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Courtside match-up: Four rounds of Wale vs. Drake

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Courtside match-up: Four rounds of Wale vs. Drake

With Game 3 set to tipoff Friday night in Washington, the Wizards-Raptors series will move to Verizon Center, a.k.a. Wale country.

Both franchises hired their hometown rappers -- Drake from Toronto and Wale from Washington -- to help remake the image and feel of their teams. And while the rest of the basketball world breaks down match-ups on the floor, let's take a look at the biggest one sitting courtside. 

NBA cred

Wale: Wale repped the DMV hard at this year's NBA All-Star Weekend. While performing at the All-Star fashion show with Flo Rida, he wore a Redskins chain and a leather jacket with Maryland and DC flag patches on the lapel. He also played in the 2014 All-Star Celebrity Game.

Wale has history with the Raptors, too. In 2013, he confronted Toronto announcer Matt Delvin, who said he's never heard of Wale and called him a "local rapper" and "not Drake" during a broadcast of a Wizards-Raptors game at the Verizon Center. A part-miffed, part-bemused Wale made his way to their announcers table with Gheorghe Mureșan to "introduce himself" during halftime. 

Drake: The Canadian has a long history of NBA fandom. Drake has been involved with All-Star game festivities for years, including helping Terrance Ross in the 2014 dunk contest.

There's a more embarrassing side to his NBA involvement, though. Just check out the meme with photos of Drake cozying up to various stars, depicting him as the whole league's girlfriend. His greatest hits include getting turned away from the Heat locker room after Miami won the title in 2013, shopping for a house in Cleveland after LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers, and most notably to Wizards fans, holding Paul Pierce's arm on an inbounds play this past February.

Edge: Wale

Team contribution

Wale: As the Creative Liaison for the Wizards, Wale has helped revamp the in-game elements, music and even team merchandise. His song "Ambition" has become a staple of player introductions. Perhaps most importantly, Wale regularly sits courtside at home games to show his support. In January, the rapper revealed that he has consulted Kanye West about potentially redesigning Washington's uniforms. 

Drake: Drake, Global Ambassador for the Raptors, played a big role in the franchise's recent rebranding efforts. He contributed to a redesigned logo and the "We the North" slogan. The OVO rapper also makes frequent cameos at the Air Canada Centre, but hasn't always been an asset for Toronto. During a Toronto concert in 2014, Drake suggested that Kevin Durant should join the Raptors in 2016. He made his comments to the crowd, which included the reigning MVP, at the end of the show. The NBA hit Toronto with a $25,000 tampering fine a week later. Whoops. 

Edge: Draw

Hometown hype

Wale: The DC-born-and-based rapper gives his city shoutouts on almost every song, including 2009 breakout hit, "Chillin." He also counts the region's biggest star athletes among his personal friends. Wale joined RGIII, DeAngelo Hall and Kevin Durant to lobby Desean Jackson to join the Redskins last offseason. 

Drake: Though Drizzy reps the Queen City plenty in his songs, including "5 a.m. in Toronto," he's made just as many references to Houston. His 2013 album Nothing Was the Same paid homage to H-Town six different times. He name dropped Toronto native Andrew Wiggins in "Draft Day," but his rhymes reference NBA players regularly without any apparent preference for Raptors or Canadians. "Steph Curry with the shot," anyone?

Edge: Wale

Music

Wale: In terms of top hits and record sales, Wale can't touch Drake. That's not a knock on Washington's favorite rapper -- who infuses his music with local go-go sounds and tributes to the DMV -- only a concession that he's put out comparatively fewer mainstream hits in his four studio albums (Attention Deficit, Ambition, The Gifted and Album About Nothing). The Gifted and the Album About Nothing reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hop-Hop and Hot Rap charts, but no Wale single has ever cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. "Lotus Flower Bomb" featuring Miguel did reach the top spot on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Fans will have to decide whether Wale beats Drake in quality if not quantity. He has won one BET Award and one BET Hip Hop Award, though. 

Drake: Drake's Thank Me Later, Take Care, Nothing Was the Same and If You're Reading This It's Too Late all reached No. 1 album on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hop-Hop, and Hot Rap charts. He's also had seven singles in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. That's not to mention 12 singles certified Platinum or higher. Perhaps his biggest advantage on Wale would be one Grammy, eight BET Awards, and 10 BET Hip Hop Awards. 

Edge: Drake

MORE WIZARDS: Raptors force Bradley Beal to call on 'inner Brad'

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.

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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.

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