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Instant analysis: Pacers sink winless Wizards


Instant analysis: Pacers sink winless Wizards

For those that watched the Wizards' Friday night home loss to Milwaukee but perhaps were out on a Saturday night and missed the latest contest at Indiana, you know what happened: Washington scrapped throughout, had stretches where the shots fell, the hustle rewarded. However a fourth quarter scoring drought proved problematic, the corresponding run by the other team becomes decisive.

Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal scored 17 points, A.J. Price tallied 12 points and a career-high 14 assists, but the Wizards were on the wrong end of a 10-0 run that spurred the Pacers to a 89-85 win.

After Indiana's surge turned a 75-70 Washington lead into an 80-75 Pacers advantage with 8:14 remaining, the Wizards never could climb back on top. Down 87-80 with 1:44 left, Beal's 3-pointer and Okafor's short jumper pulled the Wizards within two. After Paul George's 3-pointer missed its mark, Trevor Booker's 10-foot half-hook with four seconds remaining came up short, as did the Wizards.

George, who finished with 18 points, sealed the win with two free throws as the Pacers snapped a three-game losing streak and extended of run of eight straight home triumphs over Washington.

Off for two days, Washington's three-game road swing continues Tuesday at Charlotte.

Here's what else happened against the Pacers...

The good

* A.J. Price ladies and gentlemen. The Wizards starting point guard made it clear to his teammates this matchup against his former team was one he wanted. The fourth-year vet did his part, especially in the first half, finishing with 8 assists, 7 points and zero turnovers. His new career-high breaks his previous of high nine assists set way back on Friday against the Bucks. Price never did commit a turnover against the team he spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with, though he became a little shot happy during the second half.

* The Pacers' scouting report correctly had their defenders give Okafor open looks from the elbow or beyond, but the Wizards center made them pay with several mid-range makes. Nobody will compare his perimeter touch with Patrick Ewing, but if Okafor's high post range proves competent, it will allow Kevin Seraphin (and someday, Nene) to play inside when paired together. Speaking of that, has Randy Wittman paired his two centers together on the court together this season? Don't think so. One of the questions following the trade with the Hornets was how Okafor would mesh with the other bigs. Guess we're still waiting.

*Okafor also spearheaded the defensive effort against Pacers center and former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert, who struggled throughout, missing 12 of 15 and committing four turnovers. In 13 previous games against the Wizards, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert averaged 12.2 points and shot 51.3 percent from field.

*Washington drained 10 of 24 3-point attempts, though only 2 of 7 in the fourth quarter. Beal, who at times was appropriately channeling former Pacer Reggie Miller with the way he would work his way open for looks, finished a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the arc. Jordan Crawford also sank three from beyond the arc, his only baskets overall with two of his makes coming from the parking lot. It's the most 3-pointers made in a game by Crawford since he sank five last April against...Indiana.

The bad

*Those dreaded scoring droughts, two notable spans in this one. Leading 47-40 with 3:32 left in the half, the Wizards had chances to extend the lead but didn't. Instead Indiana rallied to tie the game at 49 at halftime. Same story in the fourth quarter. After Crawford's 3-pointer put Washington ahead 75-70 with 11:33 remaining, the Wizards' next points came on a Booker dunk nearly five minutes later. When the opposition takes their defensive level up a rung or two, Washington simpy does not have the counter punch offensively unless all five players are clicking. That hasn't happened much this season, esepcially not late, leading to forced attempts with the shot clock winding down.

* The scoring split between the starters and bench was not nearly as pronounced as it has been throughout the season, though Kevin Seraphin didn't join the fun. After extending his double-digit scoring streak dating back to last season to 18 straight games, Seraphin has scored six points over the last two games.


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John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

In just a few months, Nationals star Bryce Harper could become one of the biggest free agents not just in baseball history, but sports history. He will decide whether to stay in Washington with the team that drafted him and oversaw his development as a young player, or to leave for another city.

Wizards guard John Wall has twice faced the prospect of free agency and twice has decided to sign contract extensions to stay in D.C. Though the salary structures of baseball and basketball are different, there are some parallels between the two. 

Wall has a unique perspective on the call Harper has to make and gave his opinion on the matter in a 1-on-1 interview on the latest episode of our Wizards Tipoff podcast.

"Well, it’s kind of tough. It depends on if you want to do it off of loyalty, or if you want to do it to make sure you make the most money you can make. That’s the toughest decision that you can have. I have the opportunity here where I have loyalty and I can also make the money, so that was a bonus and a plus for me in both situations," Wall said. 

Wall noted how as an NBA player he can have the best of both worlds. The league's collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay players they drafted significantly more money.

That, however, has not stopped NBA stars from changing teams. Wall in many ways is an outlier as many superstars have left money on the table to depart their original teams. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George have all done that, to name a few. Kawhi Leonard could be next.

Harper, though, may also be able to make more money elsewhere. The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox or some other team could conceivably offer more money than the Nats and there are some cities like L.A. and New York that could open up more endorsement opportunities.

There's no question it pays to be the best player on the Yankees. Look at Derek Jeter and how his stardom was boosted by that distinction.

Loyalty is also going to come into play for Harper and the past few days have shown he is a sentimental person, as he has talked about all the people he has connected with over the years and how much the Washington community means to him.

Wall took all of those things into account when he decided to stay in D.C. and not look elsewhere via free agency or trades, which have become commonplace for All-Star players in the NBA.

"It was how much what the city means to me is the reason I wanted to stay and what I want to bring here is a championship, it’s what I promise and I hope I can do that," Wall said. "My dad’s from here. Just the way they welcomed me from the first day I came here. Sticking with me through the tough times, when we wasn’t winning early on and then we started to win. The city just embraced me and I embraced the city back. It feels like home and I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else."

Though the difference in money likely won't be as drastic, Harper will have to choose how much loyalty and the human connection he has with people in Washington matters in his free agency decision. Wall knows the feeling.

Hear Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says


Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

After already making significant changes to their roster, the Wizards may not be done this offseason, as they have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs about a potential trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to a new report by ESPN

Read this from Adrian Wojnarowski:

Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who've talked with San Antonio, league sources said.

The Wizards certainly make sense as a Leonard suitor. They are in the East, meaning the Spurs could trade Leonard to them and not have to worry about facing him as often. Plus, they have a solid group of tradeable assets and ones that seem to fit the Spurs model.

Otto Porter is a versatile, young player under team control who plays an unselfish style and would likely embrace playing in a small market. He also has a salary ($26M in 2018-19) that isn't far off from Leonard's ($21M in 2018-19), so the money could be easily matched.

The Wizards also have Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two young and up-and-coming players. Plus, they have draft picks, though ones that are unlikely to convey as lottery selections.

The Spurs have reportedly been more interested in getting players that can help now rather than draft picks to rebuild. That makes sense, as they still won 47 games last year despite Leonard only playing in nine of them due to injury.

The question in any Wizards and Spurs talks would be whether they would want one of Washington's All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. It would be tough to imagine the Wizards parting with either guy for Leonard, who carries some risk not only because of his quadriceps injury but also because he can opt out of his contract and leave after next season.

Just because the Wizards have talked to the Spurs doesn't mean they are serious contenders for Leonard, but it does show they are serious about improving their roster this summer. If they got Leonard and didn't part with Wall and Beal, that would be some team.




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