Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards rally falls short in Cleveland

ap713770056515.jpg

Wizards rally falls short in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, Anderson Varejao had a career-high 23 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers opened the season with a 94-84 victory over the short-handed Washington Wizards on Tuesday night in the first game on the NBA schedule.

Rookie Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Cavs, who led by 16 in the third quarter but needed big plays from Irving and Varejao in the final minutes to hold off the Wizards, who scored the first 14 points of the fourth. Varejao had a career-high nine assists, two setting up dunks by Tristan Thompson in the last two minutes.

Jordan Crawford scored 11 points to lead the Wizards, who were without star point guard John Wall, power forward Nene and forward Kevin Seraphin. Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick, is expected to be out until late November with a knee injury.

Irving, the NBA's reigning rookie of the year, began his second season with a strong performance alongside Waiters, a surprising No. 4 overall pick. Waiters didn't start a game at Syracuse, but Cavs coach Byron Scott has been impressed with his progress and wanted to pair his two young guards together from the outset.

They played well in spurts, but made enough mistakes to keep Scott from giving them too much freedom.

The Cavs seemed to be on their way to a relatively routine win, but in a league where players are fond of saying "every team makes a run," the Wizards made theirs.

Down 61-45 in the third quarter and looking flat, Washington opened the fourth with its 14-0 spurt, taking a 76-74 lead when Jannero Pargo drained a 3-pointer from the corner. The Wizards rallied while Irving was getting some rest, and it wasn't long before Scott sent his young star back in to help restore order.

Irving's driving layup in traffic gave Cleveland an 82-80 lead, and he calmly stepped up and drained a 21-foot jumper to put the Cavaliers ahead 86-80.

With the Cavs up by four, Varejao, the Cavs' 6-foot-11 bundle of energy, fed Thompson underneath for a dunk to make it 88-84. Crawford made two free throws for Washington, and on Cleveland's next possession, Irving made a spin move in the lane and passed it to Varejao, who then upstaged his slick passing teammate with a feed to Thompson for another dunk.

Irving then rebounded a miss by the Wizards and it was his turn to pick up an assist to Thompson.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal scored eight points -- all in the first half -- and Emeka Okafor had 10 points. Washington coach Randy Wittman has high hopes for his young team, but he won't know what he has until he gets Wall and Nene back on the court.

Despite Cleveland's youth -- an average age of 24.9 years -- and inexperience, Irving believes the Cavs can contend for a playoff spot this season.

"That's the goal," he said.

The Cavs were in the playoff conversation for the first few months last season before Varejao broke his wrist and missed the final 41 games. As has been the case in the past, Varejao may draw trade interest from other teams and it will be interesting to see if the Cavs hang on to a player with unique talents.

Irving, who had four wisdom teeth pulled last week, hit his first shot of the season, a 3-pointer, and scored 12 points in the first quarter as the Cavs opened a 31-24 lead.

Notes: Washington was just 8 of 32 on 3-pointers, and missed some big ones in the fourth. ... Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden, a big Oklahoma City fan, and RB Trent Richardson, sat behind the Cavs' bench and they got a huge ovation when shown on the giant scoreboard in the second quarter. They sat with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in the second half. ... Before the game, Gilbert said he regrets guaranteeing the Cavs would win an NBA title before LeBron James, who left Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. "Looking back now, that probably was not the most brilliant thing I've ever done in my life," Gilbert said.

Quick Links

Expect Wizards trade rumor reboot with upcoming arrival of LeBron James, Lakers

lebronlakers.jpg
USA Today Sports

Expect Wizards trade rumor reboot with upcoming arrival of LeBron James, Lakers

LeBron James is coming to town. Normally the focus remains with the four-time MVP whenever he makes an appearance. Those looking beyond Sunday’s Lakers-Wizards meeting in Washington might split their concentration. Think trade.

The Wizards (11-17) are still trying for a foothold after early-season wobbles. Now 9-8 since a 2-9 start, they enter Friday’s game at Brooklyn having lost three in a row. The notion of adding help or breaking up the band exists. There are also salary cap concerns going forward.

