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Thundering up for a first NBA title?

Thundering up for a first NBA title?

Before the Los Angeles Lakers acquired big man Dwight Howard from Orlando this summer, the Oklahoma City Thunder were the odds-on favorite to return to the NBA finals. The runners-up to Miami, the Thunder bring their big guns back in all-stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and sixth man of the year James Harden. Oklahoma City certainly will be a major factor but they have some seriouscompany now in the western conference.

As long as the Thunder have Durant in the mix they have as good a shot as anyone to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy. The silky smooth swingmanaveraged aleague-high 28 points and 8 rebounds last season as Oklahoma City went 47-19 and earned the second seed in the playoffs. Durant is quickly becoming one of the best closers in the game with the knack to hit big shots. In fact, Durant hit three game-winners alone in the 2012 playoffs, two of them against the Lakers in the second round.

The 6'-9" Durant can go inside and out to score and that's what makes him so tough to defend. Durant hit 133 three-pointers in the regular season last year, tied for third best in the league.With the soon-to-be 24-year old Durant back, the Thunder are not only a serious contender this upcoming season but for years to come.

If there was ever a dynamic duo in the league it would be the Durant-Westbrook combo.The scoring point guard Westbrook had his best season as a pro, averaging 23 points and 5.5 assists a game for the Thunder last season. Westbrook's decision-making got better and his constant attacking style kept opposing defenses on their heels. Like Durant, Westbrook is only 23 years-old with his best basketball likely still in front of him.

Durant, Westbrook and Harden kept their games sharp by playing for the gold medal winning United States men's basketball team at the 2012 London Olympics.Harden scored 16 points a game in the regular season and was a sharp-shooter off the bench, but he slumped in the Finals against Miami, averaging only 12 points a game.

Oklahoma City extended Serge Ibaka with a huge four-year, 48 million contract in the off-season. Ibaka averaged a modest 9 points and 7 rebounds but a whopping 3.7 blocks per game. Ibaka brings a physical presence at the powerforwardposition that electrifies the get-it-and-go offensive style the Thunder love to play.

In this summer's draft, Oklahoma City snatched 6'-11" Perry Jones III out of Baylor. Once projected as a top 10 pick, Jones slid down the draft board with a knee issue and there were concerns about his overallcommitmentto the game. Jones hopefully adds depth to the already deep front court led by centers Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich and the recently signed bust so far, Hasheem Thabeet -- the former 2 overall pick by Memphis in 2009.

Oklahoma City also added former Georgetown shooter Hollis Thompson as a free-agent. Thompson will stick with the team if he can stick the outside shot.

Oklahoma City has the superstars and the supporting cast to be contending for many years to come and this season won't be any different.

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Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Celtics: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The Wizards(11-16) hosts Bthe Celtics (16-10) on Wednesday night inside Capital One Arena for the first of three matchups of the 2018-19 season.

The Wizards dropped a Monday night contest in Indiana, despite an All-Star performance from Bradley Beal who poured in 30 points without John Wall in the lineup. 

The Celtics, without Kyrie Irving, defeated the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night thanks to a 31-point performance from Marcus Morris. 

One of the more recent and compelling NBA rivalries is back. 

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, and more:

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS HOW TO WATCH:

What: Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Time/Date: Wednesday, 12/12/18 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Washington (7:00 p.m.)
Live stream: You can watch the Wizards vs. Celtics live stream on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and the MyTeams by NBC Sports App. . Download MyTeams now for full postgame coverage and 24/7 Wizards news.
Radio: 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 
6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Celtics
9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live 
10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: Dwight Howard (out, lumbar microdisectomy procedure)

Celtics: Aron Baynes (questionable, left ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (doubtful, illness), Al Horford (questionable, left knee soreness), Guerschon Yabusele (out, right ankle sprain) 

WIZARDS vs. CELTICS SERIES HISTORY: 

Number of all-time Meetings: 302 games (22 playoff games)

Regular Season Record: Celtics lead series 188-114

Playoff Record: Celtics lead series 13-9

Last Meeting: Wizards beat Celtics 113-101 on 4/10/2018

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Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade

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@WashWizards

Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade

Injuries had limited Sam Dekker to only nine games this season with the Cavaliers, who he joined just this past summer in a trade. He hadn't played in a month. Yet, with only nine players available after Otto Porter Jr.'s injury on Monday against the Pacers, head coach Scott Brooks was left without much of a choice.

So, Dekker was summoned off the bench to make his debut with Washington, the third team he has called home all within this calendar year. Though the game amounted in a loss, Dekker's start with the Wizards could not have gone much better.

They instantly went on a 19-0 run to climb back into the game and Dekker played his part in it. He scored on a dunk, had two steals, a rebound and an assist. 

For Dekker, after missing weeks due to a left ankle injury, it was just good to get back out there.

"There was definitely some rust to knock off," Dekker said. "Our trainer was laughing at me. He said 'I've never seen someone drink their water so fast in a timeout.' My bottle was gone."

The dust will ultimately settle, but it has been a tumultuous few days for Dekker. He was still getting adjusted to the Cavs organization when on Friday night his name popped up in trade rumors. His phone started buzzing with "hundreds" of messages from friends and family.

At first, it looked like Dekker was going to Milwaukee, back to his home state and not far from where he starred at the University of Wisconsin.

"I didn't answer to any of them because I did not feel like I was going to Milwaukee," Dekker said. "Something was telling me that was not the case. It just didn't make sense in my head. So, I was like 'no way.' "

Sure enough, Dekker's gut feeling was proven correct. Soon after he was tied to Milwaukee, full details of the trade were released. It was a three-team deal and he was off to Washington, the fourth team in his young career.

The 24-year-old has been traded three times now. That's a lot of moving for he and his wife, Olivia.

"This is the third time I've made her move, so that's no fun. I feel terrible about that," he said. "But she's been awesome. She's been keeping me grounded through all of this."

Dekker said the first order of business after he was dealt to Washington was finding a sitter for his dog, Riggins. He had a 6 a.m. flight the next morning. 

Now, he is in the process of breaking a lease in Cleveland and looking for a new place in the Washington area.

"There's a lot more to it than people understand. They think we just put a new jersey on," Dekker said of getting traded.

Dekker's time with the Wizards has been a whirlwind so far. Things will calm down and, as he says, it all comes back to basketball.

"The one constant is playing hoops. Last night, to get on the court finally, that is one thing that feels like home," he said.

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