was promoted over him when both were with Adidas (Wall ended his relationship with the brand earlier this season).

Even on the East coast where Wall is from, Adidas instead invested in and promoted Lillard, who is from Oakland, Calif., and plays in the Northwest. It's not a personal dislike or animosity that the Wizards' point guard has for anyone -- something that's often misconstrued by those who don't understand the context and overreact as they did with his comments regarding Kyrie Irving and the All-Star voting and Reggie Jackson's max contract -- when he suggests he's top three.

Wall isn't a walking cliche. His candor should be welcomed, not ridiculed. It's rather hypocritical for those who ask such questions to do so. 

Wall also knows that despite every statistical measure showing what it does about him in comparison to his contemporaries such as Lillard, that if he doesn't give himself some credit no one else will. And given how Lillard is frequently an afterthought when the best players at his position are discussed, he'll feel the same way. Both can be right. 

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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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