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Wizards summer league: ready, set, goals

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Wizards summer league: ready, set, goals

The Wizards summer league prep winds down today before the team heads West.For the trio of second-year returnees and pair of drafted rookies, thepotential jackpot in Las Vegas is not solely about wins or stats but ratherachieving goals. In case there is any confusion as to what they areJan Vesely - Make some perimeter shots...Notexactly a stunner of a plan considering the Czech's dismal results last seasonon any anything other than a layup, putback or alley-oop. The oddity is his formlooks nice, even as a rookie. During portions of practice open to the media this week,Vesely was knocking down five in a row, 8 of 10 from deep . Granted, without a defender in sight.The general take on Vesely from frustrated fans and media folk reeks of lostcause. Recalibrate expectations people. In these modern times, the No. 6 pickis not an immediate slam-dunk option. More importantly, Vesely breezily runsand soars on the court, has strong basketball instincts and is tougher than helooks. At this point last year, most discussions about Kevin Seraphin involvedthe word "bust". Now, not so much. Vesely is ahead of Seraphinspace. Except with that shot. Without it, well, lets not go there just yet.
Chris Singleton - Don't worry, be happy...Because hewas the most NBA-ready of last season's trio of rookies and because the Wizardscomically losing ways were on display from the jump, Singleton's plate was fullearly last season. Too soon. Rather than allow the 18th overall pick atraditional adjustment afforded most non-top tier draftees, the Wizards thrustthe Florida State product into the starting lineup eight games in. They taskedhim with guarding the game's elite wing scorers. Game as he was, Singleton'soverall game suffered and in his eyes, an underachievingseason took place.Though Randy Wittman claims Singleton did not lose confidence during theseason, the stats and body language appeared otherwise. Singleton goes after itdefensively, has touch from deep, and understands his role. This summer,rebooting the confidence and forgetting the struggles boosts everything else.Shelvin Mack - Find the floor leader within...Theformer Butler star's transition to the NBA was not simply college to pro butpositional. He may have had the ball in his hands plenty during those FinalFour runs, but with different objectives in mind. The Wizards need asecond-team floor general. In Vegas, that's truly the case except Mack is thestarter, one the team needs to be steady so the entire process does not devolveinto everyone trying to get theirs."Just try to beconsistent. The overall thing is making sure we're winning every game, just tryto get into the offense as easy as possible and just try to make plays, takechances," Mack said following Monday's practice. "It's an opportunityfor me to work on my game. Bradley Beal - Blend in, but don't back down...Forall of Bryce Harper's gifts, the two that have stood out to this baseballobserver, plate patience and toughness. Not overanxious with the bat in hishands, the Nationals 19-year-old clearly is not your traditional wild rookie hacker.Though challenged by big leaguers looking to take down the prized prospect,Harper has not risen to the challenge, yet remained aggressive.Thats the formula for Beal. The wing guard's game is not about volume shooting,but picking moments, then seizing them with gusto. The No. 3 overall pick inthe NBA Draft is also aware "all the other rookies are going to be comingat me hard in Vegas. They will. Like Harper, remain poised, but remainaggressive. As Beal put it, "find my role within the team, dont forceanything, just have fun more than anything." Pretty sure the Nats youngAll-Star would concur.Tomas Satoransky - Leave us wanting more...By us I meanthe Wizards fan base, the chattering class and the entire NBA community.Intrigue surrounding international players often rises on American shores theless we see of them and apparently we wont see much of the Wizardssecond-round selection for a while after Vegas. If during these five games theathletic 6-foot-7 combo guard displays his high-end handle, his dunk contestwinning worthy hops, a flair for the game, we'll remember - and want more.

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Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still cant get John Wall on his podcast

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USA Today

Austin Rivers wants to interview Jay-Z and Barack Obama; still cant get John Wall on his podcast

Just one episode into his new podcast 'Go Off,' Wizards guard Austin Rivers is already learning plenty about the media world. With plans to become a television analyst when his playing days are done, Rivers is gaining a new appreciation for what it takes to speak at-length without stumbling over his words.

