Ethan Cadeaux

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Plenty of former Wizards and DMV locals in the 2019 NBA Finals

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Plenty of former Wizards and DMV locals in the 2019 NBA Finals

For four decades, the NBA Finals have gone without an appearance from the Wizards. Washington has yet to make it back to the highest stage in professional basketball since 1979, when the Seattle Supersonics defeated the then-Washington Bullets in just five games.

So when the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors kick off the 2019 NBA Finals at 8 p.m. on Thursday, fans will look for the players (and others) with ties to either the Wizards or the Washington, D.C. area. 

Here's how the Wizards and the D.M.V. are represented during the 2019 NBA Finals:

Former Wizards Players:

There are two former Wizards players represented during this year's NBA Finals, with both the Raptors and Warriors rostering one each.

Shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who appeared in 77 games for the Wizards during the 2017-18 season, was signed by Toronto in late March after the Bucks released him following a trade with the Wizards last October. Meeks has appeared in 13 games during the Raptors playoff run, and should see sparing minutes during the Finals.

For the Warriors, guard Shaun Livingston had two different stints in Washington, once during the 2009-10 season and the other during the 2012-13 season, before finding a permanent home in Golden State. Livingston appeared in a total of 43 games with the Wizards, starting 22, and averaged 7.0 points per game.

Since Livingston arrived in the Bay Area in 2014, the Warriors have gone on to win three NBA Finals, with Livingston playing a vital role in all.

Players from the Washington, D.C. area

Four Warriors players have ties to the Washington, D.C. area.

It's no secret that Warriors star forward Kevin Durant is from the Washington, D.C. area. Durant spent his junior year of high school at Rockville's Montrose Christian, before transferring to the powerhouse Oak Hill Academy for his senior year.

Although he elected to play his college ball at Texas rather than Maryland, Georgetown or any other local school, and has never played for the Wizards, Durant has stayed loyal to his D.C. roots and gave back plenty to the community. 

Earlier this year, Durant opened up The Durant Center in his native Prince George's County. The facility is described as a "state-of-the-art facility offering students the academic, financial, and social-emotional resources to achieve their college and career goals." In 2018, Durant made a $10 million commitment to Prince George's County Public Schools.

Durant isn't the only Warrior that is from the D.C. area. Reserve guard Quinn Cook is from Washington, D.C., and played his first three years of high school at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. before, like Durant, transferring to Oak Hill for his senior year.

After a stellar career at Duke University, Cook bounced around the G-League before finding a home with Golden State. The two are close friends, a friendship that dates back to their D.C. roots.

Other Ties to D.C.

Current Raptors President of Operations, Masai Ujiri, has ties to the Washington area as well. His wife, Ramatu Ujiri, is from Greenbelt, Md., which is less than 10 miles from D.C. Additionally, Ujiri is one of the potential candidates to replace Ernie Grunfeld for the same position with the Wizards.

Now the question is, would he do it? Soon, we will find out.


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Shaun Dion Hamilton feels for Reuben Foster, but ready to prove himself at middle linebacker

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Shaun Dion Hamilton feels for Reuben Foster, but ready to prove himself at middle linebacker

Besides Reuben Foster himself, no one felt worse about the linebacker's torn ACL than his fellow inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton.

The two were teammates at the University of Alabama from 2014-2016 and spent a lot of time together while in Tuscaloosa. 

"I was bawling," Hamilton said about Foster's injury. "I was torn all last [week]. Just on the simple fact that we've been talking about [playing together] ever since he got here last November."

Besides just being close with one another, Hamilton knows the exact pain Foster is going through, as he's gone through multiple knee injuries himself. While at Alabama, Hamilton tore his ACL in 2016. Additionally, he fractured his kneecap the following November, which ultimately ended his Alabama career.

After Foster's injury, Hamilton made sure to spend time with Foster and do his best to keep him in good spirits. 

