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Trash talking in pro sports: John Wall, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and others weigh in

Trash talking in pro sports: John Wall, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and others weigh in

Trash talking among professional athletes is something few people can probably relate to, the concept of telling one of the best on the planet at what they do that you are better than them, then backing that up often with brute physical force. Who does that?

In professional sports, it is of course quite common, though the prevalence and tone varies by league. In the NBA, for instance, it is not nearly as common as it used to be. It isn't necessarily a lost art, but the players agree there are specific reasons why you don't see it as often anymore.

"You get technical fouls, so you can't," Wizards guard John Wall said. "Now if you even dunk and turn to yell at somebody, you get a technical. Back then they were yelling in people's faces, pointing at them and all type of stuff with no technicals. It's a lot different era now."

"Nowhere near as much as it did back in the day. That comes with technical fouls… That's what kills it, right there," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. "They're giving out techs left and right, man, like they are regular fouls. If you get a certain amount then you're suspended for a game. They fine you so much that you just kinda keep the talk to yourself and play. That's the type of league that it is now."

For Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr, it is a different dynamic now that he is in the pros.

"In AAU and high school, I was a big trash talker," he said. "But as I got older, I started to see the level of competition changing and the respect growing. I respect a lot of the guys I’m playing. I’m not going to talk trash to you unless you talk to me. Then, I kind of get that little switch on. It’s like ‘okay, he likes to talk trash.’"

Plenty of trash talking still goes on. Younger players, for example, often hear it from veterans. Wizards rookie Tomas Satoransky came over to the NBA this past summer after seven years in professional basketball overseas. He knew he would hear it some from NBA players and he ultimately did from one in particular.

"To be honest, I thought it would be worse. You don't talk that much trash in Europe. Maybe between some rivals or between the players you know, but I thought it would be worse," Satoransky said. "The only guy who really talked to me was Brandon [Jennings] when he used to be in New York. Other than that, it has been fine."

Satoransky pointed across the locker room at the Verizon Center when he said that, as he and Jennings are now on the same team. Jennings was signed by the Wizards as a free agent on Feb. 28. 

When informed of Satoransky's story, Jennings burst out laughing.

"For real? I remember that, too," Jenning said. "I think I was guarding him full court and I was just talking mess to him like 'yeah, rook, welcome to the league.' Things like that. That's funny. Now we're teammates. I do a little bit of trash talking."

[RELATED: With his NBA window closing, Wizards' Gortat is improving with age]

Jennings admits he likes to talk trash and can pinpoint where and when he learned how. It all came from a player others mentioned when asked who was the best they had ever come across.

"I kind of got it from [Kevin Garnett] a lot in my rookie year when I first came into the league," Jennings said. "I remember me and KG, we got into an incident when we were walking back to the locker room. I think we had just beat Boston in Milwaukee and KG was talking crap and I was talking back. I guess some of his trash talking rubbed off on me."

Wall also mentioned Garnett.

"He would be talking to himself, but sometimes he would talk to you, too," he joked.

Wall has been known to do some talking on the court, as evidenced by this highlight against the Hornets where he gave Marco Bellinelli an earful:

But the Wizards' All-Star insists he and others are held back by the refs.

"Ain't nobody, really," he said when asked who is the best trash talker in today's game. "I used to be a pretty good one until I started getting techs."

Wall may downplay his ability to talk and use words to get inside the heads of his opponents. But his teammates have noticed his abilities over the years.

"John is a little crazy, man. He's a little crazy," guard Bradley Beal said with a grin. "He's a little hothead. It's cool. I don't mind it. That's his competitive nature."

"He doesn’t really talk to anybody unless they talk to him. That’s the thing," Oubre said. "If they try him and try to rip him or do different things, he’ll give you a flex. He’ll give you a ‘I’m too strong for you.’"

Of the four major sports, the most trash talking goes on in the NFL. Watch a game on television and that much is obvious. It is such a physical game and there are many one-on-one matchups. That gives way to constant conversations after the play. 

