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Obama takes in Olympic basketball tune-ups

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Obama takes in Olympic basketball tune-ups

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama basked in the glow of the Olympics on Monday, getting a courtside look at LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other members of USA Basketball. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took their seats to chants of "U-S-A" at a U.S. men's Olympic basketball exhibition game against Brazil as the loudspeakers blared Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," images that any president running for re-election would relish. "Obviously the talent that we've got at this point is unbelievable," Obama said during a halftime interview on the cable television sports channel ESPN2. "So there's no reason that we shouldn't bring home the gold. We just have to stay focused."Obama is an avid basketball fan and the tune-up games before the start of the London Olympics allowed him to wrap himself in the Olympic spirit four months before Election Day. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to use the Olympics to highlight his leadership role during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Romney, who helped turn around the Salt Lake City Games after they became caught up in a bribery scandal, plans to be in London for the opening ceremonies next week. First lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies. Monday night gave Obama a chance to soak in his favorite sport. After a quick ride to the Verizon Center from the White House, Obama greeted members of the U.S. women's basketball team on a practice court after their 99-67 rout of Brazil in the first game. "We could not be prouder," Obama said after hugging Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi and other members of the women's team. The women's team presented Obama with a red No. 1 USA jersey and a signed basketball. Obama, dressed in a blue jacket and jeans, then walked out before a roaring crowd, shook hands with fans and sat down next to former aide Reggie Love, who played basketball for Duke University. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama even appeared on "Kiss Cam," the in-house video that spotlights kissing couples during a game break. The Obamas wouldn't oblige during the first half, despite roars and some boos from the crowd. But in the fourth quarter, "Kiss Cam" peered back on the first couple and the president was ready: He put his arm around his wife and planted a big kiss on the first lady as the crowd roared. LeBron James scored 30 points as the U.S. team rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat Brazil 80-69. Some members of the men's team are Obama supporters. A handful of Olympic team members, including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, had agreed to participate in a basketball game fundraiser for Obama's campaign last December but the event was canceled because of the resolution of the NBA lockout. The fundraising game has not been rescheduled. Obama's campaign held a fundraiser last February at the Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks. Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. Basketball has been a longtime passion of Obama's. He played high school basketball in Hawaii and likes to play pickup basketball with friends. He helps coach his daughter Sasha's youth team and keeps close tabs on his hometown Chicago Bulls. In March, Obama invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to an opening round game of the NCAA college basketball championship tournament in Ohio.

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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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USA TODAY Sports

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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USA Today Sports Images

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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