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Dunlap preaches patience amid 16-game losing skid

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Dunlap preaches patience amid 16-game losing skid

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) It would be easy for Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap to tear up the blueprint amid a 16-game losing streak and come up with an entirely new plan.

But Charlotte's first-year coach has no plans for any such radical paper shredding.

Instead he's preaching patience.

When Dunlap looks at his team's struggles since opening the season 7-5 he recalls the growing pains Kevin Durant, Michael Westbrook and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder endured a few years ago before becoming Western Conference champions.

``Durant and Westbrook took a pounding in those first two years,'' Dunlap said. ``My point is I look around the league and see how those seeds were born, what those guys did and how did that culture take off? Well it didn't take off right away, so I remind myself and my staff of that. It's incumbent on us to stay the course.''

So Dunlap will stick with playing youngsters like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. They will make mistakes. They will learn on the job.

Dunlap will also continue to stress things like pressuring the ball, help defense, pushing the ball up the floor, getting to the basket and drawing fouls as staples of the foundation he hopes to build.

Sure, the 16-game skid isn't fun.

The Bobcats know all too well about lengthy losing streaks.

They lost their final 23 games of last season to finish 7-59 under former coach Paul Silas. They added Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood during the offseason, bringing some veteran experience to an otherwise young team.

After an offseason where Dunlap stressed conditioning during marathon three- and four-hour practices, the Bobcats came out of the gates winning seven of their first 12 games matching last season's win total.

But things have gone downhill ever since a 45-point shellacking at the hands of the Thunder on Nov. 26.

It was a game the Bobcats said going in would be a great measuring stick for how far they'd come. But reality threw them for a loop and Dunlap's gang has struggled to get back on ever since.

Sixteen games. Sixteen losses.

They've lost them in a variety of ways, once blowing a 17-point lead with less than six minutes to play. They've been blown out of a few games, but for the most part have remained competitive.

The one consistent during the stretch is the lack of defense. The Bobcats have allowed 109 points per game during the losing streak.

``That's not good, is it?'' Dunlap said, pointing out the obvious.

Dunlap said the problem revolves around a lack of ball pressure and poor rotation.

``In the NBA you have to cover guys that are getting beat off the dribble,'' Dunlap said. ``The only way you can do that is to leave your man and that is a hard habit to break at this level because you're depending on the trust factor. If you lose games there is an undermining of `Should I leave my man or not?' There are question marks in the eyes.''

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said things aren't as dire as they might seem in Charlotte.

In fact, he sees plenty of promise in what Dunlap, president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho are building with the Bobcats.

He said it's only a matter of time before the Bobcats are turning close losses into wins.

``It's always tough when you're going through a year like they are,'' Spoelstra said. ``But they are getting great experience for the young players. Their players are as good as anybody's in the league - they just don't have as much experience. But they can hurt you on any given night. The thing is they compete and play hard. You notice that on film.''

On Tuesday night, the Bobcats hung with the defending champion Heat for three-and-a-half quarters. Charlotte trailed by two points with 7:16 left in the game before Miami went on a run and pulled away for a 105-92 victory.

Of Charlotte's 21 losses, 12 are by 10 points or less. That's a far cry from last year's team which wasn't even competitive, losing more than one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Dunlap said he sees ``promise amid the adversity.''

Still, Walker doesn't take much satisfaction the Bobcats are more competitive.

``Losing is losing,'' said Walker, the team's leading scorer. ``Hopefully we can stop it soon. But it's no different at all from last year. We lost last year and we're losing this year and it's not a good feeling at all.''

Walker realizes the Bobcats don't have a roster with a ton of proven NBA experience, but he refuses to use that as an excuse.

``We have young guys, but at the same time it's the NBA,'' Walker said. ``So we have to find a way to win. That's what we're going to try to do - find a way.''

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.

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