That trash talking goes on in football should not surprise anyone. But as Redskins defensive lineman A.J. Francis explains, it is worse in some games than others.

"It's not a big part of every game, but there can be games where it takes over every play so it really depends on how well the teams and players know each other," he said.

Francis said the best trash talkers in the NFL are mostly those who people would expect: Richard Sherman, Richie Incognito, Bruce Irvin and Robert Ayers. He also mentioned Tom Brady as being one of the best.

"Brady is a great trash talker," Francis said. "He can give it to anyone, and 95 percent of the time he backs up everything he says."

[RELATED: Nats players share funniest, most disturbing stories of fan heckling]

In hockey, there are plenty of words exchanged throughout the game. It is, after all, the only major sport where fighting is allowed. Often players come to blows after a quick conversation.

Capitals forward Tom Wilson is known for fighting and admits he likes to talk.

"I'd say I'm probably one of our more vocal guys… The regular season is usually pretty tame. The playoffs is fair game for anything. It gets pretty emotional. The Philly series last year got pretty ruthless," Wilson said. 

"Any dirt you have on a guy, or whatever. There's always a line. At the end of the day, the nature of the game is play really hard and tear your opponent's head off and then afterwards go have good sportsmanship. You put it behind you, so you never want to cross the line too much so that you're going to regret something you said on the ice. I always think you play within the whistle and if you need to get the upperhand with a couple of words, then so be it."

Wilson said that sometimes he plays his best hockey when he is talking often to the other team. That means he is playing with emotion and is locked in to the moment. 

But this year Wilson has made a concerted effort to make sure he doesn't go too far.

"I'm trying this year to talk to [head coach Barry] Trotz and just keep it down a little bit and show it in my play and not necessarily in my words," Wilson said. "Sometimes the best response is nothing. You can get another team pretty frustrated if they are trying to bully our team and get our team disheveled and you just don't see a response, all you see is us going out line after line. "

Baseball has the least trash talking of the four major sports and the reasons why make sense. Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer says it's the fact success is so fleeting.

"It just doesn't work in this game," he said. "It's because everybody goes through failure at an unreal rate. There are two types of baseball players: humble ones and ones that are about to be humbled. Any time in baseball that you start talking trash, it just takes one bleeding hit to completely change your whole outing."

[RELATED: Whiteside accidentally earned Gortat career milestone]

Nats shortstop Trea Turner thinks it's more about how the game is policed. There is a certain type of danger in baseball that the other sports don't have.

"It's hard doing stuff in baseball because at any point in time the pitcher can throw a ball at your head. Nobody wants that. Then, if you throw it at somebody's head or whatever it may be, then the other side may respond with the same thing. You've gotta be more careful in baseball than you do in football. In football, you know the contact's coming and you're expecting it. In baseball, you're not expecting somebody to throw at you," he said.

Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman just doesn't see the point, given the dynamics of the game.

"Me talking trash at first base would do nothing because the guy's already gotten to first base," he said. "We play so many games. We play every single day. It's so hard to get that fired up to try to talk trash to another grown man… Baseball's pretty lame in that way."

Nats right fielder Bryce Harper has been known to do some talking on the field. After hitting a home run off Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland in the 2014 NLDS, he was caught on camera shouting to Strickland from the dugout. Harper also famously blew a kiss to an opposing pitcher after hitting a home run with Single-A Hagerstown.

That side of Harper can be brought out, but he says it is not normally in his nature.

"I never really trash talked. I just wasn't into it," he said. "I would knock your head off if I was playing football, but I'm not going to knock somebody over and then talk crap to them. I'm just more about going out there, having fun and enjoying the game. The guy that's going to win is going to win. If you're on the losing side, then that sucks for you."

[RELATED: Wizards' rookie Satoransky has crazy stories about fans in Europe]

Trash talking happens more in the NBA and for the Wizards, it all depends on their opponent. Not surprisingly, the Boston Celtics are one of those teams.

The Wizards and Celtics have had several run-ins this year. Wall was ejected from a game for a flagrant foul on Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Wall and Jae Crowder were fined after a postgame altercation in Boston. And then on Jan. 24, both sides did some talking ahead of their matchup and the Wizards wore all black to the game.

