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Stephen A. Smith has some nonsense reason to claim Wizards-Celtics isn't a rivalry

Stephen A. Smith has some nonsense reason to claim Wizards-Celtics isn't a rivalry

Stephen A. Smith makes his money on the hot take-industrial complex, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he shared his opinion (loudly) on the big story in the NBA last night: the Wizards-Celtics rivalry. 

But this time, the take was so scorching as to border on nonsensical. Basically, his argument was that the Wizards and Celtics can't have a rivalry because neither team will contend for the NBA title this season, making the animus between them irrelevant. 

Now here's the irony: Where was Smith delivering this sermon? On the 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter.

Contrary to what the First Take host said, the Wizards-Celtics rivalry was so relevant as to be featured on the biggest sports news show in American televsion last night. 

And let's be clear: You don't have to contend for a championship to be rivals in any sport, or in any field of competition. Would Smith say the Ravens and Steelers aren't a rivalry because neither team will play in the Super Bowl this year? 

I should mention that Smith said lots of really complimentary things about John Wall and Bradley Beal in this segment, so presumably they're relevant enough for him to comment on. 

But to be charitable, Smith seems to be dismissing the Wizards-Celtics rivalry to make a larger point about the lack of parity in the NBA. 

He argued that Kevin Durant joining the Warriors tipped the balance of power so dramatically that only three teams -- the Warriors, Cavaliers and maybe Spurs -- have a prayer of winning a title.

And he claimed that top-heaviness has made regular season games between other teams feel trivial for him to cover. 

Smith isn't the only person to lob this complaint at the NBA. Even comissioner Adam Silver has said Durant's move to the Warriors harmed competitive balance around the league. Not that it was particularly balanced beforehand, mind you.

But I'll tell you something that Smith ignores: Wizards fans really care about what happens in games against the Celtics. Rivalries aren't constructed in the media, they're born between players and fans of opposing teams. 

Frankly, the Wizards beating the Celtics last night was a lot more relevant to most NBA fans than whatever Stephen A. had to say about it afterwards. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards walk the walk: Is it a rivalry now?

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Mike Scott is wearing your rival's hockey jersey, explained

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Mike Scott is wearing your rival's hockey jersey, explained

Former Wizards forward Mike Scott loves an NHL jersey. It's a pretty well-known thing on the internet. But with the NHL Playoffs heating up, fans are getting really mad that Scott is wading into "The Drake Curse" waters.

And they're taking it personally.

But the reality of it all: the dude just really likes hockey jerseys. 

Scott told reporters that he owns approximately 170 (!!!) custom made NHL jerseys. The NBA star ditched the classic suit and now exclusively wears a hockey jersey as part of his pre-game regimen. 

Scott even goes as far to paint them with his own creativity, adding funny catchphrases, made up words or song lyrics in place of a last name on the back.

And the list goes on.

So is your anger at Scott justified? Absolutely not.

And neither is referring to him as "worse than The Drake Curse" (as many Twitter users so graciously have). Because unlike Scott, bandwagoner Drake is actually cursed.

The Canadian-born music artist flew home after the Maple Leafs entered playoff territory. And what happened? The rapper brought bad luck to his own people, and Toronto fell 6-4 to the Boston Bruins. 

But Scott is different: he isn't pledging his allegiance to any team or even being a bandwagon fan for that matter. This guy's version of a sweater collection just lays in NHL jerseys. And he doesn't care who knows it. 

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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: Bradley Beal

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Bradley Beal, shooting guard

2018-19 stats: 36.9 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.7 tov, 47.5 FG%, 35.1 3P% (2.5/7.3), 54.0 eFG%, 80.8 FT% (4.4/5.5), 113 ortg, 114 drtg

Best game: 1/13 vs. Raptors - 43 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 6-12 3PT

Grade: A+

Season review: One could argue that nobody deserves a higher grade in the Wizards organization for their 2018-19 season than Bradley Beal, who had by far the best individual year of any player on the team. He had high expectations coming into the season and exceeded them, taking the next step from an All-Star to a legitimate All-NBA candidate.

Beal also continued to represent the organization well in public. He spoke for the team after many difficult losses with poise and maturity. And he brought positive attention to the franchise for his charitable efforts, recently being named as a finalist for the league's community assist award.

Beal's on-court performance was a shining light amid a disastrous season overall for the team. He set career-highs in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and free throw attempts. He played in all 82 games for the second straight season and never complained despite leading the NBA in minutes.

The most impressive part of Beal's season may be how he responded when John Wall went down due to injury. Wall last played on Dec. 26 and in the next 47 games, Beal averaged 27.2 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. 

Beal's final numbers put him in elite company. He became the first 25-5-5 player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history. He was one of only six players to reach that mark this season, a list that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

Even as the season was winding down and the Wizards were well out of playoff contention, Beal gave an honest and consistent effort. That stood out in a year in which some of his teammates did not play hard and were called out by head coach Scott Brooks and team leaders for doing so. 

Now Beal, of course, had many reasons to keep giving 100 percent. With the numbers he has put up, he could make All-NBA in late May and, if he does, will qualify for a supermax contract. That could mean tens of millions more on his next deal, if he chooses to sign back with the Wizards.

As Beal looks ahead to this summer and next season, another question is how much better he can become. He took a significant step from the All-Star year he had in 2017-18. What if he makes another, similar leap?

Beal upped his scoring average by three points year-over-year. Another jump like that could put him in the MVP conversation, depending on how the Wizards finish in the standings.

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