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John Wall faces music alone, questions effort after Wizards' loss

John Wall faces music alone, questions effort after Wizards' loss

No matter how bad a loss has been, or how listless the Wizards were in a game like the one they lost Tuesday to the Orlando Magic, John Wall waits.

In previous years, Garrett Temple, Paul Pierce and Ramon Sessions, to name a few, would join him if their time was requested by the media following a performance like this one -- giving up 124 points in regulation to one of the NBA's worst offensive teams. 

Now the last guy standing is Wall, who at $80 million on a five-year contract is one of the best contracts just three years after it was widely questioned if he deserved it or not. 

Wall had a career-high 52 points on 18-for-31 shooting, including 5 of 8 three-pointers and 11-for-14 from the foul line. On top of that, he had eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Until Bradley Beal's 10 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 19, Wall had no company as the Wizards tried to erase what had been a 20-point deficit.

"Our job is to wake up and just play hard. Before you made it to the NBA or got a college scholarship, you played hard every day to get to where you wanted to," said Wall, who had surgeries to both knees May 5. "To still be talking about playing hard, that's something that you should be able to do after just waking up. Everybody has a job and they have to go work hard. Our job is to come here and play hard and compete. That's the easiest thing that you should do without any contracts or any money, just come in and play basketball … if I had the answer we wouldn't be in this situation."

It doesn't matter if Wall has 11 turnovers like he did against the Sacramento Kings or a night like Tuesday. Wall's demeanor is the same. The way he answers the questions? The same. The way he handles praise and criticism? The same. In his seventh season, the three-time All-Star behaves like a professional and takes on the responsibility that comes with the job.

[RELATED: TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS' LOSS TO MAGIC, WALL'S CAREER NIGHT]

This was almost a repeat of Monday's game at the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards allowed them to score 66 points in the first half, falling down by 15 but were able to lock down defensively to come back. The Magic had 65 in the first two quarters, and the only reason the Wizards had a chance was because of Wall. The Magic scored 31 points above their regular-season average.

"We just didn't come out with our defensive intensity. It was kind of like our last game in Brooklyn, the way we played in the first half," Wall said. "We didn't play with any edge or chippiness. They were the more aggressive team and that's why they got out to a great start."

[RELATED: PUTTING WALL'S CAREER NIGHT IN CONTEXT]

In Pierce's brief time in Washington during the 2014-15 season, he'd limp out to the middle of the locker room no matter the result or how he performed. Even though he was playing on a $5.5 million contract and no longer the lead dog in terms of his talent, he felt part of the burden was on him to explain what happened. And if necessary, he'd fall on the sword.

When he was with the Boston Celtics, where he won a championship in 2008, Pierce would do something similar after a bad loss: "Somebody has to answer for this (expletive)."

That's what leaders do. The Wizards may have been underachieving during that time, but they weren't rudderless. Now, absent of Wall, they could be. He played 42 minutes Tuesday, the third time he has eclipsed 40 in a little more than a week.

By the time Wall exited, less than an hour after his teammates had cleared out and he was finished with his standard treatment in the trainer's room, he was told that he was the only Wizards player to talk postgame upon request. 

"Just me?" Wall asked while still managing to smile. "Just doing my job."

[RELATED: 5 MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WIZARDS' LOSS TO MAGIC]

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Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards have flipped their roster this offseason, to the point where they are one or two moves away from what could be considered a significant rebuild. Those two moves would be trading Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The team has no plans to do the former and probably can't do the latter due to Wall's injury and contract. But the point at which they arrived has sparked some debate about whether the Wizards should go all in and blow it up completely.

Count ESPN's Mark Jackson among those who believes the Wizards should not completely tank. The NBA Finals broadaster and longtime star point guard thinks there is a model to follow that equals a reset but also keeps Beal, in particular, in the mix.

"The Clippers," Jackson said. "They didn't tear it down, but competed until the point where they added pieces to where it gave them a real chance. I think that's the avenue to take."

The Clippers have dominated headlines recently after signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, a pair of moves that have installed them as title contenders. But Jackson was speaking more about the steps they took the previous year. They traded off many of their pieces, but did not fully rebuild. And they did it all while keeping their veteran head coach.

"They didn't sell all the way out. They were relevant and competed and they gained valuable experience as they got to the point where they are a championship contender," Jackson said.

