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Kevin Durant hopes Wiz fans focus on hoops, not future

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Kevin Durant hopes Wiz fans focus on hoops, not future

In Kevin Durant's perfect world, the atmosphere for Tuesday's game against the Washington Wizards in Chinatown would focus on basketball, on that night's game rather than the future. The hype would center on the matchups involving two teams hoping for championships within their respective conferences. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder star realizes that's not happening, not in this timeline. When the local kid returns home for his one NBA game of the season, the sellout crowd -- I'm assuming -- won't have tunnel vision on the game even with All-Stars Durant, Russell Westbrook and John Wall plus Bradley Beal on the court.

Part of the focus without question will be about the summer of 2016 when the high-scoring forward could enter free agency (Durant can sign a 1-year qualifying offer and defer free agency until 2017). Part of the evening will be about parsing the Seat Pleasant native's interactions for even the slightest of hints about his future plans. Do Durant and Wizards star John Wall appear chummy? Any sense of an emotional bond when the local crowd cheers wildly for the Montrose Christian product during pregame introductions and throughout all four quarters? 

Durant told USA Today recently that he would love for this game, in terms of attention, to simply be another NBA game between playoff contenders. He's not hopeful that happens because the All-Star and perennial NBA Most Valuable Player of the year candidate understands what's happening -- and remembers what went down when he visited last season. Even the halftime act was Durant-centric.

“(The Jan. 22 visit) was kind of disrespectful, in my opinion, because you’ve got a great team there already that deserves your full 100% support,” said Durant, who – among many other things – was featured on the Wizards’ jumbotron wearing a ‘Washington’ jersey during the game. “I wouldn’t like that if I was on that team. I didn’t like that, but it comes with it nowadays.

“Free agency is like a season now, and it shouldn’t be that big. Me, I feel, is you should focus on who you have on your team. It’s easy to get your hopes up, and expect a guy to come to your team or whatever – and I’m not talking about myself, I’m just talking about free agency in the past years and in the future – you get your hopes up as a fan, and then they let you down and you end up not liking the player. There’s a little bit too much emphasis on that type of stuff, but it’s part of the game.”

The reality is fans should focus on the game and the player matchups. They should live in the moment rather than look for future clues. That's because Durant is far too wise to divulge any plans whether he has them or not, though use of the word "disrespectful" is interesting and not in a good for way for the "KD2DC" movement. Despite the last two games ending in ugly losses, the Wizards can play and they'll need to remind all of that if they're to break the current mini-slide. That's because Durant is averaging over 30 points per game early this season after missing much of the previous campaign with multiple surgeries on his right foot. Enjoy one of the planet's best basketball players doing his thing and see how the Wall/Beal crew counter.

In a perfect world, the game is the primary if not only focus in Chinatown Tuesday night. In the real world, no way that happens. Sorry, Kevin. Anyway, until tip-off, we've got some new words to parse.

MORE WIZARDS: OTTO PORTER JR. IS EMERGING

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."
 

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

Kelly Oubre Jr. takes his style very seriously, perhaps to a point even further than the most fashionable of NBA players. He wants to be a figure in the industry someday as a designer of his own shoes and clothing line.

So when he approached the process of brokering a new shoe contract, he took into consideration factors that went well beyond the average player and outside of the mainstream. He wanted more than a basketball shoe. He wanted a lifestyle brand and a partnership that wasn't solely about basketball.

Oubre left Adidas to sign a new mutli-year deal this week with Nike and Converse. He will wear Nike shoes in the meantime, until a concept made by Converse is ready for game action. Then, he will become the only NBA player to wear the brand on the floor.

"Everyone knows me and I'm a different individual," he said. "Converse is reinventing themselves in the basketball world. I will be the only athlete this year flying the flag. I'm very excited to be able to represent."

Converse has a history in the game of basketball, of course. Before Nike and Adidas took over, Converse was the dominant brand for most of the 20th century, up until the 1980s. Their Chuck Taylor All Stars maintain a legacy today in the casual shoe market.

The deep basketball history of Converse appealed to Oubre.

"It's old school. It started with basketball, then it went to the rock stage, then it went to people wearing them without any thought to what the foundation of the brand was," he said.

Oubre said there is no release date yet for the new-age Converse basketball shoe. He expects to have some input on the design of future shoes and said it's part of why he chose them.

Oubre plans to begin his own clothing line at some point with the working title of 'Dope Soul.' He told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that it is "coming soon," but couldn't provide any further details. 

Oubre had restrictions under his previous contract with Adidas and had been looking forward to finding a new deal that would allow for such things. It sounds like he may be afforded that freedom.

For now, with Converse, Oubre is excited to chart a new path with an unconventional company.

"You can't really define Converse because we've done everything and we're about to take over the world," he said.