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Son of former Wizard is a top pick in 2013 NHL Draft

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Son of former Wizard is a top pick in 2013 NHL Draft

By: Ben Raby
CSNWashington.com

Popeye Jones didnt know it at the time, but when the 11-year NBA veteran joined the Washington Wizards in 2000 he made a decision that would shape the life of a future hockey wonder kid.

Seth Jones is a projected top-three pick in next years NHL Entry Draft and the 17-year-old is USA Hockeys top rated underage prospect. Hes also the son of a well-travelled NBA player and coach.

I guess when you sit back and think about it, it is odd for a professional basketball players son to play hockey at such a high level, Popeye Jones said in a phone interview with CSNWashington.com.

I grew up playing basketball, football and baseball- my town didnt have hockey- but sports in general were always in my blood so really this isnt that odd to me or Seth because were a huge sports family.

As Seth Jones aims to become the first African American taken first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, its worth noting that the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman could have very easily gone his entire life without even trying on a pair of skates. A family game plan from father Popeye would change that.

THE DECISION:

Popeye Jones was traded to the Wizards in September 2000, just three weeks before training camp. Washington was Jones fifth NBA home in less than five years and the thought of again having to uproot his family didnt appeal to the 30-year-old father of three.

So after NBA stints in Dallas, Toronto, Boston and Denver, Jones moved to D.C. and encouraged wife Amy and sons Justin, Seth and Kaleb to settle in Colorado.

At the time, Jones middle son five-year-old Seth- was just starting to participate in organized sports. Seth dabbled in soccer, but living in the Rocky Mountains in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the fastest growing sport was hockey and the best team in the region was the Colorado Avalanche. It didnt take long before Seth was on skates.

When we moved to Colorado when I was playing for the Denver Nuggets, the Avalanche was really big, Jones said.

They had won the Stanley Cup in 1996, they had Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy and so all the kids in the neighborhood really took to hockey and they were always playing roller hockey in the streets in our neighborhood.

Seth wanted in. It didnt matter that dad was a professional basketball player; Seth was hooked on hockey. Popeye knew it and did what any pro athlete with privileged access would do- he sought the advice of a future Hall-of-Famer.

I ran into Joe Sakic down at the arena and I just asked him about the game, Popeye said.

He didnt know who I was and I just kind of asked him for advice with my kids wanting to play hockey and he just looked at me and said from the looks of things your kids are going to be huge. You just need to make sure that they can skate.

When Seth was eight, he was already among the best and biggest athletes in his age group in suburban Denver. Sakic told Popeye that the best athletes can easily learn to shoot and handle a puck but that skating is the most important skill.

So from that point on we started getting skating lessons with a lady that was actually a figure skating coach, Popeye explained. She taught him twice a week, a lot of technical stuff like how to properly use his blades and edges She would always tell us that Seth would pick up on things quickly.

As the final years of Popeyes NBA playing career took him from Washington to Dallas and then to Oakland, Seth remained in Denver working his way up Colorados youth hockey programs. Given his size and skating ability, Seth was encouraged to become a defenseman.

I just kept telling him that defense wins championships, Popeye said. Maybe that was the professional in me, but I told him that if you can stop the other teams from scoring then youre going to win games. After that, he really took to the position.

ON THE MOVE:

In 2007, Popeye was named an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks and after eight years in Denver, the Joneses moved to Texas.

Seth was 12, but his hockey development continued with an elite travel team in Texas. Among his teammates in Dallas was 2012 NHL draftee Colton Hargrove (Boston Bruins).

By the age of 15, Jones was already on USA Hockeys radar as one of the best prospects in the country and in 2010 he moved again, this time to Ann Arbor, MI to join the U.S. National Development Team.

The two-way defenseman spent the past two years with the USNDT and he captained USA Hockeys under-18 team to a gold medal at the World U18 Championships last spring.

I know that hes at a young age, but hes also really mature, Popeye said. I think one of the main lessons that Ive taught him is to keep your head down, keep working hard, dont get caught up in all the press clippings and all of that and I think hes done a terrific job of doing that. Hes humble and very hard working.

Now Seth Jones is entering the most important year of his hockey career- his draft year. Unlike most USNDT players who accept hockey scholarships and attend university, Jones has decided to play for the Portland Winterhawks of Canadas Western Hockey League.

Jones is also expected to play for the U.S. at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

The years of hard work and sacrifice will culminate in June when Popeye and the rest of the family he once left behind in Denver will attend the NHL Entry Draft in Newark, NJ.

It will be very rewarding, said Popeye, now an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets. I was a second-round pick in the NBA in 1992, so I wasnt invited to the draft. Its going to very exciting and without looking too far ahead, I know its day that Seth is anxious for as well.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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