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NBA doesn't dare crossover Wall in latest 'best of' highlights


NBA doesn't dare crossover Wall in latest 'best of' highlights

The NBA knew better to overlook John Wall one more time.

After ignoring any of the Washington Wizards point guard's flashy dunk when putting together a compilation of the 100 best slams from last season, they found room for Wall in their latest mega highlight reel.

Crossover dribbles by Wall, LeBron James and Stephen Curry were among those included in a video of the 60 best from last season.

Others in the highlights include Kyrie Irving, former Maryland guard Steve Blake and Toronto's Kyle Lowry, who is shown in the very first clip giving Washington the business. Obviously the Wizards got the last laugh in the matchup after sweeping the best-of-7 first round playoff series against the Raptors.

For the NBA-starved out there, settle in an gobble up one jaw dropping move after another. If you just want to see Wall, start at the 3:25 mark. Don't flinch.

MORE WIZARDS: NBA2K16 reveals rating for Wall


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2019 NBA Trade Deadline: Will the Wizards be buyers, sellers, or standing pat?


2019 NBA Trade Deadline: Will the Wizards be buyers, sellers, or standing pat?

The Wizards are in the midst of their best basketball of the season. That only makes the upcoming decisions surrounding the Feb. 7 trade deadline more challenging.

With Bradley Beal’s elite play fueling a surge before the team’s trek to London, Washington went 3-2 in five games against NBA contenders. Even one of the losses, Sunday’s double-overtime thriller against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors, provided hope for a playoff push and a bit more should the Wizards qualify.

The Wizards, 18-26 and two games back of a playoff berth entering the week, must pass three teams for the eighth seed. Six teams are currently jockeying for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference horse race. With a Secretariat-level kick, Washington could gallop all the way to sixth.

Remain bullish and perhaps the Wizards seek help rather sell off assets. Pulling that off without adding to the luxury tax bill would make team president Ernie Grunfeld quite the contortionist. If reaching the postseason for the fifth time in six years remains the goal, get twisty.

Now for some reasons why the organization might choose another path despite the ample pluck shown by the active players.

Since the 2012-13 season, a team sitting two or more games back of the eighth seed as of Jan. 1 reached the playoffs only three times, according to the website Basketball-Reference.

The idea of trading away players, namely those on expiring contracts, isn’t appealing for those focused solely on the current season’s potential. Doing so accomplishes several goals: 

  • Acquiring draft picks and player assets for a franchise with only five players under contract for the 2019-20 season and without a second-round selection until 2023. 
  • Potentially increase the team’s 2019 NBA Draft lottery odds. Washington currently has the sixth-best odds at the No. 1 overall selection. Landing that pick likely means selecting Duke’s runaway top prospect, Zion Williamson. 
  • Targeted trades could create future salary cap space. Washington’s projected 2019-20 salaries total $111 million, eclipsing the $109 million salary cap and leaving little wiggle room below the $132 luxury tax line. Of the five players under contract, only Beal, John Wall and Otto Porter are established building blocks. 
  • Eliminate some or all of this season’s entire $8.6 million luxury tax burden. Erasing the luxury tax altogether keeps the Wizards a bit further away from paying a higher tax rate as a repeater tax squad.

The key for league observers is proper self-evaluation, including fair expectations for Wall coming off another surgery. The latest occurred this month as repairing bones spurs digging into his left heel ended the five-time All-Star’s season.

Making moves for coveted first-round draft picks means taking on future salary, a likely scenario for most deadline trades involving rentals like Trevor Ariza.

“I don't think you can worry about clearing money for next year. You just need to avoid the tax,” a former NBA general manager told NBC Sports Washington. “If taking on money next year means getting close to (avoiding) the luxury tax threshold this year I'd be comfortable with that because I think they're more than one year away from fixing this. I would start to accumulate assets as quickly as I could.”

Whatever the future thoughts, there are current realities ranging from that luxury tax payment to season ticket plan renewals.

“Can’t separate basketball from business,” a current NBA team executive said. “We don’t play the game of basketball. We’re in the business of basketball.”

There’s also the playing of basketball. Try telling Beal the Wizards should regroup for next season when hopefully a healthy Wall returns and assets acquired at the trade deadline mature.

Beal, sensing external expectations dropping immediately after Wall’s surgery news, suggested doubters should stay tuned.

“I’m trying to shoot for the playoffs,” Beal said.

Since then he has recorded his second triple-double of his career with 45 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists in 55 minutes against the Raptors. Beal is averaging 30.2 points over his last nine games.

This isn’t a one-man effort. Guard Tomas Satoransky also recorded a triple-double over the weekend while Ariza fell a rebound shy against Toronto. Big moments for Otto Porter, Thomas Bryant and Jeff Green come regularly.

Beal’s hopes and forewarning for doubters won’t stop many outside the organization from focusing on the allure of salary cap flexibility and asset gathering above all. Both sides have merit. Washington can only make substantive moves in one of those directions before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

Winning a seven-game playoff series is a lofty goal for a team yet to win more than three games consecutively all season and currently poised for the draft lottery. However, as state lottery promotions might say, you also cannot win if you don’t play.


