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


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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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.


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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.