"I was over there with him for a few days last week, and he was like 'yeah, you'll be there for me, be able to help me out because you've been through two of these knee braces,'" Hamilton said. "So that's all I try to do, just be there for him because I've been through it. Just help him and keep his spirits up.

"I told him, 'it's going to be a battle,'" Hamilton continued. "But the thing is, a storm doesn't last forever. I'm going to be with him every step of the way. I know how it is when one day it's [more sore] than the other. One day you feel good, the next day it's painful. It's important you just have a level head."

Sure, Hamilton should feel for his teammate. But now that Foster is out for the season, Hamilton is suddenly the likely starter alongside Mason Foster at the middle linebacker position. 

That position comes with a lot of expectations and more responsibility. With Mason Foster, Hamilton will be asked to be one of the vocal leaders of the defense.

But in terms of added pressure? Hamilton doesn't think so.

"I don't look at it as pressure," Hamilton said on potentially having a bigger role. "It's just football. We've got a great group around us, and every one of us can play ball. It's not just me, it's all of us as a unit."

Hamilton emphasized that even without Foster, the team has a very talented defense. 

"You know, we got a great group of guys," he said. "Everybody is out here, working their tail off and supporting each and every one of us. We're working to continue to get better. If all 11 guys are executing, we can be good. It starts out with every day, people coming to work with their hard head on. [It requires] 11 [guys] executing, not just eight, not just nine, but all 11 executing."

Foster can still help the team in 2019, even though he won't be on the field.

"I just think the biggest thing is staying involved, staying around the team," Hamilton said on what advice he'd give to Foster. "When you're with the team, everything is great. But when you're by yourself and have a lot of time, that's when you get in a funk."

Hamilton should not take the de-facto starting linebacker spot for granted, however. The Redskins signed free agent linebacker Jon Bostic last week, and he certainly has a chance to compete for the starting job as well.

Bostic started 14 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers a season ago, before being released abruptly following the 2019 NFL Draft last month. In 2017, he totalled a career-high 97 tackles with the Indianapolis Colts.

"To be honest, I can't really speak on that," Bostic said on Foster's injury. "At the end of the day, all I can speak on is I got the call, and going forward, I got to prove myself again."

That sounds like a guy who is ready to compete. Bostic is still just 28 years old and his numbers show he can still be a formidable starter in the league.

Yet, his inability to stick around with the same team, as the Redskins mark his fifth team in six seasons, could be an added chip on his shoulder as he looks to fully establish himself with one organization.

"Physically, I feel fine," Bostic said. "I've been healthy; I've been playing well. At the end of the day, business is business... [I'm] very familiar with the defense, so now, it's just changing a couple of things terminology-wise."


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Latest Kyrie Irving rumors could have ripple effects for Wizards and the rest of the East

Latest Kyrie Irving rumors could have ripple effects for Wizards and the rest of the East

Once the heart and soul of the team, the future at the guard position for the Wizards is currently uncertain.

Bradley Beal turned in the best season of his career, averaging a career-high in points (25.6), rebounds (5.0) and assists (5.5), despite the Wizards having their worst season since 2012-13. Beal was snubbed from the All-NBA team, meaning he is not eligible for the Supermax contract extension. For a team that is trying to rebuild, Beal could be on the trade block and dealt as early this summer, depending on certain free agency acquisitions from other teams.

Beal's backcourt running mate, John Wall, is out until at least next February while rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles tendon. The team may address the position during next month's draft with the No. 9 overall pick, but it will ultimately matter who is available.

There might be another team in the East that has to address the point guard position as well. That would be the Boston Celtics, as their All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving becomes a free agent on July 1. Irving has been real noncommital about his future, even after verbally committing to re-sign with the Celtics in front of their fans prior to the season. But after a disappointing end to a campaign where many expected the Celtics to make the NBA Finals, Irving could very easily head elsewhere during free agency, and leave the team scrambling to fill the position.

So where could Irving end up and how could that affect rumblings about Bradley Beal's future in Washington?

