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Wizards fall apart in Charlotte, fall to 0-6 overall

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Wizards fall apart in Charlotte, fall to 0-6 overall

Though winless through their initial five games this season, at least the Wizards could lay claim to being competitive in each game. That is no longer the case.

Disastrous offensively in the second quarter against a Bobcats squad that no longer resembles last season's historically awful team, Washington trailed by double digits by halftime and never recovered, falling 92-76 loss at Charlotte on Tuesday night. The Wizards' record stands at 0-6 for the second straight season.

Washington jumped out to a 7-0 lead, maintained a five-point cushion at different times in the first quarter on the strength of Trevor Ariza's two 3-pointers and 12 points, and led 27-23 after one. It was downhill from there, especially in the shooting department.

The Wizards finished a dreadful 5 of 31 (16.1 percent) from beyond the arc, including a stretch of 13 consecutive misses, and 29.8 percent (25 of 84) overall. Subtract the opening 12 minutes and if possible the accuracy numbers look even worse; after making 11 baskets in the first quarter, Washington finished 14 of 58 (24.1 percent) overall and 1 of 20 on 3-pointers over the final three quarters.

Down 52-39 at halftime and despite all that missing, Washington somehow found itself only down by nine points after the third quarter and 74-67 with 10:33 remaining following two Martell Webster free throws. It took nearly five minutes for the Wizards to score again, allowing the Bobcats (3-3) to extend the lead and eventually push the margin to a whopping 21 points.

In four games last season against Charlotte - all wins - Washington never trailed by more than six points in any of them. During two meetings they never trailed at all.

Charlotte's energetic rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, selected one pick ahead of Beal in the 2012 draft, set the tone with 12 of his 15 points coming before halftime. Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and ex-Wizard Brendan Haywood grabbed 11 rebounds and scored eight points as the Bobcats won their second straight game. Last season Charlotte won seven games, none consecutive and set the NBA record for lowest winning percentage in a season.

Ariza, who has struggled offensively since joining Washington, scored 19 points. He was also the only Wizard to reach double figures. Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal each scored eight points. The starting backcourt of Beal and A.J. Price shot a combined 3 of 23 and missed 11 of 13 three-point attempts.

Whatever flow the Wizards had early disappeared into the Charlotte night by the second quarter. Washington missed 12 of 15 shots, including all seven from beyond the arc, committed five turnovers and was outrebounded 17-7. Kidd-Gilchrist's non-stop hustle and rim-attacking plays fueled the Bobcats' offense. Charlotte closed the half on a 12-2 run for a 52-39 lead.

Even a positive note like the Wizards reaching the free throw line 32 times after taking only seven attempts in Saturday's loss at Indiana is undone by the team only making 21 of their opportunities. Charlotte shot less than 40 percent from the field, but committed only 12 turnovers, outscored Washington 46-24 in the paint and made 27 of 32 (84.4 percent) from the foul line.

The Bobcats played the game without perimeter threat Ben Gordon, who left before the game due to a family situation, and last season's leading scorer Gerald Henderson, out with a foot injury. Meanwhile only the 0-8 Pistons currently have a worse record then the Wizards, who started the 2011-12 season with eight straight losses.

Before tonight, the perception of this season's team - at least by those who only look at the overall record - is simply more of the same. Not true. There are no moral victories in pro sports, but these Wizards had chances to win virtually each of the previous five games even without stars John Wall and Nene. By most measures, this roster is improved, the attitude for sure, but short-handed is short-handed.

On this night, unlike the Wizards shooting, that perception is spot on.

Washington looks to avoid falling to 0-7 Wednesday night in Dallas.

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John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

John Wall knows the decision between loyalty and money is a tough one for Bryce Harper

In just a few months, Nationals star Bryce Harper could become one of the biggest free agents not just in baseball history, but sports history. He will decide whether to stay in Washington with the team that drafted him and oversaw his development as a young player, or to leave for another city.

Wizards guard John Wall has twice faced the prospect of free agency and twice has decided to sign contract extensions to stay in D.C. Though the salary structures of baseball and basketball are different, there are some parallels between the two. 

Wall has a unique perspective on the call Harper has to make and gave his opinion on the matter in a 1-on-1 interview on the latest episode of our Wizards Tipoff podcast.

"Well, it’s kind of tough. It depends on if you want to do it off of loyalty, or if you want to do it to make sure you make the most money you can make. That’s the toughest decision that you can have. I have the opportunity here where I have loyalty and I can also make the money, so that was a bonus and a plus for me in both situations," Wall said. 

Wall noted how as an NBA player he can have the best of both worlds. The league's collective bargaining agreement allows teams to pay players they drafted significantly more money.

That, however, has not stopped NBA stars from changing teams. Wall in many ways is an outlier as many superstars have left money on the table to depart their original teams. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George have all done that, to name a few. Kawhi Leonard could be next.

Harper, though, may also be able to make more money elsewhere. The Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox or some other team could conceivably offer more money than the Nats and there are some cities like L.A. and New York that could open up more endorsement opportunities.

There's no question it pays to be the best player on the Yankees. Look at Derek Jeter and how his stardom was boosted by that distinction.

Loyalty is also going to come into play for Harper and the past few days have shown he is a sentimental person, as he has talked about all the people he has connected with over the years and how much the Washington community means to him.

Wall took all of those things into account when he decided to stay in D.C. and not look elsewhere via free agency or trades, which have become commonplace for All-Star players in the NBA.

"It was how much what the city means to me is the reason I wanted to stay and what I want to bring here is a championship, it’s what I promise and I hope I can do that," Wall said. "My dad’s from here. Just the way they welcomed me from the first day I came here. Sticking with me through the tough times, when we wasn’t winning early on and then we started to win. The city just embraced me and I embraced the city back. It feels like home and I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else."

Though the difference in money likely won't be as drastic, Harper will have to choose how much loyalty and the human connection he has with people in Washington matters in his free agency decision. Wall knows the feeling.

Hear Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

After already making significant changes to their roster, the Wizards may not be done this offseason, as they have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs about a potential trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to a new report by ESPN

Read this from Adrian Wojnarowski:

Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who've talked with San Antonio, league sources said.

The Wizards certainly make sense as a Leonard suitor. They are in the East, meaning the Spurs could trade Leonard to them and not have to worry about facing him as often. Plus, they have a solid group of tradeable assets and ones that seem to fit the Spurs model.

Otto Porter is a versatile, young player under team control who plays an unselfish style and would likely embrace playing in a small market. He also has a salary ($26M in 2018-19) that isn't far off from Leonard's ($21M in 2018-19), so the money could be easily matched.

The Wizards also have Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two young and up-and-coming players. Plus, they have draft picks, though ones that are unlikely to convey as lottery selections.

The Spurs have reportedly been more interested in getting players that can help now rather than draft picks to rebuild. That makes sense, as they still won 47 games last year despite Leonard only playing in nine of them due to injury.

The question in any Wizards and Spurs talks would be whether they would want one of Washington's All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. It would be tough to imagine the Wizards parting with either guy for Leonard, who carries some risk not only because of his quadriceps injury but also because he can opt out of his contract and leave after next season.

Just because the Wizards have talked to the Spurs doesn't mean they are serious contenders for Leonard, but it does show they are serious about improving their roster this summer. If they got Leonard and didn't part with Wall and Beal, that would be some team.

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