Redskins

Bobcats snap losing streak at 23 games

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Bobcats snap losing streak at 23 games

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Charlotte Bobcats figured they'd set one dubious NBA record last season. They didn't need want start this season off by setting another.

After finishing 7-59 and etching their name in the NBA annals with the worst winning percentage (.106) in league history last season, diminutive point guard Kemba Walker and the Bobcats made certain they wouldn't break the league record for consecutive losses.

Charlotte ended last season with 23 straight losses, but Walker scored a career-high 30 points to lift the Bobcats over the Indiana Pacers 90-89 in Friday night's season opener. It was an impressive win against a team that has had plenty of success on the road. Indiana was 19-14 last season away from home and won its opener at Toronto on Wednesday night.

The NBA record for consecutive losses was set two years ago by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost 26 games following the departure of star LeBron James.

``It was something that was in the back of all of our heads,'' Walker said of the losing streak. ``We didn't want that streak to keep on with us, so to get it over with now was extremely important.''

It also gave coach Mike Dunlap a big victory in his first game as NBA head coach.

``The most important thing was to kill the elephant and that elephant was that losing streak,'' Dunlap said. ``We had to get that off of everybody's back. It's just one of those marks you want to clean off the board.''

The victory was a bit of early validation for Dunlap, who stressed to his young players this summer that the only way they can compete with the more talented teams in the league this year is to step up their defensive pressure and play like the team's new motto - tougher, faster and stronger.

In Dunlap's eyes that only comes about through conditioning, which meant running players continually through 3- and 4-hour practice sessions. He figured there was no way he could run full court traps at opponents if his players weren't in shape.

So he ran them. And ran them. And ran them some more.

Sure, there was some grumbling along the way.

But when owner Michael Jordan sensed Dunlap was getting some resistance from players, he pulled them aside and reminded them that he backs Dunlap's no-nonsense philosophy all of the way.

Jordan talked about building a ``winning culture'' in Charlotte and believes Dunlap is the right man to carry out that mission.

``His energy level and his passion are as strong as mine,'' Jordan said Thursday. ``I think he presents an attitude that you buy in or you're not a part of it. If you want to be here, be here. If you don't want to be here, then we don't want to put you here. That's just the way we are right now.''

Walker said players have gotten the message and they believe in what Dunlap is preaching.

``Guys are really, really buying in and that's all it takes,'' Walker said. ``It's about sacrifice. It's about buying into what your leader is preaching. It showed tonight. We made some huge stops at the end of the game.''

Along the way they also stopped a losing streak before it became a distraction.

``Now that it's over we don't ever want to get to that point again,'' Walker said.

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Redskins have safety needs but little cash, putting Clinton-Dix in precarious situation

Redskins have safety needs but little cash, putting Clinton-Dix in precarious situation

When the Redskins traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in October, the safety position looked to be a great strength for Washington. 

The team already had D.J. Swearinger, who was playing at a Pro Bowl level, and adding Clinton-Dix was supposed to make the Redskins defense one of the elite units in the NFL

That plan didn’t work. 

Clinton-Dix never performed at a high level in Washington, and frankly probably underperformed on the relative cheap fourth-round pick price the Redskins paid to acquire him. 

In nine games with Washington, Clinton-Dix registered 66 tackles and recovered one fumble. And while it wasn't entirely on him, Clinton-Dix's arrival coincided with the Redskins defensive demise. 

Now, it's free agency time for Clinton-Dix.

Pro Football Focus rated Clinton-Dix as the 32nd best safety in the NFL, and he will be one of the bigger names on the open market. What will the money look like?

It's hard to answer because 2018 wasn't an impressive season. Clinton-Dix struggled enough in tackling that Green Bay decided to trade him, and those struggles continued in Washington. 

The Redskins have a lot of needs this offseason, and safety is one of them. 

Swearinger is gone, and the depth chart features Montae Nicholson, Troy Apke and Deshazor Everett. Nicholson finished his season suspended after being arrested for assault and Apke finished his season on IR. Everett has made plays when he gets chances on the field, but for whatever reason, he rarely gets chances.

Washington doesn't have a lot to spend in free agency, as the Alex Smith contract will eat up a lot of their cap space. 