Put the Wizards and Celtics on a court and naturally, some words will be exchanged.

"That's Boston. We get into it with them a lot," Morris said. "You want that. It adds fuel to the fire. It makes the game more exciting, I think."

"We still jibber-jabber, especially with Boston," Beal said.

Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas will readily admit that. He says he's the best trash talker in the NBA.

"Talking is a part of the game. I love talking," he said. "I grew up on the best trash talker ever in Gary Payton. I know how to do that and I can continue to play while talking. As long as we keep it hoop, we can talk all we want."

The Celtics are known for their talking and so are the L.A. Clippers. Oubre said the Clips have a reputation around the league for being very good at it. Having Paul Pierce and Alan Anderson, whom Oubre said is one of the best in the NBA, on their bench doesn't hurt. Much of NBA trash talking comes from the bench, anyways.

Don't count out the Wizards, however. If another team starts it, they will gladly play along.

"I think we all are [good at it], to be honest," Wizards guard Trey Burke said.

"We can be pretty good if y’all test us. We’re gonna kill you on the court and then talk to you," Oubre said.

Tarik El-Bashir contributed to this report

[RELATED: Brandon Jennings recounts the first time he met John Wall]

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Reeling Wizards hope to shift momentum in playoff race as they host red-hot Pacers

Reeling Wizards hope to shift momentum in playoff race as they host red-hot Pacers

The Wizards' playoff hopes just keep taking hits. Washington fell on Friday night in their first game back from the All-Star break, making that eight losses in 11 games. Meanwhile, the eighth-seed Pistons won, pushing the Wizards to four games back from a playoff spot.

With 23 games remaining in their season, the odds are increasingly stacked against the Wizards making the playoffs, a goal they maintain despite the injuries that have plagued them so far. 

Basketball-Reference.com handicaps postseason chances and the Wizards currently hold a higher likelihood of winning the draft lottery (7%) than they did making the playoffs (4.8%). 

If teams maintain their current course for the remainder of the regular season, the threshold to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference should fall somewhere close to 39 wins. The Pistons are on pace for 38.8 wins as they sit in the final spot.

At 24-35, the Wizards need to go 15-8 from here on out to get to 39. That's a .652 win percentage. Basically, the Wizards would have to play at a 53-win pace for more than a quarter of a season.

For a team that has shown no signs recently of going on an extended run, that seems highly unlikely. For it to happen, they would need a sudden defensive overhaul.

Their offense, even in this 11-game skid, has been fine. During this stretch, they have been third in the NBA in points per game (118.8), second in field goal percentage (49) and eighth in offensive rating (114).

The defense has been an unmitigated disaster. They have surrendered more points than any team (123.4) and the highest field goal percentage (49.5) and three-point percentage (42). 

The Wizards found salary cap relief in their deals before the trade deadline, but didn't add much in the way of a defensive upgrade. 

Jabari Parker is known for his scoring and made headlines earlier this year about how teams don't pay players for defense. Bobby Portis, though a capable rebounder, doesn't block a good deal of shots. 

Looking at their current roster, it's hard to see where the defensive upgrade will come from. Guys like Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza can't stop teams on their own.

The Wizards did not get off to a good start after the All-Star break with their loss to the Hornets, but will get another chance quickly as they host the Indiana Pacers for a 7 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington.

The Pacers, who hold the No. 3 seed in the East at the moment, charge in having won seven of their last eight games. Technically, it represents an opportunity for the Wizards to punch back against a playoff team, though they will take a win against anyone at this point.


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Bradley Beal’s outrageous outing vs. Hornets highlights both good and scary for Wizards

Bradley Beal’s outrageous outing vs. Hornets highlights both good and scary for Wizards

All-Star Bradley Beal returned from the break Friday night with an All-NBA performance.

The Wizards still lost 123-110 at Charlotte.

Within those two sentences there's hope and fear for this season and beyond.