He's also starting to realize one of the biggest pain points for a media member: waiting on guests. Rivers has tried to line up interviews with his teammates and it's been much easier said than done.

Rivers is set to have Dwight Howard on as his first guest, but the original plan was point guard John Wall. Wall, though, has been giving him the runaround.

"That's the hardest thing is getting guests to show up," Rivers said. 

"It's impossible to get John on my podcast. At this point, I just don't expect it anymore. He says he'll do it next week and then the week comes. John has like 15 things to do a day. I don't know what these guys do. I play in the league, too. I know how un-busy my life is outside of this. And I've got a kid. John has a brand to run. He's a different level. Sorry, you can see the frustration on my face with not getting John on my podcast, man."

Rivers hopes to have many of his teammates on. He mentioned Kelly Oubre Jr. and how an interview with Oubre "might be a little out there." He also gave a hint about what his conversation with Howard will be like.

"I'm definitely gonna have some interesting topics to bring up with Dwight. I told him 'listen, you might want to check with your publicist before coming on my podcast.' We only talk about real conversations on here," Rivers said.

Rivers says he plans to start with fellow NBA players and then work in special episodes with guests outside of the league and even outside of basketball. He hopes to record an episode with financial advisors to talk about money and investments. He wants to take a deep dive into the AAU circuit and how it can be fixed.

Eventually, Rivers wants to aim very high with his guests. He gave a list of his dream interviews and there are some big names.

"Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade. Dwyane Wade is my favorite player. I'm gonna get Dwyane Wade on my podcast, for sure. I'm gonna go ahead and put that out there," Rivers said.

"Off-the-court, I would love to get Denzel Washington on there. That would be my dream... I want to do a podcast with me and my dad and Jaden Smith and Will Smith. I think that would be really dope, talking about parent-to-son success and how he related to his son to have a work ethic and how my dad did it to me."

Rivers went even higher. He wants to interview a president.

"I guess if I could go the highest, I would go Jay-Z or [Barack] Obama. But let's be realistic, here," Rivers said.

"[Interviewing Obama] would be incredible, bro. I would be so nervous. I'm not there yet, I'll be honest. I need like six or seven or eight more podcasts before I can get Obama on there because I'm gonna be stuttering. I can't do it with Obama yet. I don't know if I could handle Denzel right now."

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Why the 20-game marker of the season counts for these Wizards

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USA Today Sports

Why the 20-game marker of the season counts for these Wizards

The Washington Wizards improved to 5-9 with Wednesday’s 119-95 enjoyable destruction of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their three-game winning streak pushed the Wizards within 1 ½ games of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Nobody should burn much energy on the postseason chase in mid-November. However, history suggests trouble brewing if they don’t crack the top-8 this season by Nov. 26.

The date doesn’t actually matter. It’s about where it falls on Washington’s schedule. There is no true line of demarcation to indicate when those analyzing a team’s season can forgo with the “it’s still early” caveat.

Many suggest 20 regular season games eclipse small sample size talk. The Wizards hosts reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden and the Houston Rockets on that post-Thanksgiving evening.

When it comes to projecting which teams will make the playoffs, that 20-game marker proves quite accurate. That is why the Wizards need to continue surging.

Each season 16-playoff spots are available, split evenly between the Eastern and Western Conference. The league-wide schedule doesn’t work out cleanly where all NBA teams reach 20 games at the exact same time so we’ll use the Wizards’ as the pivot point.

Over the last five seasons, teams that occupied a playoff berth at the point where the Wizards played their 20th game held on to one of those 16 annual slots 83.7 percent of the time.

2017-18

East -- At the point Washington played 20 games, 7 of 8 teams seated in a playoff berth held on over the course of 82 games. The Pistons fell from second to the lottery while the Heat moved from 9th place into the elite eight. (Wizards start 7th at 11-9, finish 8th at 43-39)

West – 7 of 8. Nuggets fall; Thunder rise.

