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Crossing halfcourt with Team USA Pt. 1

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Crossing halfcourt with Team USA Pt. 1

Eight-second count: crossing halfcourt with Team USA's pursuit of gold...1) Team USA's leading scorer will be...:Yeah, have you seen the proximity of international basketballs 3-point line compared to its NBA brethren and the way Kevin Durant shoots from distance? Factor in Durants the best and one of the few true distance shooters on Team USA - and that LeBron James can let his inner facilitator freak fly with the varied offensive options on this squad and the Thunders stunner lights up the London scoreboard brightest. (For the record, after Durant on the scoring list comes LeBron with Kobe Bryant third. James Harden's beard edges out Anthony Davis' unibrow in a hair-owing close race for 12th.2)Justify My Love (as sung to Deron Williams by Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov):Williams received plenty of attention - and eventually money during his free agent courtship that ultimately ended with him sticking it to, oops, sorry, I mean with the Nets. Recently I heard famed NBA writer Bob Ryan declare Williams overrated, at least from a max-contract, best player on a title team standpoint.I rather agree with the retiring scribe and while the Olympics have little to nothing to do with future NBA success,Im intrigued to see how Williams produces in London. Granted, the Nets paying big bucks for Williams (and trading for the trulyoverpriced Joe Johnson)has as much (or more) to do with selling tickets and establishing an identity in a new city. Still, I'm wondering if thepoint guard can surpass the position standard-bearer Chris Paul, which Williams has arguably done during the tune-up tour, or does the physically freaky Russell Westbrook speed past him on the playmaker hierarchy. In terms of the latter thought, Prokhorov and his tiny giraffe (or so I imagine) better hope not.3) Meet Mr.Indispensible When Tyson Chandler, the only true center on the roster, sits with foul trouble or simply for a breather, folks notice. By folks, in this case I mostly mean the players and coaches on Spain, a squad led by NBA bigs Serge Ibaka and the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc. Even on a team loaded with scoring stars and high flyers, Chandlers rebounding and defensive presence is obvious and missed when absent. The U.S. can win and survive without Chandler on the court, but it would sure be a lot easier with him.4) Ghosts of Wizards draft picks past Spain wont have the stylish passing of injured guard Ricky Rubio leading its offensive attack. Thats a lament Wizards fans have made ever since the team traded the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft to Minnesota, a pick that turned into Rubio while the Wizards end of the deal turned into mush (I know if the Wizards take Rubio they likely never get John Wall. Still). Helping to pick up the slack in Rubios absence, veteran Juan Carlos Navarro, the Wizards second-round pick in 2002 and a key cog in Spains attempt to survive the never-ending wave of lengthy U.S. perimeter defenders. After shipping Navarros rights to the Grizzlies for a future first round pick, Washington returned the unused selection to Memphis in a deal that brought future guns-in-the-locker room participant Javaris Crittenden (and Mike James) to town. So, theres that.Then there is the aforementioned Pau Gasol, the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft or the guy picked two slots after Michael Jordan decided Kwame Brown was No. 1 overall worthy (of course the man selected between the two, Chandler). This is old news and hopefully everyone tormented by said decison has moved, but...Yeah, kind of hard watching Spain if youre a Wizards fan. Since there are noWizardson Team USA, maybe D.C.s own Durant can make amends for the moves gone awry with a gold medal winning beat down. Meh, whatever. Oh, wait, Nene and Brazil face Spain in group play. Nene's already cleaning up the Wizards present. Might as well take care of the past as well.Part 2: Passing theAlpha Maletorch and who takes gold.Ben Standig blogs about the Redskins, Wizards, Hoyas and the D.C.area college basketball scene for CSNwashington. You can reach him by email at bstandig@comcast.net, follow him on Twitter @BenStandig, catch his musings at the D.C. Sportalistand his fantasy football thoughts on the FFToolbox podcast.

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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.