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Wall yearns for Wizards to get Kevin Durant treatment in D.C.

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Wall yearns for Wizards to get Kevin Durant treatment in D.C.

Sometimes, the truth is uncomfortable. It also can downright hurt. While John Wall tried to measure his words carefully about fans of the Wizards who show up at Verizon Center for certain opponents, he couldn't help but be honest before Kevin Durant arrives with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Tuesday's game (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6:30 p.m. ET). 

What does he think of Wizards fans who undoubtedly will be cheering for Durant?

"You're going to hear some cheers tomorrow. You're going to see some chants and you're going to see jerseys but we need more fans supporting us if they want us to do well," Wall said. "That's like us going to another team putting on another jersey, they're (not) going to boo us when we come here?"

This means they're either not very loyal, passionate or too easily allow rival fans to shout them down despite being outnumbered. And I'll take it even a step further than Wall because I have a unique perspective of having covered the league on a national scale for a national publication. At Oracle Arena for the Golden State Warriors, long before they won the NBA championship like last season, this scenario would've never played out. I watched them blow a 20-point fourth-quarter lead to the Memphis Grizzlies on their way to 23 wins in the 2011-12 season, and it was sold out and boisterous that night and just the same two nights later vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. They've never struggled to fill those seats and their enthusiasm didn't come with strings attached.

What Wall was referencing would never happen in Portland or Memphis, or Dallas with the Mavericks or in Toronto with the Raptors, either. And definitely not Oklahoma City. Would it happen in Miami? Well, yes, because all you need to do is compare the number of Heat fans who show up at Verizon Center today vs. when LeBron James wore their colors. That's not the best company for Wizards fans to keep. 

"When you play Lakers and Knicks and Spurs and you have all these other fans here, it gets frustrating at times," said Wall, who already has played against the latter two at home this season. "Then they see it turn and you're winning, they all of a sudden want to be on one page. That's frustrating because we go out here and bust our tail everyday to try to compete and win for this city. We deserve the same kind of respect."

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During a game vs. the Spurs last week, with the score tied at 96 with 52 seconds left, it felt more like a road game. The jeers were audible as he tried to concentrate. This isn't the 29-win Wizards that they were three years ago. This is a team that made the conference semifinals the last two seasons with a legitimate chance to advance to the conference finals -- without Durant.

"I was getting booed at the free throw line," said Wall, who made both foul shots in what was a 102-99 win vs. San Antonio. "You can't control fans of any team. But I feel like the way this team has progressed in the years since I've been here, my rookie year we were getting no cheers when we played the Lakers and Knicks. It was straight boos fur us. I feel like we're making progress and winning and we have something special and we got the opportunity when we figure everything out, you got to respect and cheer for those guys that's putting in the work."

Wall considers Durant, a D.C. native who will be hotly recruited by the Wizards when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, a friend. They've trained together on the West coast where Wall lives during the offseason in the Los Angeles area and during time spent with USA Basketball in Las Vegas.

"We worked out a couple times. Even years past. That motivated me to want to work hard, not knowing what hard work really was. I worked hard but to see a player work to get to the level he's at it was even more (important)," Wall said. "The USA thing, we had a late-night workout, me him and James (Harden). I got workouts with those guys, multiple guys. Kevin is very selective on who he works out with."

There will be repeated questions about Durant. Everything he says will be decoded, minced and exaggerated between now and his free-agent decision. When July 1 comes, the day free agency opens around the league, let's hope Durant's decision is quick and painless. The rule of thumb is if a team courting a player doesn't get an affirmative quickly -- think of Trevor Ariza two years ago or Paul Pierce this past summer --  that player has other ideas and likely will head elsewhere.

"It's the same as I said last year. We can't worry about what Kevin Durant is doing. He's worried about his OKC team and me and Brad (Beal) and the 13 guys on our team, we're worried about the Washington Wizards," Wall said. "We're not here to tank and not try to make the playoffs and not trying to win a championship and do those things. Our main focus is the 15 guys on our team."

Based on Durant's words leading into this game, Wizards fans who show him too much love when he's wearing enemy colors may have good intentions but are disloyal. If he leaves town with that impression, then why would he ever want to play in D.C.? What if he realizes that often when the crowd gets loudest is during the fourth-quarter -- for a free chicken sandwich promo -- when an opponent misses two free throws?

I don't know the answer, and while there will be complaints about me pointing out this 800-pound elephant in the room (only because Durant and Wall brought it up first), it's certainly a fair question that he'll answer once and for all in nine months.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime? 

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Carmelo Anthony traded to Hawks in three-team deal, but not likely to stay

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USA Today Sports Images

Carmelo Anthony traded to Hawks in three-team deal, but not likely to stay

The stage has been set for Carmelo Anthony to hit free agency, as the 10-time All-Star was traded to the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday in a three-team deal, one that will lead to a subsequent buyout of his contract. ESPN first reported the news and noted that the Rockets are the favorites to sign him.

The full deal sends Dennis Schroder from the Hawks to the Thunder in exchange for Anthony and a protected first-round pick, and sends Mike Muscala from Atlanta to Philly. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will go to the Thunder from Philly and Justin Anderson will go from the Sixers to the Hawks.

That's a complicated deal, but it ultimately frees Anthony up to choose a new team. He was set to make $27.9 million from the Thunder next season, but the Hawks are footing the bill to let him walk.

Anthony's skills have declined now that he's 34 years old. Last season, he averaged 16.2 points on 40.4 percent shooting, way down from the 22.4 points he averaged the season before with the Knicks.

Still, Anthony could help a team looking for a scoring punch and the Rockets would like some more help in their quest to take down the Warriors. If he signs there, he will join friend Chris Paul and the 2017-18 MVP, James Harden. 

Houston has been the logical landing spot for Anthony ever since news broke that the Thunder were looking for a way out of his contract. If he doesn't go there, perhaps the Lakers would make sense. LeBron James is going to need a lot more help than the roster he currently has around him to make some noise in the crowded Western Conference.

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