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To Wittman and Wall, Flip Saunders more than just a coach


To Wittman and Wall, Flip Saunders more than just a coach

A statement from the Wizards already had been released about the death of former coach Flip Saunders, but there's more to it than that. It's an incredibly personal matter for Randy Wittman who replaced him after his firing here in 2011. The same goes for John Wall, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 on a bad team.

"It's just tough. You lose a colleague, but not only a colleague a great friend," Wittman said of Saunders, who was the president for the Minnesota Timberwolves when he succumbed to lymphoma at 60 on Sunday. "He's been there for me many times to pick me up when I'd been fired or something in my family has gone wrong. It's a tough day."

Wittman was on Saunders' staffs during his first stint in Minnesota and followed him to D.C. Saunders was rehired by the Timberwolves one year ago. He also coached them again, a team he led to the West finals in 2004. 

The team Wall played for in his first year under Saunders won just 23 games. 

"It's something you think about. Everybody knows he's been sick much lately and knowing certain things he went through. You're going to think about it," said Wall, who is entering his sixth season that will tip off Wednesday at the Orlando Magic. "It's a good opportunity to play in the same place I got to play my first NBA game with him coaching me. (I'll) definitely think about it.

"He was just a great person. Early on when I first got drafted, after summer league and all that, he took me down to his house for like a week and I stayed in Minnesota. ... (His family) brought me in right away and wanted me to be great, took me through the steps, wanted me to be well. We dealt with some tough times early on but we always stayed positive and told me how good of a player I could be if I just keep working. 

"Coming in as a rookie I didn't want to say as much and I didn't want to do as much. Just him sticking with me and saying, 'This is the same process I went through with Kevin Garnett.' ... Trying to build my confidence. As a player he wanted me to excel. At times when I was having a lot of turnovers and going to fast, he could've been a coach who said, 'We're going to bench him. We're going to sit him down.' He let me play through my mistakes and try to learn."

RELATED: Blatche shares heartache, regret in wake of Flip Saunders' death

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.


The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.


Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 



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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:


2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:


4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result: