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Wizards' star John Wall goes in-depth on racism and events in Charlottesville

Wizards' star John Wall goes in-depth on racism and events in Charlottesville

John Wall has always been one to speak his mind and answer questions directly, though politics isn't often his game. During the preseason last fall he was asked who he was voting for between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and his response was evasive. He didn't want to go there.

But the past week's events, starting with the protests in Charlottesville that included a woman getting killed by a white supremacist driving through a crowd, have clearly weighed on the Wizards' star point guard. Wall spoke at length about the current state of affairs at his charity event at Rosedale Community Center in Northeast Washington on a broiling Friday afternoon.

Wall met with the media, but first made an address to the kids and parents who showed up for his backpack giveaway and other charity efforts. He began by referencing Charlottesville.

"I know this week has been tough for our country with things not going the way we would want them to, but the most important thing is that you can't use that as retaliation. We've all got to treat each other as the same. No matter what color you are, we are all family. We're all in this world trying to make it more peaceful and promising than anything," he said.

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Afterwards, Wall spoke further about how this last week has affected him.

"It's very important [to give back], especially with what has been going on the past week or so in our country and the tough times that we're dealing with. I want the kids to understand that no matter what goes on, you can't use that to try to target nobody else. We're all one whole family. Even though we're different races, we're still one big family. We have to work to try to get things to as best the situation we can and keep it positive," he explained.

"It's been difficult [the last week]," Wall continued. "It's been tough. We go through times where things are going in the right direction for us and our country is going in positive ways, then we revert back to the stuff we try to tell our kids not to do, that our parents told us not to be. We are going through what we went through in the past when we thought we got away from that. It's kind of amazing to think that in 2017 and going into 2018, that we're still dealing with the same type of things that our great, great grandparents dealt with. We thought we were going in a positive direction. All we can do is not use it in retaliation. Try to stay positive and understand that we need to give these kids a brighter [outlook]. Don't use it to go back at these people."

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Wall was asked about the fact he's speaking out, as many athletes don't and he in the past hasn't been someone to delve into politics and current events. He feels now like he has no choice.

"If it's something I feel like I need to speak on, I will speak on it. I feel like with what we're going through, it's kind of tough. What everybody is saying is totally right. We thought we got past those things. Every year there is something that is reverting right back to it. It's something that we're going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives. But as long as we educate our kids and educate our people that we are role models to, and show them that we can't revert back to that, I think we'll be totally fine."

Wall has a platform as an NBA superstar and one that happens to play in Washington, where policies and laws are set. He relishes the power as someone kids look up to, knowing he can make a difference with what he says and does.

"It's me and my personality and what my mom wanted me to be growing up: not just a great basketball player, but having character as a young man. That's what a lot of people look at first. They look at the talents and the things that I do on the basketball court, but they understand how I carry myself off the court, with a clean image and trying to not do things to get in trouble. That's what I pride myself off of."

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Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

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Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

Marcin Gortat is a legend in his home country of Poland and on Wednesday night he paid homage to one of his predecessors.

Adam Wójcik, one of the most decorated Polish basketball players of all time, passed away in August after a battle with Leukemia. Months later, in the first game of the 2017-18 season, Gortat took the floor with Wójcik's initials, the date of his death, a cross and 'RIP.' 

Gortat went out and had one of the best games of his career. He had 16 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, just the third time in his 11 NBA seasons he has posted those numbers. His production was pivotal in the Wizards' 120-115 win over the Sixers in their season opener.

"I'm just glad I did that wearing the initials of the greatest players from Poland, Adam Wójcik," Gortat said. "I'm glad in the first game, we came up with a win."

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Ten of Gortat's points came in the fourth quarter, as he consistently fed off pick-and-roll mismatches. John Wall found him over and over, including for a big dunk that allowed Gortat to do his signature Polish Hammer celebration.

That Wall-to-Gortat combination is something head coach Scott Brooks wants to see more of.

"It’s simple for him. I’ve been telling him for about a year and at the start of this season," Brooks said. "You run into your screen and you roll out, and you’re going to get open looks. We have some special players handling the ball. They’re going to have to guard with an extra man and if he rolls hard, he’s going be able to finish."

