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Famed NBA ref Joey Crawford to retire after 39 seasons

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Famed NBA ref Joey Crawford to retire after 39 seasons

Joey Crawford always has a way of inserting himself into the story of the NBA -- not exactly the goal for a referee, but he's no ordinary zebra. This time, Crawford is making headlines for announcing plans to retire after the 2015-16 season.

He told his local paper, the Delaware County Daily Times, that he intends to hang up his whistle after 39 years in the NBA.

“I’m done,” he said. 

The 64-year-old veteran has been sidelined by knee surgery, but hopes to be back out on the court by March 1. If all goes according to plan, he'll call the playoffs with the aim of officiating yet another NBA Finals. Go out on top, so to speak.

“It’s not that you lose your passion. I have that. That’s insanity," Crawford said. "But it just comes to the point where you say, ‘I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.’ And it’s been so good that I want to go out on a high note."

His words strike the same tone as veteran players talking about retirement. 

For some perspective, Crawford has worked in the NBA almost twice as long as another legend calling it quits this year -- Kobe Bryant. And he has equally impressive career stats. 

Crawford has refereed 50 NBA Finals games (appearing in 29 of the last 30 Finals series) and 313 playoffs games, more than any other active official. He received the National Association of Sports Officials' Golden Whistle Award -- the highest honor in the profession -- in 2014. 

But his career hasn't been unblemished. In April of 2007, he was suspended for the remainder of the season after an in-game altercation with Tim Duncan. Crawford ejected the Spurs forward for allegedly cursing at hime, while Duncan claimed Crawford threatened to fight him. 

The suspension cost Crawford a chance to officiate the Finals that year, halting his streak of consecutive Finals appearances at 21. He admits he regrets the incident to this day, but considers it a learning experience. 

Most NBA fans will remember him as strict with his whistle and flamboyant in his delivery of fouls and ejections. It's fair to call him a "hands-on" official whose antics occasionally interrupt games.

For example, he has yelled at scorers tables, almost ejected a mop boy, accidentally pushed players out of bounds and other nonsense. He also famously blocked Kevin Durant's free throw during the 2014 playoffs and told Timofey Mozgov to "shut up" during the 2015 NBA Finals. 

You can watch video of these incidents and others in this post compiled by Sports Illustrated

And while Crawford's wilder moments can irritate fans at the time, they're what many people will miss most about him. 

MORE WIZARDS: Dudley elevates John Wall to Steve Nash territory

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Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

Texas A&M big man Robert Williams likes potential fit with Wizards, John Wall

In terms of the needs on their roster and the guys most likely to be available when they are on the clock at No. 15 in the first round, few players in this draft class seem as obvious a fit with the Washington Wizards more than Robert Williams of Texas A&M. So, it was no surprise that he not only visited them in Washington on Monday, but received the only individual public workout they have held during this year's predraft process.

Williams could be the answer to their longstanding quest for an athletic big man. No need to bring in five other guys for the usual six-player workout when Williams deserves a longer and more extensive look than most prospects they are considering.

The 20-year-old was put through a variety of drills Monday afternoon, just days before the 2018 NBA Draft. He likes the fit with Washington, if that's how things end up sorting out.

"I definitely feel like they could use a big like me, a defensive-style athletic big like me. I definitely see myself fitting here," he said.

Williams is one of the best big men in this year's draft. He is 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a 7-5 wingspan. He used that length to dominate in the paint at the college level.

Williams averaged a modest 10.4 points for the Aggies in 2017-18, but also 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. That was his sophomore year. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a freshman.

He was a shot-blocking force the day he stepped on campus and believes those skills will translate to the professional ranks. In the NBA, Williams believes he can thrive because his defensive versatility will be even more valuable in a day and age where switching is paramount.

"I feel like I can guard all positions. That’s one of my biggest attributes," he said. "It’s just about embracing it, having fun stopping a guard. Once you’re comfortable with it, you can do it."

Williams may adapt to the NBA quickly on the defensive end and that's where the Wizards need help the most. They haven't had a consistent rim-protector in years. Last season, point guard John Wall led the team in blocks per game.

Offense is where the questions lie with Williams. He wasn't a big scorer in college and does not have much of an outside shot. The fact he shot just 47.1 percent from the free throw line this past season suggests he has a lot of work to do before he can stretch the floor.

Williams will need to find a niche offensively, likely as a rim-runner off pick-and-rolls. He sees a lot of potential in a possible pick-and-roll pairing with Wall.

"He’s an elite passer and an elite guard. Coming off a pick-and-roll, you have to pay attention to him as well as have to pay attention to me as well. It’s a win-win situation," Williams said.

Williams believes his offensive game will open up with more space at the NBA level. The Wizards have Wall surrounded by three-point shooters in Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. Toss Williams into the middle and he could go to work in the paint doing the rest.

If Williams were drafted by the Wizards, he could look at Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets as a model to follow. Like Houston, the Wizards have two All-Star guards. An athletic big man who doesn't need plays run for him could be the perfect complement.

No one needs to tell Williams that, he is well-aware. He said that at nearly every stop during the predraft process Capela's name has come up.

"I knew that’s what you were going to say," Williams said to a reporter (raises hand) who asked about the Capela comparison.

Williams continued to say they are different players and it's not entirely fair to compare them. That exchange showed Williams has an edge to him, sort of like Morris. He's clearly not afraid to be honest when some players would not.

Despite downplaying the comparison, Williams can see what makes Capela successful.

"I’ve watched him. He’s a great player," Williams said. "He is around the right people. He just plays his role. He runs off a lot of screens. He gets up there and does what he has to do."

Williams is gearing up for Thursday's draft and trying to decide who he will walk the stage with, as the NBA has introduced a new tradition of each player walking with two people. He said it will likely be his mother and sister. Perhaps by the end of the night he will also walk that stage wearing a Washington Wizards hat.

For more on Williams, check out our extensive draft profile on him.

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

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Former Wizards forward arrested on armed robbery charges after stealing $100,000

Former NBA player J.J. Hickson faces charges of armed robbery after breaking into a home near Atlanta, stealing $100,000 from the house, and physically assaulting a teenager who was inside, authorities said Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hickson, who played eight seasons in the NBA with four teams before his brief appearance in Washington, is currently being held in Coweta County Jail without bond. 

He is currently affiliated with the Lebanese Basketball League but played 15 games with the Wizards during the 2015-16 season. Hickson averaged 4.6 ppg and scored a season-high 15 points against the Nets in the penultimate game of the regular season. He has not played professionally in the United States since.  Hickson played just one season at North Carolina State before being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 19 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Jimmy Yarbrough, the sheriff's spokesperson in Coweta, said that while at least two people were involved in the invasion, only Hickson is being held and charged.

According to authorities, Hickson entered through a side door, armed with a knife and his face and head covered. He was initially apprehended by another department and later transferred into the custody of Coweta County law enforcement. 

At this time in the investigation, very little detail is publicly available.

The teenage victim, whose name remains private, received medical treatment for several broken bones and is fortunately in good condition.