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NBA's current, former stars put on show in Africa exhibition

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NBA's current, former stars put on show in Africa exhibition

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- The NBA put on a show in its first exhibition game in Africa on Saturday -- starting with a dunk straight from the tip-off by Luc Mbah a Moute.

That had the crowd roaring early at Ellis Park Arena in downtown Johannesburg. It got even louder when African NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo stripped off their business suits to don their old team uniforms again and play for a little while in the second quarter.

The 52-year-old Olajuwon, in a Houston No. 34 jersey, pulled off a turn-around jumper -- the "Dream Shake" -- that had the current NBA stars leaping off the benches with their arms in the air.

"That's one of the most memorable experiences ever," said Chris Paul, one of the team captains. "I told Dream, if he's still moving like that at his age now, I couldn't imagine him in his day."

After a relaxed first half, the game got serious in the second: Paul's Team World rallied with a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to beat Luol Deng's "home" Team Africa 101-97.

"In the second half we decided enough was enough and we needed to do a lot better if we didn't want to lose by 40," Team World's Pau Gasol said.

Washington's Bradley Beal led Team World with 18 points while Paul had 12. Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points for Team Africa, with Deng adding 20.

But this game was largely about the entertainment factor, with cheerleaders and several NBA team mascots mixing it up with the South African crowd.

Even the timeouts were used for stunts: Team Africa coach Gregg Popovich took one in the second quarter that wasn't used for a team talk, but to give everyone a chance to watch fans breakdance alongside San Antonio mascot Coyote, Philadelphia's Franklin, and Atlanta's Harry the Hawk. Even Popovich, the five-time NBA winning coach, had a big grin.

At the start of the third quarter, Paul decided that was enough fooling around, hitting three straight 3-pointers to bring the "visiting" team back. Team Africa, made up of players born in Africa or with African heritage, couldn't hold off the late surge.

"We didn't finish the game. But there's still room for improvement," Team Africa's Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs said, hoping for another chance to play for an African lineup. "It was an amazing experience. So proud to be able to represent the continent."

After Jeff Green's dunk and a layup by Evan Turner, Team World was suddenly leading 85-78 in the fourth and the South African crowd had a proper game. Team World led 99-97 with a couple of seconds to go when Green was fouled and made both free throws to seal the game.

The South African exhibition was the NBA's biggest step into Africa so far, and could be the pre-cursor to a preseason and maybe even a regular season game on the continent, according to Commissioner Adam Silver.

"For me, as a kid, (I wanted) to play basketball and never had the access to meet NBA players, or watch NBA," said Deng, who was born in South Sudan. "Now to be part of a team coming back to play for Africa. I can't describe it."

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Bradley Beal to Charlotte? Hornets reportedly interested in Wizards SG

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Bradley Beal to Charlotte? Hornets reportedly interested in Wizards SG

The Wizards' struggles have been on full display to the public this week, and the rumor mill continues to churn out news and gossip at a hectic pace. 

Days after ESPN reported that every Wizards player is available for trade discussions following a dismal 5-11 start, the Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that the Hornets had expressed interest in Bradley Beal.

From the Observer's Rick Bonnell:

The Charlotte Hornets have inquired with the Washington Wizards about the possibility of acquiring shooting guard Bradley Beal, an informed source confirmed Tuesday. The source didn’t identify what the Hornets have offered for Beal, a 6-foot-5 guard averaging 21.5 points this season, or whether any progress has been made toward a deal.

A day prior, Beal was asked about the swirling rumors

"Ernie has a job. Ted has a job," he said. "The organization has a job and they're gonna do whatever it takes to make sure that the organization is going in a direction they need to. All we can do is continue to work hard every day, continue to - you know - put in work until something changes." 

The 25-year-old, who made the Eastern Conference All-Star squad in 2017, is averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists through 16 games this season. 

Washington (5-11) plays host to the Los Angeles Clippers (11-5) Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. It will air at 7 PM on NBC Sports Washington. 

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks on reports that practices got heated: 'I said some things I regret'

Wizards coach Scott Brooks on reports that practices got heated: 'I said some things I regret'

WASHINGTON -- There are NBA head coaches that meet with media members on game days before or after morning shootaround. Scott Brooks generally isn’t one of them.

He did Tuesday ahead of the Wizards’ home matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers after Washington’s internal squabbles leaked publicly Monday. The Wizards are under the spotlight.

“Obviously, everybody is well aware of some of the reports,” Brooks said. 

There was trade buzz Monday morning followed by details on Thursday’s heated practice including the organization fining John Wall for cussing out Brooks.

 “Last week definitely was a spirited practice and very intense practice,” Brooks said during a lengthy opening statement. “And looking back at it, like we talked about as it happened, I said some things that I regret. Our players said some things that they regret. And right after the practice, I had a conversation to hash things out, and everything was good. And then some of our players had some conversations, and they hashed things out, and everything was good.”

Until, for the Wizards, it wasn’t.

 The team lost back-to-back home games, trailing by hefty margins in both. The barrage of reports came the morning after Sunday’s 119-109 loss to Portland.

 “Unfortunately, things get out there,” Brooks said of the reports, which included multiple verbal altercations among teammates. “You always talk about keeping everything in but like I said, I’ve been in this league for a long time and when you have the start that you have, I should get criticized and I understand that. I have thick skin and I can handle that.”

“What happened in practice happened in practice,” Bradley Beal said. “Practice is closed. Practice is not a public thing. It got heated. You guys know that. Practice, I mean it's happened in this organization and every organization around the league. High school, college, it happens.”
Wall joined Brooks and Beal with largely explaining away the incident as something of a normal occurrence over an NBA season. Unfortunately, for the Wizards, the defensive struggles in their latest losses are also par for the course this season. The point guard didn’t blame the losses on the practice blowout.

“It wasn’t nothing to do with that, because we had a great practice after that,” Wall said. “We had great shootaround and we just didn’t come out and play well. We didn’t make shots, we didn’t move the ball, we didn’t defend. You can try to translate it to that, but we already know when we don’t play defense and don’t make threes, we’re a terrible team, and we showed that the last two games.”

As for the fine, Wall said simply, “I wasn’t worried about it. I knew it was coming.”

Who knows what’s coming from this team Tuesday and beyond. The Wizards believe they can turn around the season, or at least aren’t publically showing a level of desperation that suggests otherwise. If trades aren’t coming, the fix must come from within.

“You see that we’re not winning. Everyone is frustrated. At the end of the day, we have to be able to communicate with each other so we can learn from it and try to build on things together,” Porter said. “That’s the only way we can start winning games, to rally with each other instead of against each other.”

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