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Showtime is back in L.A.


Showtime is back in L.A.

Hollywood got its next big leading man as all-star center Dwight Howard joined the Los Angeles Lakers, making it the biggest NBA move of the summer. Add in all-star point guard Steve Nash and the constant pro in all-star swing man Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are clearly the favorites to come out of the west and compete for another NBA title.

Howard was a dominant big man in Orlando, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds in his eight-year career, but for whatever reason became disgruntled and wanted out. Howard got his wish as he was shipped to the Lakers as part of a big four-team trade that saw the Lakers say goodbye to center Andrew Bynum who went to Philadelphia.

Before he missed the final 12 games of last season with a back injury, Howard was putting up 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds a game. Howard will give the Lakers so many different options on offense. He is athletic enough to run the fast break and finish, with Nash pushing the ball. Howard is nimble enough to run the pick-and-roll which Nash is brilliant at. And with Howard clogging the middle, likely drawing double or even triple teams, Bryant and Nash specifically should be wide open to knock down jumpers on the kick-out from Howard. He still needs major work on his free throws, making only 58 percent for his career.

Defensively, the chiseled 6'-11" Howard is an intimidating presence in the middle, having averaged 2 blocks a game for the Magic. Howard is a game-changer and he will alter the Lakers look immediately in all facets of the game.

Before Howard came on board, the Lakers created a mini-stir by trading away two future first-round picks for the 38-year old Nash. The two-time MVP just makes players around him better as he averaged 13 points and 10 assists for Phoenix last season. Even though he's pushing 40, the Lakers believe Nash has several good years left in the tank.

The Lakers also hope the same for forward Antawn Jamison who signed a one-year deal with L.A. The 36-year old can still score the ball as he averaged 17 points a game for Cleveland last season. Jamison would likely be the Lakers' sixth man this season. Jamison is no stranger to that role, as he won sixth man of the year award with Dallas in 2003-04.

The Lakers also added shooter Jodie Meeks with a two-year deal for 3-million. Meeks hit 36 percent of his three's last season, including a season high 7 against the Cavaliers in March. Meeks is another player who will benefit from the presence of Howard down low. Jordan Hill signed a three-year deal for 8 million to stay with the Lakers and he will back up Pau Gasol at the power forward spot.

Bryant, a winner of five NBA rings, is back, and although he's getting older he is still one of the best scorers in the game. The 34-year old scored 28 a game last season as the Lakers lost to Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lakers have arguably the best starting five in the game with Nash, Bryant, World Metta Peace, Gasol and Howard -- and their bench led by Jamison isn't too shabby. They made the biggest splash of the off-season and it should pay huge dividends come the post-season. It's likely an NBA title or bust for this talented crew.

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Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Just a few weeks ago, the Masai Ujiri-to-D.C. movement was gaining steam quickly. Just moments after Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors began celebrating their NBA Championship, reports began to swirl that the Wizards were prepared to aggressively pursue the GM.

Sources told NBC Sports Washington that there could be the possibility of a sort of mega-deal that went beyond just giving him control of the Wizards. But Wizards owner Ted  Leonsis denied earlier this month that the team had reached out, saying that "we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process."

And on Tuesday, Uriji seemed to make it official that he will stay in Toronto.

"I love it here, my family loves it here. My wife loves it here, which is very important. My kids are Canadians. You want to win more, for me," Ujiri said on Tuesday during his end-of-season press conference.

"Yeah, I can continue to address teams wanting me and all those things. That's a blessing in life," Ujiri said. "For me the blessing is being wanted here and finding a place that makes you happy, and finding challenges that really make you grow as a person. This place has made me grow as a person."

"I identify with this place and I love it. So in my mind, I'm here."

On paper, Ujiri and the Wizards looked to be a good match. Washington could offer him money and control, while also allowing him to work with his "Basketball without Borders" program in D.C.

As NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh explained recently, the Raptors late-season championship run could have messed up the timing and situation that could have lured Ujiri to a new team.

The Wizards made it through the NBA Draft without a new GM, but as July and free agency approach, the search may continue to ramp up.

The answer is still out there, it just may not be Masai Ujiri anymore.


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Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

The Wizards added two pieces during the 2019 NBA Draft that franchise expects to be vital pieces of their future in Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura at No. 9 and Tennessee's Admiral Schofield at No. 42

Before Monday night's 2018-19 NBA Awards ceremony, NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller caught up with the two faces of the franchise, Bradley Beal and John Wall, to see what they thought of the new additions to the squad.

Beal had high praise for Hachimura.

"I didn't know much," Beal said on what he knew about the Gonzaga product prior to the draft. "But from what I've seen watching the draft and things I've seen pre-draft and things like that, he's a monster."

The praise did not stop there. 

"He plays hard, extremely hard," Beal said. "Hopefully, he can have an impact right away." 

While an immediate impact would be beneficial for a Wizards team that could use Hachimura's scoring (he averaged 19.7 points per game at Gonzaga), Beal understands that Hachimura is still a very raw player. After all, he's only been playing basketball for eight years.

"But at the same time, we want him to grow," Beal said on Hachimura. "We know he hasn't been playing too long. But that's something we can build off of and mold him into the player we need him to be. He has tremendous upside, and I'm excited to get going. Hopefully, come September, October he's ready to go."

While Beal may not have known too much about Hachimura, he had followed the other Wizards draft pick, Admiral Schofield, for quite some time. 

"I love his game; I loved him in college," Beal said on Schofield. 

Beal joked about Schofield's body type, wondering whether basketball is the sport the Wizards second-round pick should be playing.

"He's got a football body. He's built like a tight end, wide receiver," Beal said. "I'm definitely happy that we have him, a fellow SEC guy. Him and [Jordan] McRae are going to hit it off. He can shoot, he's athletic, so I'm definitely excited to have him as well."

While Wall did not go into as much detail as Beal about the Wizards draft class, he was just as excited about the two new additions.

"I think it's good," Wall said. "We added some pieces [in the draft], [we'll] see what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

According to head coach Scott Brooks, both Beal and Wall can identify talent very well

"The thing I love about John and Brad: they love the game," Brooks said last week. "You can call them up, there could be high school players, WNBA players, it could be college players, it could be European players, they know them."

"It's like, 'don't you guys have a life?'" Brooks joked.

Wall spent most of his time with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller discussing his Achilles rehab, where he revealed he is going to begin jogging soon. That's a good sign for the Wizards, even though Wall s expected to miss the majority of the 2019-2020 season.

In Hachimura and Schofield, the Wizards got two pieces that are not expected to contribute right away, but also potentially have the ability to do so. Earning high praise from the two most important players on the Wizards' roster is a good start for both of the Wizards 2019 NBA Draft selections.