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Add Cavaliers to pace-and-space wannabes

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Add Cavaliers to pace-and-space wannabes

Pace and space has gotten contagious around the NBA, and the Wizards are at least far ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in that area. After losing his first game as head coach, Tyronn Lue alluded to his team's lack of fitness as a large factor in Saturday's 96-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

“Early we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor and I think we came out and did that," Lue told reporters. "And then I think we just dropped off the map. I think we got tired. I just don’t think we’re in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play.”

To compete in today's NBA, even the 30-12 Cavs realize they were using an antiquated system. The Wizards implemented pace-and-space in training camp, 41 regular-season games ahead of Cleveland.

Conditioning is no longer an issue, and despite a host of injuries they even beat Cleveland with an eight-man rotation for their first loss at Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 1.

MORE WIZARDS: CAVALIER CHEMISTRY ISSUES?

The Cavs are 28th in pace (94.93). They want to be more like the elite teams when it comes to possessions per 48 minutes. The Wizards are fifth (99.66), only behind the No. 1 Sacramento Kings (101.93), No. 2 Golden State Warriors (101.75), No. 3 Boston Celtics (100.92) and No. 4 Phoenix Suns (100.70).

Switching systems in season, however, will be incredibly difficult. The Memphis Grizzlies have tried to do that out of necessity because they had too many injured bigs and have struggled. They're 27th in pace.

Coach Randy Wittman started Nene with Marcin Gortat for the first time in a win last week vs. the Miami Heat, but that was part matchup and part necessity. He couldn't risk Jared Dudley being matched against Chris Bosh. There's no turning back, but they do have the luxury of going back to two post players on the floor in certain situations.

Apparently, the Cavs are going to deploy Kevin Love with the second unit for longer stretches. Cleveland has enough cushion in the East that they may be able to get away with a tough stretch of losses in the short-term. But if Lue doesn't find the right balance and the players don't adapt quickly enough, it can get worse because the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls aren't that far back.

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Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

Three things to watch for Wizards vs. Nets, as Wizards aim for fourth straight win

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Dwight Howard and the Washington Wizards battle Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, D'Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Wizards are on a roll

Say what you will about the opponents they've beaten, but the Wizards are heating up. They have won three straight games with their last one a blowout over the Cavs. This is their longest win streak of the season.

Four in a row would be a nice number. The Wizards only had two win streaks of at least four games last season. One stopped at four and the longest ended at five. 

Nets have their number

Speaking of last season, the Wizards had a heck of a time facing this same Brooklyn team. They lost two of their three meetings in 2017-18 with the lone win coming in overtime. One of their losses was by 35 points.

The Nets, though they haven't won 30 games in each of the past three seasons, are now pushovers. They are well-coached by Kenny Atkinson and are known for trying very hard despite their lack of talent. The Wizards generally have problems with those types of teams. Winning this game could help them prove this is a new year.

Nets have some players now

Brooklyn has been ridiculed in recent years as the Boston Celtics have reaped the benefits of their high draft picks stemming from the infamous Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade. But along the way, the Nets have done a decent job of finding young talent without hitting the lottery.

Caris LeVert was probably the best example of that, though he is now nursing a serious ankle injury and will miss this game. But Brooklyn also has guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who this year is averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from three. They also have Joe Harris, who is putting up 13.4 points on a ridiculous 52.4 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from three. 

Then there's Jarrett Allen, who was acquired using a first round pick the Wizards sent Brooklyn in the Bojan Bogdanovic deal. At just 20 years old, he's turning into a nice young player. This year he's averaging 11.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

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Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

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USA Today

Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still can't get John Wall on his podcast

Just one episode into his new podcast 'Go Off,' Wizards guard Austin Rivers is already learning plenty about the media world. With plans to become a television analyst when his playing days are done, Rivers is gaining a new appreciation for what it takes to speak at-length without stumbling over his words.

He's also starting to realize one of the biggest pain points for a media member: waiting on guests. Rivers has tried to line up interviews with his teammates and it's been much easier said than done.

Rivers is set to have Dwight Howard on as his first guest, but the original plan was point guard John Wall. Wall, though, has been giving him the runaround.

"That's the hardest thing is getting guests to show up," Rivers said. 

"It's impossible to get John on my podcast. At this point, I just don't expect it anymore. He says he'll do it next week and then the week comes. John has like 15 things to do a day. I don't know what these guys do. I play in the league, too. I know how un-busy my life is outside of this. And I've got a kid. John has a brand to run. He's a different level. Sorry, you can see the frustration on my face with not getting John on my podcast, man."

Rivers hopes to have many of his teammates on. He mentioned Kelly Oubre Jr. and how an interview with Oubre "might be a little out there." He also gave a hint about what his conversation with Howard will be like.

"I'm definitely gonna have some interesting topics to bring up with Dwight. I told him 'listen, you might want to check with your publicist before coming on my podcast.' We only talk about real conversations on here," Rivers said.

Rivers says he plans to start with fellow NBA players and then work in special episodes with guests outside of the league and even outside of basketball. He hopes to record an episode with financial advisors to talk about money and investments. He wants to take a deep dive into the AAU circuit and how it can be fixed.

Eventually, Rivers wants to aim very high with his guests. He gave a list of his dream interviews and there are some big names.

"Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade is my favorite player. I'm gonna get Dwyane Wade on my podcast, for sure. I'm gonna go ahead and put that out there," Rivers said.

"Off-the-court, I would love to get Denzel Washington on there. That would be my dream... I want to do a podcast with me and my dad and Jaden Smith and Will Smith. I think that would be really dope, talking about parent-to-son success and how he related to his son to have a work ethic and how my dad did it to me."

Rivers went even higher. He wants to interview a president.

"I guess if I could go the highest, I would go Jay-Z or [Barack] Obama. But let's be realistic, here," Rivers said.

"[Interviewing Obama] would be incredible, bro. I would be so nervous. I'm not there yet, I'll be honest. I need like six or seven or eight more podcasts before I can get Obama on there because I'm gonna be stuttering. I can't do it with Obama yet. I don't know if I could handle Denzel right now."

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