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Morning tip: If cream rises to top, says Kelly Oubre, 'I'm the cream'

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Morning tip: If cream rises to top, says Kelly Oubre, 'I'm the cream'

Recent history suggests that coach Randy Wittman will bring along a rookie like Kelly Oubre slowly, if for no reason other than to make the 19-year old earn his stripes before getting on the court with a veteran team such as the Wizards.

But the 6-7 small forward has been raising eyebrows since training camp opened Tuesday, showing a three-point stroke that was absent during Las Vegas summer league play and an exceptional defensive IQ. And based on how he's talking -- he doesn't spell it out but strongly implies it -- he thinks he'll be a Rookie of the Year candidate. 

"I have a chip on my shoulder even more now because throughout the whole process people were saying they questioned my work ethic so that's why they passed on me in the draft. The Washington Wizards got me and I'm going to make sure they got something that's going to be something serious," Oubre said in a 1-on-1 with CSN's Chris Miller during training camp this week. "I don't want anybody to question the things that I do or anything. Because I'm going to work, first and foremost. And I'm going to give it my all.

"I fell to 15 in the draft and I really took that hard. After the draft I came straight to D.C. and I was in the gym. That was just pure fire in my heart because I know there's not (14) guys better than me in my class at least. ... The cream rises to the top, and I'm the cream."

This means Oubre is certain that he's better than most of these guys: D'Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, Devin Booker, etc.

The preseason starts next week and Oubre will have a chance to get plenty of action with injuries to small forwards Jared Dudley (lower back) and Alan Anderson (left ankle). 

"It's a lot to absorb and he's a smart kid," Wittman said after Friday's session at Verizon Center.

This isn't to imply that this season Oubre will leapfrog Otto Porter, a third-year forward who appears to be on another level himself, in the rotation. But long-term, Oubre could be a starter. 

The Wizards were able to trade up from 19th in June's draft to make a deal for Oubre, who left Kansas after one season. They weren't alone. Several other NBA teams were trying to move up to get Oubre, widely considered a lottery-pick talent who fell just outside of it because his statistics didn't shout elite. But everything else about him -- skill set, athleticism and attitude -- suggests just that.

While Oubre hasn't been bashful about how highly he regards himself, he hasn't had any issues fitting in. He seems to know when to tune it down and listen.

"You don't have time on the floor to stop and think. That's the main thing right now. His head is probably spinning a little bit and he can't get his words out," Wittman said. "He's working. It happens to all of them, John Wall, Bradley Beal, they've all been in that position.

"We've got to continue to encourage him. You don't want to slow it down. You want to take him off (the floor), let him think. To be able to play at this level you've got to be able to do it on the run."

The night Oubre was acquired, Kansas assistant coach Kurt Townsend talked to CSNmidatlantic.com at length about him. The most poignant of his comments was in reference to how Oubre, despite being a top five player coming out of high school, handled being benched early in the season: "Kelly handled it unbelievably. Just started working hard, started to listen and it ended up working out for him."

The Wizards are deep at his position but it's an 82-game season. The veterans like Dudley, Anderson and Drew Gooden need to be fresh and rested come the playoffs. Coupled with the new emphasis on a faster-paced offense and going to smaller lineups, the need for more athletic players could put Oubre in a position that didn't seem likely months ago. 

His first chance will come Tuesday in the preseason opener vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?