Beal destroyed the Hornets for a season-high 46 points. His work over 42 minutes included high-level efficiency – 16 of 25 from the field, sank all 10 of his free throws plus seven assists and one turnover – and powerful moments. 

Beal scored 26 points in the second half, including 10 of Washington’s 23 in the final period. The Hornets knew where to focus their defensive effort. Washington’s leading scorer couldn’t have cared less and turned in arguably his best all-around game of the season.

When viewing a Wizards team going forward this season and especially next year for however long the injured John Wall sits, performances like this from Beal offer hope. Add starter-worthy help this summer, let Beal’s vibe lead the way and perhaps the team isn’t climbing uphill from the start next campaign.

Finding steady assistance now is the dilemma. If the Wizards intend on bringing back many of the current pieces, that dilemma could linger.

The non-Beal’s made only 10 more baskets than Beal and finished 26 of 72 (36.1 percent) from the field. Their collective assist-to-turnover numbers (17-12) explain some unsteady moments, especially during the second quarter when Charlotte rallied after Washington led 38-27. They tried. They just didn’t offer enough as Washington lost for the eighth time in 11 games.

Washington insisted veteran forward and 2019 unrestricted free agent Trevor Ariza remains in its plans beyond this season. That’s understandable based on Ariza’s historically strong two-way play even if his age (33) and possible contract demands (earned $15 million this season) offer potential downside.

The Wizards haven’t received the full-throated version since the trade with the Suns sent Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix. Ariza had 10 points on 4 of 13 shooting (2 of 7 from deep) against the Hornets. Usually a viable perimeter threat, Ariza entered Friday shooting 31.9 percent on 3-pointers. Oubre, a consistent clank during his four-year career, is hitting 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. 

Ariza’s addition offers more than just scoring, and some aspects are not easily quantifiable. Some numbers that attempt that feat are not in love. Ariza’s PER (13.1) trails Oubre’s (16). 

Chasson Randle and Wesley Johnson are not Washington’s most curious backup guard tandem this decade. They might be close, however. Other contenders usually played behind Beal and Wall, thus limiting the downside.

Johnson missed all five of his field goal attempts against the Hornets, while Randle played a basic 13 minutes. The Wizards' bench was outscored 38-21.

Head coach Scott Brooks resorted to a big lineup with Beal as the lone guard. This maneuver worked easier with Otto Porter or, at least defensively, Oubre on the court. Neither lives here anymore.

Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant offer Brooks two energetic interior options. With their size, mobility and shooting range, they seem like a viable pairing. For a team battered on the boards all season, using Bryant and Portis together conceivably boosts Washington’s rebounding chances. 

Brooks skipped using them together much before this game. Their defensive struggles against Charlotte showed why. Washington was outrebounded 53-43 all the same.

This team looks nothing like the one Brooks coached during his first two seasons. Only Beal, Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahinmi played for the team that came within one game of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals. 

Ideally, Brooks’ patchwork lineup generates needed momentum while a playoff berth remains in reach. Washington (24-35), now a season-worst 11 games under .500, fell four games back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff berth. 

Conceivably, this core returns next season. Washington opened salary cap space by trading Porter’s hefty contract. Keeping Ariza, Jeff Green, Satoransky, Portis and Bryant eats up much of that space. Growth from 2018 first round pick Troy Brown and the arrival of a player with a 2019 first round selection increases the upside. The hope for a turnaround comes from those that faced Charlotte Friday night.   

The non-Beal’s can do more now. Asking extra from Beal is outrageous, even if the shooting guard suggests that’s possible.

“I wish I could pinpoint on one thing,” Beal told reporters postgame when asked how this team finds a winning path. “But I just have to elevate my play, that’s all I know I can do is elevate my play and my leadership to do whatever it takes.”

That Beal believes more is possible is why he’s a keeper. None of us should doubt him considering the strides made during his second All-Star season. His determined approach is the kind found with contenders.

Even two-time All-Stars need help. Beal’s teammates must provide some quickly to keep hope alive this season as the organization ponders plans for the next one.