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Davis leads Hornets rebuild


Davis leads Hornets rebuild

Let the Anthony Davis era in New Orleans begin.

The No. 1 draft pick hopes to turn around a Hornets team that posted a 21-45 record last season. If there was a player in the draft that can make that happen its Davis. The 6'-10" center averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds and led Kentucky to the national title. In the championship win over Kansas, Davis scored only 6 points but hauled down 16 rebounds, had 5 assists, blocked 6 shots and had three steals. Obviously, Davis can affect the game in many more ways than just one.

Davis also had crucial experience this summer as a member of the gold medal winning USA team, playing alongside some of the best players in the game. Davis is such an interesting prospect because his game is NBA ready but he could get even better with more experience. The Hornets are banking on that.

The Hornets rebuild won't solely rely on Davis. The team also had another first round pick and selected guard Austin Rivers out of Duke. Rivers played just one season in college and averaged 15 points but only 2 assists. Rivers can score the ball but he will have to be more of a distributor at the pro level.

The Hornets didn't let guard Eric Gordon go to Phoenix, matching the Suns' 4-year, 58- million offer. Gordon averaged 20 points a game with New Orleans a season ago and he will be the marquee player offensively for the Hornets.

New Orleans brought in shooter Ryan Anderson in a sign-and-trade with Orlando. The small forward Anderson received a four-year, 34-million deal after averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds for the Magic last season.

The Hornets also brought on forward Hakim Warrick and center Robin Lopez in a trade with Phoenix this off-season. Lopez would be an adequate back-up to Davis and Warrick could provide some minutes off the bench as well. Former Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. was also signed by the Hornets to add another outside threat.

New Orleans extended coach Monty Williams' contract so the team appears committed to him to oversee this rebuilding project. With Davis as the new face of the franchise, the turnaround may not take that long.

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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.