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Now that Kobe Bryant has issued the challenge, what would it take for John Wall to earn first team all-defense?

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Now that Kobe Bryant has issued the challenge, what would it take for John Wall to earn first team all-defense?

John Wall's eager acceptance of Kobe Bryant's challenge for him to make first team all-defense likely means more than just a fun exchange for fans on Twitter. There have been many signs this offseason suggesting Wall is on a mission to get much better on the defensive end.

There was this tweet by Wall when the NBA's all-defensive teams were announced for the 2016-17 season and he wasn't listed.

Quote tweeting somebody with 'LOL' is Wall's favorite way to disagree with something and we know he loves to draw motivation from perceived snubs, whether that be postseason accolades, national TV games for the Wizards or his NBA 2K rating.


Even before Kobe put the all-defense goal out there, Wall was drawing similar buzz for this video from James Harden's charity game. Showcase games generally do not feature tight defense, yet Wall was locking up Harden and Chris Paul, two of the best guards in the NBA, on multiple possessions, clearly taking each 1-on-1 matchup seriously:

Head coach Scott Brooks even mentioned defense as a key area Wall can improve on this coming season during the press conference to announce Wall's new supermax contract earlier this month.

So, what would Wall have to do to earn first team all-defense and make the Black Mamba look brilliant in hindsight? It certainly won't be easy to join what is an exclusive club. Only two guards in the entire league make first team all-defense.

Bryant, by the way, made first team all-defense nine times, tying Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Michael Jordan for tops in NBA history. Bryant's 12 times making all-defense (including three second team selections) are tied for second-best all-time behind only Tim Duncan, who was picked 15 times.


It's extremely rare to put up numbers like that and the Wizards' franchise is a prime example. Wall has one all-defensive team selection under his belt, as he made second team in 2014-15, but that was just the second time since 1985-86 when Manute Bol was second team all-defense that a Washington player has earned the honor. Besides Wall, only Larry Hughes in 2004-05 earned all-defense in a Wizards uniform.

The year Wall made all-defense he posted the best defensive rating (102) of his career. In the two years since that number has risen to 104 and 108. The Wizards as a team were fifth-best in defensive rating and 10th-best in opponents points per game in 2014-15. This past year they were 20th and 21st in those categories.

In order for Wall to get back into the mix for all-defense, both he and the Wizards as a team will likely have to improve those defensive numbers. Wall already has other defensive stats working in his favor. He led the NBA in total steals (157) this past season and was fourth among guards in blocks (49). One of those ahead of him was Giannis Antetokounmpo.


To get first team all-defense, Wall will need to beat out some very good perimeter defenders. Chris Paul, for one, has made the first team as a guard for six straight years. Unless he falls off this season, that doesn't leave a lot of room for other guards. Wall has to either snag that second spot or outdo Paul, one of the best defensive guards in NBA history.

The second spot next to Paul has included several other names in recent years. Patrick Beverley, who was traded for Paul this summer, was first team for 2016-17. Avery Bradley, who was traded from the Celtics to the Pistons this offseason, got that honor the year before. Tony Allen was first team all-defense the season before that. Allen, interestingly enough, has made the second team in each of the last two seasons, but is now 35 and still looking for a contract as a free agent this summer. 

Wall himself does have one major thing working in his favor in his quest to make all-defense and maybe even the first team. This offseason he is fully healthy for the first time in a while and one year after he was rehabbing from two knee surgeries. That has allowed Wall to apply extra focus to conditioning, which is crucial for defense, especially late in games.

Wall has been a second team all-defensive player before. Now he appears intent on taking the next step.



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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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