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One on one: Who is the second best player in the East?


One on one: Who is the second best player in the East?

Now that we're removed from the intense portion of the NBA offseason, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the NBA road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.

We can all agree that LeBron James is the best player in the East. But who is number two?

J. Michael: That would be Paul George, if he’s anything near the player he was before he broke his leg, for the Indiana Pacers. Just a few years ago, he was an early MVP candidate because he was just that good – a two-way player who can dominate a game with or without the ball.

But let’s say he’s not the same player, that designation – though strictly conjecture and not empirical – is up for strong debate. John Wall and Jimmy Butler definitely enter the conversation. And before he developed a lung ailment, Chris Bosh, too. These players definitely are not if we’re talking about now and not taking into account their previous work in the league: Carmelo Anthony. Pau Gasol. Derrick Rose. Or Kyrie Irving/Kevin Love.


Ben Standig: The most amazing part of pondering this question was realizing the answer isn't remotely obvious. That's because so many of the game's best aren't in the Eastern Conference. Of the 15 players that comprised the 1st, 2nd and 3rd all-NBA teams this past season, 12 were from the West. (That's not even counting the injured Kevin Durant.) Besides James, Pau Gasol and Kyrie Irving also represented the East on the all-NBA teams. Neither is clearly one of the 10 best players in the NBA, let alone an obvious call as the second-best player in the East.

Paul Millsap, Al Horford, John Wall and Jimmy Butler would have made the fourth team if such a thing existed. At points in their careers, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George would be the easy answer. Of course, Anthony missed half of last season, marking the third time in four years he played fewer than 70 games. George, coming off a devastating leg injury, only returned in the final days. 

Kevin Love went from looking like a franchise player in Minnesota to serving as a role player in Cleveland. Some want to believe Derrick Rose is still at that NBA Most Valuable Player level. Respect for the comeback from one injury after another, but I'm not one of them, not yet anyway.

Fine, I'll stop stalling. Factoring in all that plus the uncertainty over Chris Bosh's health, my answer is...John Wall? Wow, I know. Also, not a homer pick. With all due respect to Bradley Beal, Nene and Marcin Gortat, Wall has been the best player on a team that was among the last eight remaining in the playoffs the last two straight seasons. Yes, final eight isn't exactly the goal all teams shoot for, but how many predicted Washington would get there either time? Wall shined in the playoffs last season- even when playing with a busted wrist - after struggling the previous year. More than a few people believe the Wizards defeat the Hawks and reach the Eastern Conference Final last year if Wall isn't injured. Growth is a good thing and the pass-first point guard keeps showing just that.

Butler is close, but the two-way threat hasn't truly taken on the alpha role with Gasol, Rose and Joakim Noah around. Irving works as LeBron's wing man or among the many standouts in a Team USA situation, but he flamed out when slotted as Cleveland's best player. The answer was George before the injury. Maybe it will be again sooner than later. Until then, we have to give somebody the nod. For now, I can make the argument that player is John Wall.

Previous one-on-one debates

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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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