2016-17

East -- 5 of 8. Hornets, Knicks, Pistons; Pacers, Hawks, Wizards. (Wizards start 12th at 7-13, finish 4th at 49-33)

West – 8 for 8


2015-16

East -- 7 of 8. Bulls; Pistons. (Wizards start 11th at 9-11, finish 10th at 41-41)

West -- 7 of 8. Jazz; Blazers

2014-15

East -- 7 of 8. Magic; Celtics. (Wizards start T-2 at 14-6, finish 5th at 46-36)

West -- 7 of 8; Suns; Pelicans

2013-14

East -- 6 of 8. Pistons, Celtics; Raptors, Nets. (Wizards start 7th at 9-11, finish 5th at 44-38)

West -- 6 of 8. Nuggets, Suns; Warriors, Grizzlies.

Within each situation, explanations exist. The 2015-16 Bulls began the season with core players available, but their top-4 scorers including Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose missed a combined 50 games. Most of those absences came after the 20-game mark.

The 2017-18 Thunder needed an extra beat to find a rhythm with newly added All-Star Paul George. From an 8-20 start, they finished fourth in the Western Conference.

These 5-9 Wizards have their own tale. Eight of their opening 12 games were on the road. Washington lost six of eight. It also began the season without starting center Dwight Howard for the first seven games and opened 1-6.

“I think it’s different for team to team,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of how and when to assess teams early in seasons. “I think for [the Wizards], they’ve played a brutal schedule and then when you have a guy (Howard) who is going to be a big part of your team but is injured and couldn’t practice, it’s going to be longer even though they have a core group that has played together. …No matter what, schedule and health are a big part of it.”

Those aren’t the only factors, of course. Sometimes teams start as they finish. The Wizards going from 3-9 to 49 wins is often mentioned as the potential for this season, which began 2-9. Few note the 2015-16 campaign, the final one before head coach Scott Brooks’ arrival. That Washington team, loaded with upcoming free agents just like the current squad, essentially remained outside the playoff picture throughout.

Will these Wizards follow one of those paths or forge another? We’ll find out over the months ahead. Of course, just making the playoffs was never the goal for a team that reached the postseason in four of the previous five seasons. That’s according to Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.

“Well, we want to make the playoffs. We want 50 wins and I’d like to set a bar that says if we can’t get by the first round and the second round then we didn’t meet our goals,” Leonsis said in September.

For the franchise’s first 50-win since the 1978-79 season, the Wizards need a 45-23 record over the final 68 games. That 66.2 winning percentage required would have placed Washington third in the Eastern or Western Conference last season.

To advance to the conference finals, the Wizards likely need homecourt advantage in at least the first round. Over the last five seasons that meant winning at least 48 games. History suggests there isn’t much change among the top-4 seeds as 75 percent (30 of 40) of the top-4 seeds at the point when the Wizards have played 20 regular season games maintain that status.

2017-18

East -- 3 of 4; 76ers 5th to 3rd

West -- 3 of 4; Thunder T-9th to 4th

2016-17

East -- 3 of 4 (Wizards 12th to 4th)

West – 4 of 4

2015-16

East -- 3 of 4; Hawks rose from 8th to 4th, but their 58.5 winning percentage remained the same

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 4th

2014-15

East -- 3 of 4; Bulls 5th to 3rd

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 3rd

2013-14

East -- 2 of 4; Raptors 9th to 3rd, Bulls 8th to 4th

West -- 3 of 4; Clippers 5th to 3rd

If this three-game winning streak shows what is possible, the Wizards could reach the top-8 by the 20-game mark, though the schedule difficulty increases beyond Friday’s home meeting with Brooklyn. Also, look further up the standings. The Wizards are actually only three games out of the third seed; Indiana and Boston are 8-6.

The Wizards need to keep making moves, but they don’t need to fix all their ills over the next week either.

“They say it’s a marathon, and it is,” Brooks said after the Wizards fell to 1-6 on Oct. 30 following a loss in Memphis.

Brooks’ point was and is fair, but off-kilter starts can doom even Olympic runners over long distances. At some point along the journey, the pace must increase and assessments over what’s transpired kick in.