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Watching Go-Go games takes Wizards' coach Scott Brooks back to his own, unglamorous minor league days


Watching Go-Go games takes Wizards' coach Scott Brooks back to his own, unglamorous minor league days

When Scott Brooks walks into the gym at St. Elizabeths Arena to catch a Capital City Go-Go game, the players can't help but notice. The building also houses the Wizards' practice facility where Brooks has an office and he is often around at tipoff. So, he makes the short walk over to catch a glimpse of the team's G-League affiliate.

Naturally, he is easy to spot.

"One of our assistants or a player, they'll say something," guard Chasson Randle said. "You've always gotta be on your A-game. When you see him in the stands, though, it's a little bit more motivation for sure."

"They can literally just walk down the stairs from their office and go through a door and be at our game," guard Chris Chiozza said of Wizards' brass. "It just adds a little more fire to have a good game."

Brooks knows the feeling. He was once a minor league basketball player chasing the NBA dream. 

After graduating from U.C. Irvine in 1987, he spent time with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association and then with the Fresno Flames of the World Basketball League (which oddly featured a 6-foot-4 height restriction) before catching on with the Sixers in 1988.

Brooks himself can recall what it was like to be on a minor league team when someone from the NBA was in attendance.

"I just remember that our coach would say 'there are scouts here,'" Brooks told NBC Sports Washington. "When you're in the minor leagues, your goal is to be in the majors. You want to be in the NBA. You know it can take just one coach or one scout to give you that opportunity. So, when I go watch our Go-Go play, I take it seriously because I was in that position."

So, what exactly does Brooks look for? Some of it can't be found in the box score.

Brooks looks for intangibles.

"In reality, they're not all going to be NBA players, but out of respect for the game you've gotta give them an opportunity to be an NBA player," he said.

"I don't even look at their scoring because if they become an NBA player, they're not going to come in and score a bunch of points. Are they being good teammates? Are they helping their teammates off the floor? Are they pointing at them after a good pass? Are they high-fiving them? Are they making eye contact with their coach? I think those are way more important than somebody making a bunch of shots."

Brooks understands that may be counter-intuitive to some players, but he knows what it takes to not just get the chance to play in the NBA, but stay there. Brooks ended up playing 10 NBA seasons with six different teams and won a championship with the Rockets in 1994.

None of it came easy. Brooks got his first NBA gig after a tryout in the Loyola-Marymount Summer League in Los Angeles back in 1988. He borrowed $400 from a booster at Irvine. 

"I don't even know if that was legal at that time," he joked.

The games were early in the morning and, listed at 5-foot-11, he played small forward. Brooks was on a team of free agents that faced NBA players and he was told there would be many scouts in attendance.

"All that were in the stands were your girlfriend and your parents," he said.

But the Sixers saw him and gave him an NBA contract. From there, he never looked back.

"I had my 1-800 calling card that my mom paid for when I was 22- or 23-years-old. They thought somebody stole it because I called so many people that night I was told I made the 76ers. It was one of the best days of my life," Brooks said.

As Brooks tells it, even his early days in the NBA were rough compared to the accommodations now provided to the Wizards' G-League team. He may have been earning an NBA salary playing for the Sixers, but he had to wash his own jersey. He also had to wash the uniforms of veteran teammates.

"There were many times where I kept my jersey on [in the shower]. I shampooed my hair and I shampooed my jersey at the same time. You ring it out, you dry it. I was Maurice Cheeks' rookie and I had to take care of his jersey as well," he said.

But in the minor leagues, it was worse. Brooks was fresh out of college and wasn't yet an expert at doing laundry.

"We wore things multiple days without washing them," Brooks said. "When you're young and hungry, you knew better, but you had no other choice. You did whatever it took to get on the court and play well and impress the scouts."

Go-Go players have equipment managers to wash their jerseys. They also have a well-rounded staff of coaches and player development assistants. One of their best perks is food provided by the team and a designated eating area at St. E's. Not all G-League teams get those benefits.

Well, it's not that glamorous. The Go-Go do their air travel through BWI, roughly an hour from their home base in Ward 8. That has led to some John Candy and Steve Martin-like adventures. 

For instance, when they played the Windy City Bulls in December, they had to bus an hour from the Sears Centre in Illinois to Midway Airport, fly to BWI and then leave for Washington on a bus from Baltimore at 1 a.m. That's a far cry from the charter jets some players enjoyed at big-time college programs, like Chiozza at the University of Florida.

Sometimes an NBA call-up will require Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to drive players late at night to airports for flights back to Washington because the rental car is registered in his name.

But, as Brooks can attest, it's all worth it. Finally realizing the NBA dream makes you appreciate the steps it took to get there.

Brooks did it and Randle, after spending much of this season in the G-League, now has a guaranteed NBA contract. 

"I love stories like that," Brooks said of Randle, who like him went undrafted. "It's definitely earned. Nothing was ever given to him."

For others, the journey continues.