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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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10 must-see moments from Wizards' wild OT win over Blazers, including John Wall's Jordan shrug

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10 must-see moments from Wizards' wild OT win over Blazers, including John Wall's Jordan shrug

The Washington Wizards beat the Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 in overtime on Monday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. We will get to the game, and we will get to many things done by the Wizards, but we begin with a moment from pregame. Apparently, it was Halloween costume night for the Blazers and Moe Harkless stole the show by dressing up as Tyrone Biggums from Chappelle's Show:

Adam Silver, if you're reading this, please institute a rule requiring every team to do a Halloween costume arrivals night. You owe us this.

2. Okay, now for the game. Kelly Oubre Jr. was one of the stars of the night with 22 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Here is one of his first buckets, a shot off the glass that was not an easy one to get to go down:

3. In the first half, Bradley Beal picked up right where he left off last time he was in Portland when he dropped a career-high 51 points. He had 19 of his 25 total points in the first half, including this baseline drive after a nasty crossover:

4. Markieff Morris also had himself a night. He popped off for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and a career-high six threes. This was an athletic move around the rim you don't often see from Morris:

Was that some jelly from Keef? Not bad.

5. John Wall had a relatively quiet night for his standards with 16 points on 5-for-16 from the field with nine assists. Here was his best play, one of his signature chasedown blocks:

6. Back to Oubre. He was feeling it and even got Steve Buckhantz to drop a 'Tsunami Papi' reference on the broadcast:

For Buckhantz, as Oubre would say, "the wave is free."

7. Beal went cold in the third quarter, missing his first seven shots of the second half. But he got his groove back when the Wizards needed it most.

This three answered a go-ahead shot by Nik Stauskas and forced overtime:

Beal was super pumped:

8. Two of Morris' six threes came in overtime, including this one to help seal the victory. Morris knocked one down with only 38.5 seconds left and it put the Wizards up by four:

9. Wall helped put the Blazers down for good with a bank shot from the elbow. Some might say it was lucky, while others would say he called game:

Wall even had to hit the Blazers with a Jordan shrug. Portland has seen that before.

10. The Blazers had a chance in the final seconds, but Otto Porter Jr. put the finishing touches on the win with this block on Damian Lillard's buzzer-beater attempt. Though Porter didn't have huge numbers - he scored 16 points - his fingerprints were all over this win:

What an incredible game. We can all agree the Wizards and Blazers should play more often. Well, maybe not the Blazers. The Wizards have had a lot of fun at their expense in recent years.

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Five observations from Wizards' thrilling overtime win over the Blazers, including Markieff Morris' career night

Five observations from Wizards' thrilling overtime win over the Blazers, including Markieff Morris' career night

The Washington Wizards beat the Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 in overtime on Monday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Wild game, huge win: Though it was just the third game of the regular season, it felt like the Wizards needed this one. They had just lost their first two games to teams missing key players and battling through the second nights of back-to-backs. And up next is the defending-champion Warriors.

Lose this one and the Wizards could have put themselves in a very tough early season hole, but they rallied to overcome a sluggish offensive start to the second half to secure their first victory of the season.

Considering the alternative, this was about as important a win could be this early in the year.

Oubre showed some life: The shots finally started falling for Kelly Oubre Jr. After shooting just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 for three in his first two games, Oubre broke out with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 3-for-3 from three in this one. He also added six rebounds, a steal and a block.

To his credit, Oubre didn't force anything out of frustration after the way he started the season. He began the night by calmly knocking down a three from the slot, then attacking the rim for a shot off the glass a play later. Oubre was aggressive getting into the lane and scored with both hands.

This was, quite easily, Oubre's best performance so far in 2018-19, including the preseason. He was active deflecting the ball on defense and played controlled, intelligent basketball on offense. 

There were many plays he made that won't show up in the box score that helped lead the Wizards to their win; deflections, a huge charge taken in the final minutes of overtime. He was absolutely locked in.

Now, there were some lowlights. Oubre let several players get by him too easily, including Evan Turner and Jake Layman. Oubre has the tools to stay in front of those guys. But all in all, Oubre made a big difference in this game and that was good to see.

Morris balled out: While Oubre had his best game in the past few weeks, Markieff Morris may have had his best performance in a Wizards uniform. The Wizards forward exploded for 28 points in 25 minutes with nine rebounds, a block and a steal. He set a career-high with six threes made on 10 attempts.

Two of Morris' threes came in overtime, including one with 38.5 seconds left to put the Wizards up by four. His role in closing out the win in Portland brought back memories of his game-winner in the same building in March of 2017.

Morris is one of the biggest wild cards on the Wizards because it's not always clear which version of him they are going to get. When he's at his best, he's hitting outside shots and playing physical defense. He did that and more on Monday night.

With Dwight Howard out, the Wizards need Morris to step up. Though he didn't exactly do that in their first two games, Morris came to play in this one.

Beal went off early: This game was billed as the return of Bradley Beal to the Moda Center where he dropped a career-high 51 points last December. It took him a bit to get going, but once he did, Beal caught fire and scored at a pace that for a while was reminiscent of that amazing night.

Beal had 19 points in the first half on 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-4 from three. But then he cooled off a bit in the second half and finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and one block. He had zero turnovers.

Beal has now scored at least 25 points in five straight games against the Blazers. Clearly, he likes playing in Portland but one reason for his success against them may deal with C.J. McCollum. 

Beyond the fact facing one of the best shooting guards in the NBA may bring the best out of him, Beal is a tough cover for McCollum because he's more athletic. He's a tick faster and can get higher on his jumpshot. 

McCollum is an underrated defender, but Beal kept him off balance with well-timed pump fakes and consistently got open off screens. Beal's points were mostly within the rhythm of the offense. He was moving consistently without the ball and using the smallest of separation to get his shots off.

Beal also deserves credit for his defense against McCollum. The Blazers star was limited to 13 points on 5-for-25 from the field and 1-for-9 from three. 

Damian Lillard also had a rough shooting night. He had 29 points, but on 7-for-21 from the field and 2-for-10 from three. Many of his points came at the free throw line where he went 13-for-15, 13 of his attempts in the first half.

Two centers are now hurt: The day began with head coach Scott Brooks sharing some bad news about Howard, who not only did not make the trip with the Wizards but is likely to miss at least several more games. Not too long into this game, they lost their backup center, too.

Ian Mahinmi was subbed out after getting two quick fouls and never returned. He went to the locker room to get treated with back spasms, leaving the Wizards perilously thin at the center position. They had to rely on Jason Smith and using forwards Markieff Morris and Jeff Green in small-ball lineups. Thomas Bryant still didn't get the nod.

Back spasms do not sound serious, but any time Mahinmi is unavailable puts a strain on the Wizards. It brings into focus the fact the Wizards have not one, but two roster spots currently vacant. 

 

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