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Nets bond over Pierce's criticism

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Nets bond over Pierce's criticism

Forget that an Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Brooklyn Nets would give the Washington Wizards home court advantage. Look past the better record against the Nets (2-2) than the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks (1-3). Those that appreciate trash talk and the fine art of trolling want the Wizards against the Nets in round two, and the Paul Pierce connection is the reason.

During the same interview in which he questioned if the Toronto Raptors had the "It" factor, Pierce also took shots at his former team. After fifteen seasons in Boston, the future Hall of Fame forward was traded to Brooklyn before the 2013-14 season along with Kevin Garnett. 

"I'm much happier,'' Pierce said of being with the Wizards. "It was a tough situation (in Brooklyn) last year. Horrible, really. It was just the guys' attitudes there. It wasn't like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn't want to play and didn't want to practice. ...If me and Kevin weren't there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.'' Pierce left the Nets and signed with the Wizards in July.

While the Raptors folded under the weight of Pierce's knock, the Nets have bonded, especially around point guard Deron Williams, who received the brunt of Pierce's criticism.

"Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,'' Pierce said. "But I felt once we got there, that's not what he wanted to be. He just didn't want that. ..."The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.'' 

The eighth-seeded Nets have won two straight games to tie No. 1 Atlanta in their first round series. From The Brooklyn Game following the Nets overtime victory Monday night in Game 4:

No Nets player has endured more criticism... from fans, media members, and even former teammate Paul Pierce, who questioned Williams’s leadership and willingness to improve. The Nets rallied around Williams in the past two days, with public support from multiple teammates and coach Lionel Hollins. “I thought it was a huge, huge step in unity for our ball club,” Hollins added.

At least one member of the Nets, Jarrett Jack, was surprised by Pierce’s comments. “Especially about something that’s in the past,” Jack said. “It’s over and done with. You know what I mean? If you had something you wanted to say or speak up on, you should’ve did it when you was in the locker room with him. And doing it publicly, I thought that was –”

“I don’t know. I ain’t gonna say it’s in poor taste, because I think Paul is professional, he probably just answered the question. But I probably wouldn’t have did it in that fashion.”

Williams, who was once in the running for the unofficial title of the best point guard in the NBA, scored five points combined in Game 2 and 3 of the series. He turned back the clock with a dazzling 35-point performance in Game 4. More from The Brooklyn Game recap:

Williams has heard every word, and admitted in a candid moment that he’d let the criticism affect his play.

“I’ve had a lot of support in the last couple of days, with things that have been said, not only from my teammates but other people in my life,” Williams said at the podium. “It definitely means a lot. Jarrett’s talked to me a lot about being aggressive, and just keeping my head on. I do have a tendency to get down on myself pretty hard and pretty quick, and so he definitely told me I was due for one.”

Yep, Wizards-Nets, would be all kinds of fun. Surprisingly, that matchup might just happen.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

Through nearly three weeks of NBA free agency and almost a month of trades, the Eastern Conference had remained eerily quiet. The Wizards had arguably been the most aggressive team in the East, as all the biggest moves had occurred in the West and, most notably, LeBron James changed coasts.

That all changed on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year. The full deal includes All-NBA guard DeMar DeRozan going to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. The Raptors also get guard Danny Green, according to ESPN.

Here are some takeaways from the trade...

This is good, potentially great news for the Wizards

The worst-case scenario for the Wizards and most of the East would have been if Leonard got dealt to either the Sixers or Celtics, as the potential would have been there for a dominant team. The Sixers, in particular, could have conceivably traded for Leonard without giving up much in the way of pieces that can help them now. They would have teamed Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would probably be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Instead, the Sixers struck out and now face the prospect of taking a pretty big L on this offseason, given all the guys they were tied to going into it.

Leonard and the Raptors will be good and they may even be better than they were last season. Though the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season, they disappointed in the playoffs. Leonard could change that, but he won't have the help to make them an unstoppable force. Kyle Lowry is good, but he's an aging player and they don't have a third star, at least not yet. They have a lot of recent first round picks that could, in theory, make the leap.

This deal is good for the Wizards and could become great if Leonard leaves in free agency next summer. If he does, the Raptors will be in deep trouble.

What will the Lakers do?

When James signed with the Lakers, most assumed they would then add at least one star to run with him. But now that Leonard is going to Toronto, it's very possible they don't add one at all. James might actually have to play with Lonzo Ball in addition to Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. Sure, they can sign Leonard next summer or find another star then, but this is shaping up as of now to be a lost year for James.

As consistitued, they aren't winning anything of substance. It's just so surprising James would be cool with this level of talent around him considering what he could have done this season if he signed with Philly or some other team.

People are looking at the wrong contract

Much of the instant reaction to the Leonard trade was praise for the Raptors in ridding themselves of DeRozan's deal. That's a headscratcher. DeRozan is set to make over $27 million in the next three years, the third being a player option, but he's an All-NBA player who turns 29 next month. In the context of NBA contracts, that isn't too bad.

Lowry's contract, on the other hand, is borderline awful. He's 32 with his numbers heading in the wrong direction and he's due to make $31 million next season and $33.3 million the year after. It's not like the Raptors freed themselves of their worst deal.

Masai is making moves

This is a risk for the Raptors and you have to respect it. Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, had seen enough of the DeRozan-Lowry duo falling short in the playoffs. He fired head coach Dwane Casey and pulled off a trade for Leonard, who at his best is one of the premier players in the NBA.

There is considerable risk in this move with Leonard having missed 73 games last season with a quadriceps injury and given the fact he can opt to test free agency next summer. If he really does want to join the Lakers, he could leave the Raptors empty-handed.

But it's a risk that is probably worth taking. Everyone assumed the same future for Paul George and he ended up staying in Oklahoma City. It's not a guarantee Leonard leaves and now the Raptors have a year to convince him to stay. Ujiri should get praise for this deal because it's bold and he did one of the hardest things a GM can do in finding a top-5 talent for his team.

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