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Kevin Durant's fond memories of journey from D.C. to NBA

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Kevin Durant's fond memories of journey from D.C. to NBA

The media horde to greet Kevin Durant, after a morning shootaround at Verizon Center on Tuesday morning before his Oklahoma City Thunder play the Wizards, is the size of an NBA playoff game. And like a pro, he handled every predictable question about himself, his future and his comments about "disrespectful" D.C. fans who cheer for their hometown superstar although he plays for the opponent.

"It's a great feeling knowing that I walked these streets and grew up here and I can inspire so many kids that have the same dreams that I have. It means a lot coming back playing here because I remember coming as a kid catching the train down here to watch the Wizards, Mystics and Georgetown play all the time," said Durant, the second-leading scorer in the league at 30.1 points who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. "To be able to walk on the court as an NBA player it shows the journey I've been on. Hopefully, more kids behind me can do the same thing."

The Wizards are in hot pursuit, though they can't make contact with a player under contract with another team. They'll have more than enough cap space for Durant and to retain Bradley Beal, who will be a restricted free agent, and will have enough money left over to fill in the gaps around them. More than half the roster is on an expiring deal or the team hold's their final-year option which gives the Wizards flexibility.

"I just try to go about every day and just focus on that day. Try not to think about the future too much," said Durant, who missed 55 games last season with a broken foot. "Worry bout that stuff when I get there. Basically I've been saying I don't know for a long, long time. I'm just focused on our team. I'm happy I'm playing again."

Durant, when asked Monday after practice about the cheers he receives when he plays here, said that it makes him uncomfortable and it feels "disrespectful" to the Wizards. 

He didn't back off those words but seemed more understanding as he went into more detail.

"I'm not saying anything is wrong with the fans. I'm just looking at it as a player on this side. I wouldn't like it," Durant said. "Fans are going to do what they're going to do. I appreciate all the support that's getting thrown our way. I'm just looking at it as an opposing player. If I was on that team and they came in here and did that I wouldn't like it but hey, fans support us throughout the whole league. They make the league what it is. It's nothing against them. I'm just talking about it as (an opposing) player."

If this game unfolds anything like last season, when Russell Westbrook hit the game-winning shot with one second left in overtime, Durant knows what will happen if it's a Wizards player instead.

"If it's a tight game and they make a big shot, they're going to cheer for their own team," he said. "I know what it is. I'm just trying to focus on our group and help our team win."

RELATED: Jenks Debuts Political Ad: Will you stand up and vote #KD2DC?

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Ian Mahinmi

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Ian Mahinmi

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Ian Mahinmi's season...

Player: Ian Mahinmi

Position: Center

Age: 31

2017-18 salary: $15.9 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.9 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 55.6 FG%, 00.0 3P%, 70.3 FT%, 55.6 eFG%, 107 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 1/12 vs. Magic - 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, steal, assist, 7-for-8 FG, 3-for-4 FT

Season review: After missing 51 games in the 2016-17 season, the first of his four-year contract with the Wizards, center Ian Mahinmi managed to stay healthy for the entirety of 2017-18. He appeared in 77 games and gave the Wizards a good look at the player they signed to a $64 million deal in free agency.

Mahinmi was a mainstay in the Wizards' rotation as their backup center. While Marcin Gortat started all 82 games at center, Mahinmi at times got the nod late in games as head coach Scott Brooks favored his defense.

Though Mahinmi was available all season, he still fell short of the numbers he put up in his last year in Indiana, in 2015-16. Mahinmi's minutes per game were his fewest since 2010-11, and his points and rebounds were his fewest since 2013-14. 

Mahinmi's numbers were affected by his low minutes, as he could never quite crack the top six or seven spots in Brooks' rotation. His numbers per 36 minutes, however, were on par with how he played in Indiana before the Wizards signed him to a big contract.

2015-16 per 36: 13.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.3 spg

2017-18 per 36: 11.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.2 spg

That, of course, only means so much. Mahinmi may have been relatively efficient with his minutes, but the consistency wasn't there to convince Brooks and the coaching staff to increase his role.

It will be interesting to see what the team plans for Mahinmi next season, as this summer could bring changes to their frontcourt. Both of their starting big men - Gortat and Markieff Morris - have one year left on their contracts. If Gortat in particular is dealt, that could open the door for Mahinmi to earn more playing time.

The Wizards could also add to their frontcourt through the draft. If they get a rim-protecting big man in the first round, that could be bad news for Mahinmi's playing time. Like several Wizards players, Mahinmi's role is up in the air entering this summer.

Potential to improve: Finishing around rim, consistency, limiting fouls

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

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Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

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Wizards working out Kentucky's Hamidou Diallo another sign the two sides might be a good fit

The University of Kentucky was well-represented at the Wizards' first pre-draft workout on Tuesday at Capital One Arena, as All-Star point guard John Wall sat courtside to watch a young player who could join him next season in Washington.

The Wizards hosted Kentucky guard Hamidou Diallo just days after interviewing him at the NBA Combine in Chicago, Ill., another sign the 19-year-old is a legitimate option for their second round pick, set for 44th overall in next month's draft.

Diallo, who is originally from Queens, NY., said he is friends with Wall, as the two have crossed paths due to the Kentucky connection. 

"I feel like he knows what I'm capable of," Diallo said.

He now hopes the Wizards front office understands what he can do. Diallo is a defensive-minded wing who measured 6-foot-6 (with shoes) at the combine and with a 7-foot wingspan. He had the fifth-best max vertical leap at the combine, coming in at 40.5 inches. He was also the 12th-ranked player in the class of 2017 out of high school.

The measurables and pedigree are impressive, but Diallo's potential has yet to be realized. He didn't play a game despite attending Kentucky in the 2016-17 academic year. He tested the NBA Draft waters last summer before returning to Kentucky to average a modest 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Diallo has already worked out for the Chicago Bulls and will meet with plenty more teams, but is currently projected by most mock drafts to be a second round pick. This time he hired an agent and will definitely be making the leap.

"It feels good this year going through it with both feet in. It's been a great process," he said.

The Wizards like Diallo's defensive ability, his speed and awareness in the open floor and his potential to improve as a shooter. Diallo shot 33.8 percent from three on 2.1 attempts per game in the 2017-18 season.

"I hope to show my athleticism and how that plays a big part on the defensive end," Diallo said of his goals in pre-draft workouts.

"[The Wizards] are a team that wants to play fast and they have a fast point guard that needs players to keep up with him. That's what I tried to show in this workout, to show how fast I can play and show how composed I can play."

If the Wizards deem Diallo worth taking a chance on, he would provide a nice fit positionally. Though their second round pick could spend much of next season in the G-League, Diallo plays shooting guard and they have a need behind starter Bradley Beal. 

The Wizards see Tomas Satoransky as a possibility at backup shooting guard and Jodie Meeks is expected to return next season on a player option. But those guys were on the roster in 2017-18 and couldn't fill the void behind Beal, who logged more minutes than all but three players in the league. Meeks is also set to begin the 2018-19 season serving a suspension.

Diallo played at a big-time program and has the athleticism to compete at the NBA level early on. He could help a team improve long-term at guarding the perimeter, an area the Wizards have made strides in but still have a ways to go. That was seen in their playoff series against the Raptors when Toronto averaged 11.0 threes made per game and shot 41 percent.

Though it's early in the draft workout process, the Wizards have made it clear they are interested in Diallo.

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