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Paul Pierce ready to take over if Wall, Beal can't

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Paul Pierce ready to take over if Wall, Beal can't

ATLANTA -- With Bradley Beal and John Wall not being anywhere close to 100% because of injuries, Paul Pierce may have to be even more assertive than usual for the Wizards. But the example that is being set by the team's young, star backcourt could have a positive impact beyond Game 2 that's being played tonight at Phillips Arena.

"Every game is different. You don't know what to expect. I'm going to continue to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself," said Pierce, who scored seven of the Wizards' first nine in a Game 1 victory when he finished with 19. "If that's what my team needs."

Wall had his left wrist, injured in the first half Sunday, checked by two doctors. Both determined that there was no breaks in the same wrist he'd previously broken as a high school sophomore. Beal sprained his right ankle so badly it brought him to tears but he was certain 24 hours ago that he'd be on the court again because the swelling was under control.

Even though it's not his shooting hand, Wall insists it won't change the way he plays with sticking his arm in harm's way to deflect passes, grab rebounds or block shots.

"I feel like when I step out there to help the team win, I got to do it," said Wall, with adhesive bandaging covering a badly swollen hand that he couldn't open and close on Monday. "When I had ankle injuries (during the regular season) I was scared I wouldn't be able to push off certain ways on defense. When you step between those lines and suit up, you got to ... do what you got to do to win the game."

In a first-round series sweep of the Toronto Raptors, Wall injured his right shoulder after he was crunched by Greivis Vasquez during a fall. His shoulder required an MRI the next day though results proved negative. Wall played through the pain and scrambled to the floor again and again on hustle plays.

"When I'm out there, I'm out there for a reason," Wall said. "The swelling has gone down. The pain is decreasing, not increasing."

Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat, all much older than the 24-year-old Wall, have dealt with ailments all season. If Wall is willing to give it all, everyone must. Beal is just 21.

"He's been leading by example, showing his mental toughness," Pierce said of Wall. "The guy looks like he got a broken hand and still going out there finishing the games, still going to be out there tonight. I think a lot of the other players see that and say if he can do it, we can do it also."

Another win tonight, and that would make for a 9-1 road playoff record in the last two seasons and four in a row away from Verizon Center to begin this postseason. Other road teams are doing well in the second round, too, as the L.A. Clippers and Chicago Bulls won Game 1 road openers last night.

"We're not satisfied. Even though we won Game 1, we feel like we still haven't played our best game," Pierce said. "Those teams that don't have home-court advantage are showing a great sense of urgency, understanding the moment, the playoffs. You go in somebody else's building and down 0-2 its a tough task getting back in the series. We're trying to get Game 2 also. ... We haven't proven anything yet."

RELATED: [Wizards make decision on Beal, Wall for Game 2]

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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USA Today Sports Images

Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?