There definitely isn't room for a high-value contract for Clinton-Dix. 

There might not be room for a low dollar contract for Clinton-Dix based on his 2018 level of play, but the position is a need. 

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Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Shortly before his team took on the New York Knicks in a global showcase game in London, England on Thursday, Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis addressed reporters and dropped a line that created a swift and strong reaction on social media.

When discussing the state of his team, Leonsis said in no uncertain terms that the goal this season is to make the playoffs. He has no interest in looking towards the draft lottery, despite the desires of some fans who have visions of Zion Williamson throwing down lobs from John Wall.

"We will never, ever tank," Leonsis told reporters.

That quote seems like one that will be revisited periodically in the next several years. But, like all quotes, it requires some context. 

What Leonsis went on to explain is that his franchise is not in a position to lose on purpose. They have too much talent, even with injuries to Wall, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris, to pack it in and look towards next year. They also have too much money committed with what currently ranks as the seventh-highest payroll in basketball. They already went through a rebuild, he said, and it's not time yet to go through another one.

As Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington in September, there are "no excuses" for falling short this season.

In many ways, what he said in London was not surprising at all. The Wizards have been in win-now mode for several years. Anyone paying attention to their personnel moves should understand that.

Take the trade for Trevor Ariza in December, for instance. Though some speculated that was about trading for a guy who could be dealt elsewhere months later, that was never the Wizards' intention, according to people familiar with their plans. Getting Ariza was about improving the defense and retooling their locker room culture. It was about making the playoffs this spring.

Leonsis' comments should make the Wizards' plans for the Feb. 7 trade deadline a bit easier to ascertain. The goal to make the playoffs doesn't necessarily mean they will be buyers, but it strongly suggests they won't be sellers. They are only two games out of a playoff spot in the still-pedestrian Eastern Conference with 37 games left to play. After winning six of nine, the playoffs are a realistic goal.

That still won't assuage the Wizards fans out there pining for them to make the long-term play, of course. And there is an argument to be made that their future would be better off if they take a step back this season to take two steps forward the next. If they tanked and got a top draft pick, it could help them immensely down the road if that player becomes another franchise cornerstone.

But, as Leonsis argues, gunning for top draft picks can be unpredictable. People often cite the Sixers as a tanking success story, and their future does appear to be bright. 

But the Sixers are an exception to the rule, as tanking is by no means a fool-proof strategy, even in long-term rebuilds. Teams go years and years without luck in the draft. Just look at the Sacramento Kings.

Or, you could look at the Wizards, one of the least successful franchises in the NBA historically. Only five NBA teams have a worse winning percentage all-time than the Wizards, who have been around for 58 years. They haven't won 50 games or reached the conference finals since the 1970s.

If the Wizards were to make the playoffs this season, that would be five times in six years, arguably their best stretch of postseason success since the 70s. Consider the fact they made the playoffs just once from 1988 to 2004.

Sure, the Wizards should set their sights higher than losing in the first or second round, but there is something to be said about stability for a team that hasn't really had it since the Carter administration. And there is also something to be said about trying to build on what they have, rather than tearing it down and starting over.

It's not easy to go from middle of the road to great, but other teams have done it. In fact, most of the top teams in today's NBA didn't get there by tanking. 

The Rockets made trades for James Harden and Chris Paul and drafted Clint Capela 25th overall. The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick.

The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in trades and Malcolm Brogdon with a second round selection. The Nuggets drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round and got Gary Harris with a trade for the 19th pick.

The Warriors, though they had some lean years before their meteoric rise, basically built their team without any really high draft picks. They took Stephen Curry seventh, but also got Klay Thompson 11th and Draymond Green in the second round.

What Leonsis hopes to happen is a parallel to his Washington Capitals of the NHL. When it appeared they had hit a wall, some minor changes helped them break through to win a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The NBA is different, and the Wizards aren't a few small tweaks from toppling the Warriors, but perhaps Leonsis' patience will pay off. Maybe the Wizards will get a healthy version of Wall back, and the ascension of Beal and Porter will lead to them winning 50 games or going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1979.

There are fans out there who want dramatic changes. They want more than a first round playoff exit. Leonsis, of course, does as well, but he believes staying the course is the best path forward to getting there. Only time will tell if he's right.

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