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Motor City looks to ride again

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Motor City looks to ride again

Detroit basketball has fallen by the wayside the last few seasons. After a resurgence and an NBA title in 2004, the Pistons have hit hard times. Theyve gone without a winning record since 2008, including a 21-45 record last season.

The reason for the slide? Simply, horrific free-agent signings including the huge busts in forward Charlie Villanueva and shooting guard Ben Gordon who both were given huge contracts three seasons ago but provided little in return. Gordon is no longer on the team as he was shipped to Charlotte this off-season, while Villanueva has languished on the bench and will continue to do so next season unless he can get into much better shape.

With free agency not working, Detroit is now clearly rebuilding through the draft. Two years ago the Pistons took left-handed center Greg Monroe out of Georgetown and followed it up with the selection of point guard Brandon Knight in 2011. Monroe is a rising star after improving dramatically, averaging 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds in his second NBA season. Monroe scored over 30 points and grabbed 10 plus rebounds in three games last season, showing his ability to dominate down low.

Knight started 60 of a possible 66 games and averaged 13 points and 4 assists.

A lot of the Pistons success will ride on these two players and how they progress in what will be their second year together this upcoming season.

With the point guard and center spot solidified for years to come, the Pistons took power forward Andre Drummond in the 2012 NBA draft. The Pistons hope Drummond can shed that project label and be a solid contributor up front. Drummond, a ballyhooed prep player, left UConn after just one season in which he averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds. Not overwhelming numbers for a 6'-10", 270 -pound big man who expected to do a lot more in his freshman season.

Veteran players forward Tayshaun Prince, guard Rodney Stuckey and forward Jason Maxiell all return and will get major minutes for Detroit. Stuckey likely will be the starting shooting guard but his numbers have gone down each of the last three seasons, including 14 points a game in 2011-12. Prince is steady as he goes and he will be the starting small forward. The lanky swingman averaged 12 point a game and is the lone holdover from the 04 title team.

Detroit could get back in the playoff mix if Monroe continues to improve but the team is still a work in progress.

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John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

In just a few months, Nationals star Bryce Harper could become one of the biggest free agents not just in baseball history, but sports history. He will decide whether to stay in Washington with the team that drafted him and oversaw his development as a young player, or to leave for another city.

Wizards guard John Wall has twice faced the prospect of free agency and twice has decided to sign contract extensions to stay in D.C. Though the salary structures of baseball and basketball are different, there are some parallels between the two. 

Wall has a unique perspective on the call Harper has to make and gave his opinion on the matter in a 1-on-1 interview on the latest episode of our Wizards Tipoff podcast.

"Well, it’s kind of tough. It depends on if you want to do it off of loyalty, or if you want to do it to make sure you make the most money you can make. That’s the toughest decision that you can have. I have the opportunity here where I have loyalty and I can also make the money, so that was a bonus and a plus for me in both situations," Wall said. 

Wall noted how as an NBA player he can have the best of both worlds. The league's collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay players they drafted significantly more money.

That, however, has not stopped NBA stars from changing teams. Wall in many ways is an outlier as many superstars have left money on the table to depart their original teams. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George have all done that, to name a few. Kawhi Leonard could be next.

Harper, though, may also be able to make more money elsewhere. The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox or some other team could conceivably offer more money than the Nats and there are some cities like L.A. and New York that could open up more endorsement opportunities.

There's no question it pays to be the best player on the Yankees. Look at Derek Jeter and how his stardom was boosted by that distinction.

Loyalty is also going to come into play for Harper and the past few days have shown he is a sentimental person, as he has talked about all the people he has connected with over the years and how much the Washington community means to him.

Wall took all of those things into account when he decided to stay in D.C. and not look elsewhere via free agency or trades, which have become commonplace for All-Star players in the NBA.

"It was how much what the city means to me is the reason I wanted to stay and what I want to bring here is a championship, it’s what I promise and I hope I can do that," Wall said. "My dad’s from here. Just the way they welcomed me from the first day I came here. Sticking with me through the tough times, when we wasn’t winning early on and then we started to win. The city just embraced me and I embraced the city back. It feels like home and I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else."

Though the difference in money likely won't be as drastic, Harper will have to choose how much loyalty and the human connection he has with people in Washington matters in his free agency decision. Wall knows the feeling.

Hear Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

After already making significant changes to their roster, the Wizards may not be done this offseason, as they have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs about a potential trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to a new report by ESPN

Read this from Adrian Wojnarowski:

Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who've talked with San Antonio, league sources said.

The Wizards certainly make sense as a Leonard suitor. They are in the East, meaning the Spurs could trade Leonard to them and not have to worry about facing him as often. Plus, they have a solid group of tradeable assets and ones that seem to fit the Spurs model.

Otto Porter is a versatile, young player under team control who plays an unselfish style and would likely embrace playing in a small market. He also has a salary ($26M in 2018-19) that isn't far off from Leonard's ($21M in 2018-19), so the money could be easily matched.

The Wizards also have Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two young and up-and-coming players. Plus, they have draft picks, though ones that are unlikely to convey as lottery selections.

The Spurs have reportedly been more interested in getting players that can help now rather than draft picks to rebuild. That makes sense, as they still won 47 games last year despite Leonard only playing in nine of them due to injury.

The question in any Wizards and Spurs talks would be whether they would want one of Washington's All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. It would be tough to imagine the Wizards parting with either guy for Leonard, who carries some risk not only because of his quadriceps injury but also because he can opt out of his contract and leave after next season.

Just because the Wizards have talked to the Spurs doesn't mean they are serious contenders for Leonard, but it does show they are serious about improving their roster this summer. If they got Leonard and didn't part with Wall and Beal, that would be some team.

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