While appearing as a guest on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Bleacher Report NBA writer Ric Bucher shared his latest guess.

"It's between Brooklyn and the Lakers," Bucher told Cowherd on the show. 

One key person who could play a vital role in where Irving ends up? Kobe Bryant.

"Kobe told me, or indicated to me, that he was not involved," Ric Bucher said. "'That's their deal, I'm not part of it.' But I was told in the last 24 hours that Kobe has been busy recruiting Kyrie in particular, to try to get him to the Lakers."

While Kobe may be trying to persuade Irving to head out west and rejoin his old teammate LeBron James, Bucher still expects Irving to head to the Brooklyn.

"Now, everything that I've heard, I would still expect Kyrie is going to go to Brooklyn," Bucher said. "That's the odds on favorite. He just bought a place in South Orange."

Regardless of where Irving plays next season, it certainly will have an impact on the Wizards. Let's start with Brooklyn. 

Brooklyn Nets

Should the Nets land the six-time All-Star, they would drastically improve from a team that already has one of the most promising futures in the NBA. The Nets current point guard D'Angelo Russell, a candidate for the Most Improved Player award, is also a free agent, but there is a true possibility they can sign both. Irving is from New Jersey, and as Bucher mentioned, reportedly just purchased a place in nearby South Orange, New Jersey.

For the Wizards, the Nets signing Irving would just mean there is another young team in the East that could be dominant for years to come. The Nets core consists of Russell (age 23), Caris LeVert (24), Jarrett Allen (21), Spencer Dinwiddie (26), and Joe Harris (27). Adding a 27-year-old Irving would make this team a force to reckon with for years to come.

New York Knicks

Moving just across the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Knicks are also a potential landing spot for Irving. They have the ability to sign two players to max contracts, and rumors of Irving and Kevin Durant teaming up together have floated around for months.

But if Irving leaves the Knicks offer behind and decides to sign elsewhere, whether that be in Brooklyn or somewhere else, the Knicks could be forced into a desperation mode. Knicks fans are desperate for a winning team, and after they failed to land the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, they need to have a big offseason. The Knicks could try every which way to trade for Anthony Davis, or hope to sign Durant and another free agent, such as Kemba Walker. But if the Knicks had it their way, both Irving and Durant would be in blue and orange next season.

Los Angeles Lakers

But what if Irving does listen to Kobe and decides to go out west and sign with the Lakers. 

Of course, the main storyline would be Irving teaming up once again with LeBron James, his teammate in Cleveland for three seasons, one which ended with a title in 2016. Irving forced his way out of Cleveland after the 2016-17 season, emphasizing he wanted to be the main guy to lead a team to a championship and felt that James was holding him back. After two seasons in Boston without an NBA Finals appearance, Irving appears to want out. Does Irving realize he may need someone like James in order to win, or does he just think he has a better chance to win somewhere other than Boston? 

Sure, a move to the Lakers would leave the East without one of the conference's best players, which could be good news for the Wizards -- but that's not the most pressing trickle-down effect. Irving going to Los Angeles could potentially lead the Lakers exploring a trade for a third star, which as of late, has been proven to be necessary in order to win a championship.

That third star could be Anthony Davis, who the Lakers offered practically their entire young core for at the trade deadline. But it could also be Beal.

The Wizards All-Star guard put together his best season to date, but even so, his future with Washington is in question. A trade could be a likely scenario for a team that may begin to rebuild.

The Lakers could be an active suitor for Beal. The two-time All-Star would give the Lakers something they desperately need: shooting. Beal is a career 38 percent three-point shooter, and would immediately be the best shooter on a Lakers team that finished second-to-last in three-point shooting a season ago. LeBron is arguably at his best when he has shooters around him, and adding Irving plus Beal would be an excellent backcourt to pair with him.

Regardless of Irving's free agency decision, the Wizards will certainly be affected one way or another. Now, we just wait to find out how.