Nationals

Allen eager to see what Heat-Celtics opener brings

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Allen eager to see what Heat-Celtics opener brings

MIAMI (AP) There's no shortage of potentially awkward events for Ray Allen to endure Tuesday night.

Most of his new Miami Heat teammates will get championship rings; he won't be among them. When the franchise's second title banner gets raised to the rafters, Allen isn't sure how he's supposed to react. And all that hubbub will occur as his past collides with his future - his former team, the Boston Celtics, will be the opponent awaiting the Heat when their pregame tribute to the 2012 NBA title ends.

``It's their moment,'' Allen said.

It is, however, loaded with irony - since Allen was on the team that almost thwarted Miami's title plans.

Allen was with the Celtics last season when they took the Heat to seven games in a classic Eastern Conference final. Then came the summer, when Allen spurned Boston and signed with Miami, changing sides in the rivalry with just a few strokes of a pen. And deep down, he knew long ago that things would work out this way: Celtics-Heat, opening night, a marquee matchup to get the season started.

He was right.

``I've gotten over it now to the point where you just say, you can celebrate their success,'' Allen said. ``More than anything, I'm just focused on once that's over with, we have a game to go out and win.''

That's a mantra shared by just about everyone in the Heat locker room.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both said they would have preferred the ring ceremony to happen Monday night, so that nothing interferes with the importance of the game Tuesday night. Chris Bosh said the celebration could inspire both teams - since he remembers how hungry his team was for last season's opener when Dallas raised the title banner it won at Miami's expense, then got blown out by the Heat.

The final margin was only 11 points; the Heat led by 35 less than 4 minutes into the second half.

``You know they're going to be amped-up,'' Heat forward Shane Battier said. ``We're going to get their best shot. We know that going in.''

Seeing their friend-turned-foe will only add to that.

Allen's changing of addresses adds substantially more spice to a rivalry that didn't really need any extra oomph. James and Paul Pierce have been waging some duels for nearly a decade now. The Heat and Celtics have met in the playoffs in each of the last three years, Miami winning the last two since James and Bosh came to join Wade.

It's even more heated now, with Allen wearing red and black instead of green and white. Kevin Garnett said early in training camp that he doesn't even have Allen's number in his phone anymore. There's been a lingering sense that at least part of Allen's decision to sign with Miami was out of some sort of dissatisfaction about now-former teammate Rajon Rondo. Celtics coach Doc Rivers even has said that Miami is Boston's target this season, plain and simple.

In some respects, Allen is eager for Tuesday night to end, if only in that Wednesday morning may bring some normalcy.

``We can move on,'' Allen said. ``We can move on. I think it's two-fold, having a ring ceremony and then playing Boston. It's like both situations, letting go of what happened last year and moving forward. They're repeating, but I'm on the quest for a championship. That's a challenge that we're all facing together.''

Allen remembers just about everything from his first ring night - the Celtics won the title in 2008, then opened the following season at home against James and his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston won 90-85.

The Cavs didn't watch the Celtics' pregame party. The Celtics almost certainly won't watch Miami's, either.

``When you win a championship you have two key points that you look forward to,'' Allen said. ``One is the parade. And two was getting the rings.''

Even though he's not getting one, Allen said he is looking forward to whatever is coming on Tuesday night.

He's with the Heat now. Miami is home. What's done with Boston is done, he said. He's going to celebrate with his team.

``It's an event,'' Allen said. ``It brings closure to it. People get to celebrate it, going into the next season and then you can let it go.''

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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