Wizards

St. John's, Lavin sign good recruiting class

St. John's, Lavin sign good recruiting class

NEW YORK (AP) Christian Jones was the last man signed in St. John's eight-man recruiting class, and it doesn't bother him at all.

Even when a group is considered special, somebody has to be last.

``It didn't affect me being called that,'' said the 6-foot-7, 222-pound Jones after the Red Storm's final exhibition game. ``But I knew I came in as an underdog, the person nobody knew, the sleeper of the group.''

Those descriptions may be short-lived. The native of Arlington, Texas, who attended IMG Academy in Florida, is expected to start this season for the Red Storm. He'll be part of a freshmen front line that looks similar to ones during years of national prominence in the Big East.

``We're normally on the court together in practice and that will make it easier for us to play together from the start,'' said JaKarr Sampson, a 6-8, 204-pound forward who played at St. Vincent-St. Mary's in Akron Ohio (the school that gave us LeBron James) before prepping at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.

The third member of the freshmen front line is 6-9, 223-pound Chris Obepka from Nigeria, who played at Our Savior New American on Long Island.

``Chris does his work on the defensive end, grabbing stuff in the air and blocking shot after shot,'' Sampson said before taking a jab at his teammate who was 8 of 9 from the field in an 87-36 exhibition win over Division II Concordia, Ill., most of them impressive moves that drew wild cheers from the crowd. ``And we have Mr. Highlights here doing his thing with dunks. There's a lot of energy around us.''

The Red Storm, who finished 13-19 last season, will need that energy in 2012-13 season along with solid rebounding, some outside shooting and much-needed leadership on a team that is one of the youngest in the nation for the second straight season.

``There are a number of areas where we need to improve and both exhibition games showed that,'' said Steve Lavin, who is starting his third season with the Red Storm.

Prostate cancer surgery and recovery limited him to four games last season, but he says he is cancer free.

``One positive this team has is that it looks to hit the open man and make that extra pass and that's a trait you have to have to be a successful basketball team,'' he said.

The Red Storm were picked 11th in the 15-team Big East in the coaches' preseason poll. There won't be a six-man rotation like last season. There are 10 players who will see minutes entering the season opener at home Tuesday against Detroit.

The number could grow when two of the main recruits - junior college transfers Marco Bourgault, a 6-6 native of France known as a 3-point specialist, and Orlando Sanchez, a 6-9 player from the Dominican Republic who has a solid all-around game - are declared eligible by the NCAA.

``I wouldn't want to get into a guessing game or speculate when the decision will be made,'' Lavin said. ``We have done everything we have been asked to and now it's in their hands to make the final decision.''

Two junior college transfers could add some experience to a team that really needs some.

``How quickly do we mature? Can we become a more seasoned team by January and February?'' Lavin asked. ``If we do have that ability, we can do some special things.''

One player who Lavin will rely on had a rough preseason, being pulled from one exhibition and kept out of the other. D'Angelo Harrison, who was selected to the Big East All-Rookie team last season, is the leader Lavin needs.

``He was on the bench and really had the right attitude,'' Lavin said of Harrison during the second exhibition game. ``You could bury yourself, but he's come back with what any coach would feel would help him through.

``He's a microcosm of the team - boundless energy trying to be used effectively.''

The Red Storm will have their coach for a full season. The freshmen front line allows players like sophomores Amir Garrett and Sir'Dominic Pointer to play on the wing and use their speed and agility. The juco transfers could make a huge difference offensively. Someone still has to step up as the precision shooter.

There are a lot of questions for St. John's. And some confident answers.

``There are some good players coming back like D'Angelo, our leading scorer,'' Jones said. ``And our new guys are pretty good.''

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

*****

There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen soon.

*****

There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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