Wójcik died at just 47 years old after a long and successful basketball career. He won eight Polish League championships and won MVP three times. Gortat and Wójcik played together for the Polish national team and Wójcik is someone Gortat looked up to for a long time.

"I dedicate this game to him," he said.

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John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

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John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 120-115 in their regular season opener on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.

How it happened: As fun and talented as the upstart Sixers are, with two No. 1 picks making their NBA debuts in Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons and an enigmatic star in Joel Embiid, they didn't have enough on Wednesday night, as the Wizards let their seasoned veterans go to work in the second half to pull out a season-opening victory. 

Bradley Beal and John Wall found their rhythm in the third quarter, helping the Wizards outscore the Sixers 34-23 in the frame. Beal had 11 points and shot 6-for-6 from the free throw line, while Wall put up 14 points. The two combined for 25 of the Wizards' 34 points in the fourth quarter.

Beal finished with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists and Wall with 28 points, eight assists and five rebounds, including this dunk that was pure, unaldurated disrespect:

The Sixers made a push in the fourth quarter, opening the frame with a 13-2 run. But as the quarter continued, the Wizards put on a display of dunks that kept the crowd on their side. Kelly Oubre, Jr. threw down a putback slam on a Beal missed three that helped key a 12-4 run. Marcin Gortat (16 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks) had 10 points in the fourth quarter, several assisted by Wall including a big dunk that inspired a Polish Hammer celebration.

The Wizards were in command in the first quarter, leading by nine at the end of the frame. Otto Porter scored their first eight points on 4-of-5 from the field. But the Sixers charged back, shooting 56 percent in the second quarter to take a three-point lead at halftime.

Robert Covington (surprise) led the Sixers in scoring with 29 points. Simmons (NBA debut) and Embiid each had 18, while Fultz was limited to 10 points in 17 minutes in his first game.

The Sixers cut it to two with a minute left before Jerryd Bayless threw an earrant pass into the hands of Beal. Beal then stole the ball on a save by Otto Porter with 20.5 seconds left. He was fouled and hit one free throw. Philly couldn't answer, as J.J. Redick missed a three from straightaway center.

The Wizards later closed it out at the free throw line with Beal knocking down two with just 2.0 seconds remaining. He went 12-for-16 from the charity stripe for the night. The Wizards shot 30-of-38 from the line, exactly double the attempts Philly got.

What it means: The Wizards are off to a 1-0 start, which is important considering their travel-heavy schedule early on. They want to avoid what happened last year, when they started 2-8, and Wednesday night was a good first step.

Early returns good from bench: It was one game, but the Wizards' bench looked solid, especially considering they are a group depleted by injuries. Jodie Meeks was the offensive spark they signed him to be. He made it look easy with 14 points in 19 minutes. Tim Frazier mainly played the role of distributor with five assists and zero points. Oubre did a little bit of everything with 14 points, seven rebounds and three three-pointers in 32 minutes. He carried a heavy load once Smith went out. Mike Scott scored inside and out and finished with seven points in 14 minutes. 

Gun shy early: Scott Brooks could not have been happy with the Wizards attempting just eight threes as a team in the first half. Beal and Porter combined for one attempt, while Oubre and Wall led the team with two attempts apiece. Brooks wants guys like Beal and Porter to attempt at least five threes a game. It was likely a point of emphasis at halftime, because Beal knocked down a triple just 1:36 into the third quarter. Oubre stole the ball and found Beal, who swished one over Embiid.

Injury news: Jason Smith got the start at power forward, but only played 7:04 before exiting with a sprained right shoulder. He jogged to the locker room with trainers and never returned. This is extra noteworthy considering he was the replacement for Markieff Morris, who is out for several more weeks following sports hernia surgery. He will get an MRI on Thursday, per Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington.

Up next: The Wizards stay home for their second game, hosting the Detroit Pistons at 7 p.m. That game will be on NBC Sports Washington. After that they head west for a four-game road trip.

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