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Son of former Wizard is a top pick in 2013 NHL Draft

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Son of former Wizard is a top pick in 2013 NHL Draft

By: Ben Raby
CSNWashington.com

Popeye Jones didnt know it at the time, but when the 11-year NBA veteran joined the Washington Wizards in 2000 he made a decision that would shape the life of a future hockey wonder kid.

Seth Jones is a projected top-three pick in next years NHL Entry Draft and the 17-year-old is USA Hockeys top rated underage prospect. Hes also the son of a well-travelled NBA player and coach.

I guess when you sit back and think about it, it is odd for a professional basketball players son to play hockey at such a high level, Popeye Jones said in a phone interview with CSNWashington.com.

I grew up playing basketball, football and baseball- my town didnt have hockey- but sports in general were always in my blood so really this isnt that odd to me or Seth because were a huge sports family.

As Seth Jones aims to become the first African American taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, its worth noting that the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman could have very easily gone his entire life without even trying on a pair of skates. A family game plan from father Popeye would change that.

THE DECISION:

Popeye Jones was traded to the Wizards in September 2000, just three weeks before training camp. Washington was Jones fifth NBA home in less than five years and the thought of again having to uproot his family didnt appeal to the 30-year-old father of three.

So after NBA stints in Dallas, Toronto, Boston and Denver, Jones moved to D.C. and encouraged wife Amy and sons Justin, Seth and Kaleb to settle in Colorado.

At the time, Jones middle son five-year-old Seth- was just starting to participate in organized sports. Seth dabbled in soccer, but living in the Rocky Mountains in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fastest growing sport was hockey and the best team in the region was the Colorado Avalanche. It didnt take long before Seth was on skates.

When we moved to Colorado when I was playing for the Denver Nuggets, the Avalanche was really big, Jones said.

They had won the Stanley Cup in 1996, they had Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy and so all the kids in the neighborhood really took to hockey and they were always playing roller hockey in the streets in our neighborhood.

Seth wanted in. It didnt matter that dad was a professional basketball player; Seth was hooked on hockey. Popeye knew it and did what any pro athlete with privileged access would do- he sought the advice of a future Hall-of-Famer.

I ran into Joe Sakic down at the arena and I just asked him about the game, Popeye said.

He didnt know who I was and I just kind of asked him for advice with my kids wanting to play hockey and he just looked at me and said from the looks of things your kids are going to be huge. You just need to make sure that they can skate.

When Seth was eight, he was already among the best and biggest athletes in his age group in suburban Denver. Sakic told Popeye that the best athletes can easily learn to shoot and handle a puck but that skating is the most important skill.

So from that point on we started getting skating lessons with a lady that was actually a figure skating coach, Popeye explained. She taught him twice a week, a lot of technical stuff like how to properly use his blades and edges She would always tell us that Seth would pick up on things quickly.

As the final years of Popeyes NBA playing career took him from Washington to Dallas and then to Oakland, Seth remained in Denver working his way up Colorados youth hockey programs. Given his size and skating ability, Seth was encouraged to become a defenseman.

I just kept telling him that defense wins championships, Popeye said. Maybe that was the professional in me, but I told him that if you can stop the other teams from scoring then youre going to win games. After that, he really took to the position.

ON THE MOVE:

In 2007, Popeye was named an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks and after eight years in Denver, the Joneses moved to Texas.

Seth was 12, but his hockey development continued with an elite travel team in Texas. Among his teammates in Dallas was 2012 NHL draftee Colton Hargrove (Boston Bruins).

By the age of 15, Jones was already on USA Hockeys radar as one of the best prospects in the country and in 2010 he moved again, this time to Ann Arbor, MI to join the U.S. National Development Team.

The two-way defenseman spent the past two years with the USNDT and he captained USA Hockeys under-18 team to a gold medal at the World U18 Championships last spring.

I know that hes at a young age, but hes also really mature, Popeye said. I think one of the main lessons that Ive taught him is to keep your head down, keep working hard, dont get caught up in all the press clippings and all of that and I think hes done a terrific job of doing that. Hes humble and very hard working.

Now Seth Jones is entering the most important year of his hockey career- his draft year. Unlike most USNDT players who accept hockey scholarships and attend university, Jones has decided to play for the Portland Winterhawks of Canadas Western Hockey League.

Jones is also expected to play for the U.S. at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

The years of hard work and sacrifice will culminate in June when Popeye and the rest of the family he once left behind in Denver will attend the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, NJ.

It will be very rewarding, said Popeye, now an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets. I was a second-round pick in the NBA in 1992, so I wasnt invited to the draft. Its going to very exciting and without looking too far ahead, I know its day that Seth is anxious for as well.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Another 40-point third quarter evens another playoff series for the Wizards

Last night's Washington Wizards comeback would not have happened had it not been for the team's blowout third quarter. 

Of course, you can say that literally about any quarter, but if you take away the third, the Toronto Raptors outscored Washington easily, 78-66.

The Wizards won by eight and this wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a performance of this magnitude from this bunch.

In that frame alone in Game 4, the Wizards broke out to 40 points, the same amount they had in the first two quarters combined. As a team, they shot 65 percent and 83 percent from deep (5-for-6).

By far that was their best offensive quarter of this series.

Of course, Bradley Beal got his due, 12 points including three three-pointers, but for the first time this series, Otto Porter Jr. became a threat on the offensive end of the court.

The 6-8 forward scored 10 of his 12 points, all of which came in a 26-14 run. First, he started with back-to-back three-pointers, both in the tail end of a transition, both a feed from John Wall. One came from the corner and the other came off of a screen that ended up being a close contest from OG Anunoby.

That run resulted in the Wizards’ first lead of the game from a corner three courtesy of Beal.

Speaking of Anunoby, he was silent in that quarter for the Raptors. Granted in the first half he was taken off the court after getting pinned under Marcin Gortat, but the Raptors’ guard played for nine minutes and the only thing he recorded on the stat sheet was a foul.

Serge Ibaka, who has also been a pain in the Wizards’ side also disappeared. One rebound, two points from the free throw line, and one block was all that the 6-10 forward managed. With Porter on the court and producing, it pushed Ibaka to set up outside the paint, clearing the lane for Wall to generate movement on the offense.

All this being said, Toronto actually didn’t have a bad quarter. They shot 50 percent from the field and DeMar DeRozan had 14 points.

But the Wizards were simply better. They out-shot one of the best all-around offensive teams in the league.

Rolling with the punches in transition, not passing up open looks, Wall dealing out six assists; that is the Wizards’ team that knocked off some of the top teams in the NBA this year. No one shot more than five times in the quarter and the team combined for 10 assists on the 15 made baskets.

They erased a 14-point deficit and were tied at 80 heading into the fourth.

If you look back to the last 40-point playoff quarter for Washington, there are many parallels. It was another series where the Wizards were down 0-2 to the Celtics. They were dealing with an offensive driven team and the physicality became a prevalent story in the series.

Had it not been for those 12 minutes of basketball, the Wizards would be down 3-1 and face an insurmountable climb to get back into their First Round series. Now they are at a fresh slate in a best-of-3 series. With all the momentum, Washington is just two wins away from getting back to the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs.

Hopefully, this time is a little different than the last.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

BEAL FOULING OUT NEARLY CHANGED THE ENTIRE SERIES

KELLY OUBRE CONTINUES TO STEP UP

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM GAME 4 WIN