"You lose Blake Griffin, you lose DeAndre Jordan and you lose Chris Paul; everybody says that's a teardown, but they defended, they competed at a high level and they were pros. They were high character guys. Good things happened until now where they have a real chance to win it all."

The Clippers took a step back when they traded Paul before the 2017-18 season, but not a major step back. They went from 51 to 42 wins. After trading Griffin and letting Jordan go in free agency, they took a step forward and improved to 48 wins this past season.

L.A. maintained a winning culture while shifting gears. It is worth noting the two biggest winners in 2019 free agency - them and the Brooklyn Nets - were not tanking teams starting from scratch.

There are plenty of differences between where the Wizards are now and where the Clippers were when they began their reset, of course. L.A. had more talent to deal from and got more back in some of the trades they made. 

They got a lot for Griffin and then Tobias Harris when they traded him to the Sixers. The Wizards have little to show for the deals they made involving Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris. There is also the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract, which complicates things further.

But, as Jackson notes, the Wizards are on a different playing field. They don't have to compete in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.

"The fortunate thing for them is that they're in the Eastern Conference. They have a home run hitter in Bradley Beal who is finally getting the recognition he deserves," he said.

"Ultimately, it's about getting John back healthy and allowing these young players to grown and develop and continue to add pieces that can play a role. I think the future is bright for them."

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Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

WASHINGTON – When Elena Delle Donne is on the court the Washington Mystics are one of the best teams in the WNBA. When she doesn’t play, the Mystics look lost and struggle to keep the contests close. Unfortunately for Washington, they were without the former WNBA MVP on Saturday, yielding an 85-81 loss to the Las Vegas Aces.  

With the absence of Delle Donne because of a broken nose, the Aces (11-5) pounded the paint in a game between the league’s two best teams. Forty-four points came in the paint for the Aces, compared to the Mystics’ 30, a far contrast from Washington's style of basketball.

Recent All-Star selections A’ja Wilson (17 points) and Liz Cambage (13 points) commanded the lanes on both the offensive and defensive ends. Combined with forward Kayla McBride, those three scored 46 of the team’s 85 points. Las Vegas also added 21 points from the charity stripe, preventing the game from becoming a barnburner in front of a sellout crowd of 4,200. 

Paired with Sydney Colson’s 17 off the Las Vegas bench, the Aces methodically erased a 15-point deficit the Mystics (9-6) built in the first quarter. 

In fact, the best part of the night for the Mystics was right after everything went wrong on their home court at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. A clock malfunction delayed the start of the contest by 20 minutes. It was yet another crazy quirk of the history of these two teams. 

Once the game got underway the Mystics came out firing. Flying up and down the court, Washington did not let the stoppage deter their success. The Aces were not so lucky and started the game 1-for-9 from the field and eventually found themselves down 22-7. 

“[It’s] always something with Vegas. Oh my God. We can’t ever just play a normal game with Vegas,” Natasha Cloud told reporters postgame. “For us as professional athletes, it is hard to sit there and be waiting, but you know we all focus. We all do different things … I like to dance to stay loose and not get tight.”

All five starters for the Mystics reached double figures without Delle Donne. Replacing the All-Star captain was Emma Meesseman who just finished playing with the Belgian National Team at the EuroBasket tournament. It is the second time the 6-4 forward started for an injured Delle Donne this season. Meesseman had 15 points and Cloud led all scorers with 18 points. 

Without Delle Donne, the Mystics are 0-3 this season. Essentially 0-4 because she only played one minute in the loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Saturday was the second straight game that she had missed. 

Since she joined the team in 2017, the Mystics are 6-11 without her and 49-31 when she plays. 

“We’re being held kind of together by baling wire right now,” head coach Mike Thibault said postgame.

Combined with Delle Donne’s injury, Meesseman was sick and Latoya Sanders and Tianna Hawkins both played through minor injuries. It does not make things any easier when they are playing their four games in nine days with two of those being on the West Coast. 

With the loss, Washington has now lost a season-high three games in a row. At home, they’ve lost three of their last four. Fortunately, they get a chance to rest and heal some of those nagging injuries. They get six days off for only the second time in the first half of the season before playing the Indiana Fever on Friday.

“Luckily, we have some time to kind of regroup," Thibault said. "Three games left before the All-Star Break. I told them, you know, ‘get the next couple of days off, get your bodies feeling better and come back in here on Tuesday and get ready for Indiana.”

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