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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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Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

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


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John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.