Possible trade partners vary, but the Lakers may target All-Star level help to pair with James. The rumor mill is aware of those factors and constantly churning out ideas typically involving John Wall or Bradley Beal. All will take the court together this weekend.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith offered his own Washington-centric take to NBC Sports Washington following Wednesday’s Celtics-Wizards overtime thriller.

 “You have to trade Bradley Beal,” Smith said.

“The reason why you have to trade Bradley Beal is he’s three years younger (than Wall), he’s got two years less left on his contract, and if you scour the league every executive will tell you he’s the higher commodity because John Wall’s game is predicated on athleticism and speed and conditioning. Usually, father time says that dissipates, which means you’re going to lower in value.”

Wall’s four-year, $170 million contract extension begins next season. Beal, 25, signed a five-year, $128 million contract in 2016. Otto Porter is the highest paid player on the roster this season ($26.011 million). His deal includes a player option for the 2020-21 season.

Those salary numbers combined with production shines a light on Beal.

“He’s a shooter in a game where shooting is incredibly important in this day and age,” Smith said of Beal. “His value will only elevate. The fact is with Wall the perception is there’s a bad contract. In Porter, the perception is there’s a bad contract. In Beal, no one has called it a bad contract.

“So when you look at it from that perspective, he’s the guy that you may need to move in order to acquire the attributes that you need in order to make this team better down the line or at least get enough cap space so you can somewhat start over because you’re not going to get anybody to take John Wall’s contract right now.”

The Lakers may seek immediate help with the West wide open beyond the dominate Warriors. They also may not want to add long-term money or trade potential player assets including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Josh Hart. Los Angeles is expected to make plays for headliners Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard this summer.

As for the Wizards, reports of potential deals does not mean the team is actively shopping Wall and Beal or even considering such moves. Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia are the only Eastern Conference teams with at least two All-Stars from last season. If the Wizards are going to rally, those are the types of players needed. Does such thinking change if 11-17 turns into 22-28 as the Feb. 7 trade approaches? We’ll see.

All we know for sure is that James and crew will be in Chinatown Sunday night. We should probably just focus on that. Good luck with that.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Three things to watch for Wizards at Nets, including if Otto Porter will play

Three things to watch for Wizards at Nets, including if Otto Porter will play

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards take on Spencer Dinwiddie, D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen and the Brooklyn Nets. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington Plus. 

Here are three things to watch.

1. Will Porter play?: The Wizards may be getting a key player back on Friday with Otto Porter Jr. on the road back from a right knee contusion. He left Monday's game against the Pacers after suffering the injury, then missed Wednesday's game against the Celtics. The Wizards lost both of those games.

Porter, 25, was close to playing on Wednesday as a gametime decision, so it seems likely he will be available on Friday. If he does play, he will look for better success against the Nets than he has in their other match-ups this season. Through two games against Brooklyn, Porter is averaging only 7.5 points while shooting 35.3 percent from the field. He is 0-for-6 from three.

Porter, though, had been playing very well before the injury. In his previous three games, he was averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and a block. He shot 55.3 percent overall and 47.1 percent from three.

2. Wiz Need to Bounce Back: The Wizards head to a Brooklyn in the middle of a slump. They have lost three straight games following a three-game win streak that happened to begin against this same Nets team on Dec. 1. 

The Wizards have found some balance recently, having gone 9-8 in their last 17 games after going 2-9 to begin the year. But real, sustained momentum has been elusive. 

The Nets are a team that they should beat. This game begins a manageable stretch that includes some good teams like the Lakers and Pacers, but plenty of potential cupcakes like the Hawks, Suns and Bulls.

3. Nets On a Roll: Though the Nets (11-18) have an even worse record than the Wizards (11-17), they are on a bit of a roll. They have won three straight games, including an overtime victory over the Raptors and one on the road against the Sixers.

They held Toronto to only 105 points, including the extra period. And against the Sixers, they scored 127 points in regulation.

Spencer Dinwiddie has been leading the way, averaging 27 points and 6.3 assists during this three-game stretch. Allen Crabbe has also stepped up with 16 points and 4.3 boards per game.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: