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'Too much Kyrie' proves more than NBA All-Star worthy

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'Too much Kyrie' proves more than NBA All-Star worthy

For the most part, the Wizards got what they wanted from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the offensive outburst from LeBron James, the ball stopped moving as he settled into isolation play that eventually proved counterproductive.

The Wizards were able to tie the score at 95 early in the fourth quarter, but that's when Kyrie Irving took advantage of the constant switching on pick-and-rolls on the perimeter to score 19 of his season-high 32 points in the fourth quarter of a 121-115 victory. Although his counterpart John Wall had a double-double of 20 points and 12 assists, those totals were deceptive. Eight of those points came in the final minute with the outcome decided. 

"Too much Kyrie," said Garrett Temple, the Wizards' best one-on-one defender. "He was hitting some tough, tough shots."

Irving, who Wall has questioned being ahead of him in All-Star voting among fans despite playing only seven games, had the final word. Irving had been recovering from offseason knee surgery while Wall lit up the league in December by averaging better than 22 points and 11 assists to earn Player of the Month for the Eastern Conference.

"There's no beef or anything that's going on," said Irving, who shot 14 of 22, including 9 of 12 in the second half, and didn't play Dec. 1 when Wall scored a season-high 35 points. "The validation between me and him as players is what it is, and if that's dictated between the fans and the votes then that's what it is. I mean, All-Star voting has been that way for a few years now. It has nothing to do with the respect that we have for one another. He's a great player in this league and he's going to continue to be a great player for years to come."

Wall started in the All-Star Game last year over Irving, but he didn't make third-team All-NBA while Irving did.

The fact is they play the same position but are completely different players. Wall is a distributor who makes role players like Temple (21 points) and Gary Neal (13 points) better en route to his 19th game with double-digit assists. Irving only had three assists. When the shots are falling, Irving's style can be a hindrance while Wall isn't reliant on shooting to be effective. That wasn't the case here.

"He did a great job getting into the paint," Wall said. "They knew we were switching pick-and-rolls and stuff like that with every guard we had so whoever they wanted to attack in the pick-and-roll, they ran ran pick-and-rolls, we switch it and was able to get shots, get into the rhythm and get baskets also."

With the score tied at 95, Irving went on a personal 10-0 run: He beat Temple on the drive, got around Jared Dudley for an All-Star Game-like, acrobatic finish at the rim, drained a jump shot, made 2 of 3 free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt and then made a difficult finish over Nene in the paint.

"That was nuts. He's by far one of the best one-on-one players in our game," Cavs teammate J.R. Smith, who had 25 points, said. "To do what he's done and (be out) months and still be able to come out there and shake and bake like he's doing is remarkable. I don't think there is any question who the real All-Star is."

[RELATED: Redskins players turn out for Wizards-Cavaliers]

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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