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Wizards' evolution changing Nene's role

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Wizards' evolution changing Nene's role

The Washington Wizards are starting to resemble the Golden State Warriors and not simply because they're launching more 3-pointers.

One reason why the Warriors went from contender to champion last season involved a key and early lineup decision. Golden State moved long-time NBA starter Andre Iguodala to the bench so Draymond Green could emerge in the coveted stretch-4 role. Green became one of the league's best two-way threats. While adjusting to the new role, Igoudala became one of the league's top sixth-men and ultimately, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

The Wizards appear set for a similar change at power forward with Nene, a starter for 601 of his 747 career regular season games. The evolution with the NBA game toward perimeter players makes having two traditional interior options challenging. There are issues with floor spacing offensively and guarding matchups defensively.

Washington uses 6-foot-11 Marcin Gortat at center. Having a power forward capable of shooting from distance provides Gortat with more space offensively. As for Nene, 33, the Brazilian big man provides many things, but floor spacing is not among them.

“I have no clue,” Nene said this weekend about possibly coming off the bench. “That’s the coach’s decision.”

That decision and others with the Wizards rotation are not definitive, but signs point to this specific change. Nene came off the bench in Washington's first two preseason games, though he started Sunday against Brazilian club team Bauru.

Wittman mentioned Golden State's situation when asked Saturday about the potential challenge an established player might endure going from starter to reserve.

“I’m sure sometimes it is, but it happens all the time,” Wittman said. “The bottom line is the betterment of the team. I think we saw it last year with Iguodala. He was an All-Star. Not only a starter in the league, but an All-Star."

Even if the role changes, the minutes should remain comparable, though fewer for Nene might benefit him over the full season. Injuries have plagued the 6-foot-11 forward throughout his career. He missed 15 games during the 2014-15 season primarily due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

“Nene’s going to continue, whether he’s a starter or non-starter, to get the minutes he’s gotten since he’s been here,” Wittman said. “I’m not going to play him any differently whether he’s a starter or not.”

The second unit's offense may revolve around Nene's ability to pass and shoot from the high post. He should feast against a bevy of backup centers. As for playing in this perimeter-oriented era, Nene isn't worried. 

“Basketball is basketball,” he said. “If you know how to play basketball, you’re fine.”

[RELATED: Wall gets legendary praise for off-court charity work]

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.