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Anzejs Pasecniks thrilled to finally make NBA debut alongside fellow Latvian Davis Bertans

Anzejs Pasecniks thrilled to finally make NBA debut alongside fellow Latvian Davis Bertans

WASHINGTON -- Major history was made in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night, an event that will have international ramifications.

No, not that. For the first time in the NBA, two teammates from Latvia played together in the same game.

With a rash of injuries to their frontcourt, the Wizards brought up center Anzejs Pasecniks from their G-League team to play the Bulls on Wednesday. That paired him with Davis Bertans, who is affectionately known as the 'Latvian Laser.' 

The Wizards lost the game in overtime, 110-109. It was a crushing defeat that saw them blow an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.

But Bertans and Pasecniks couldn't help but smile when discussing what Wednesday night meant to them and their country.

"You can't even imagine what kind of a small possiblity that is," Bertans said. "It's an amazing feeling. It just shows that basketball in Latvia is growing very rapidly."

"We are from a small country. Every time something big happens, all the people in Latvia are happy. It's big for Latvia, having four NBA players. I say 'hi' to all the Latvian basketball fans," Pasecniks added. 

Only two million people live in Latvia, about the population of West Virginia. Yet, they can now count four NBA players, as Pasecniks said; him, Bertans, Kristaps Porzingis of the Mavericks and Rodion Kurucs of the Nets.

Though Kurucs is the youngest, Pasecniks was the last to debut. He was a first round draft pick in 2017, but took three NBA seasons to finally see game action. 

Pasecniks played for Gran Carania in Spain for two years, as the Sixers stashed him in Europe, before he was waived in July. He caught on with the Wizards two days later, first with a spot on their Summer League team. That led to a training camp invitation with the Capital City Go-Go and then a two-way contract with the Wizards.

Pasecniks, who turns 24 on Friday, played 12 games with the Go-Go before getting called up to make his debut for the Wizards. Despite having no NBA experience and having a raw offensive skillset, he played quite well with nine points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

It was enough to exceed some expectations.

“I thought he was terrific. Yes, he was terrific," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He’s big at the basket, pretty good hands. He knows how to play, makes good passes, makes good reads, and he is only going to get better. He’s a young player. We are going to keep giving him some confidence."

Pasecniks said he learned the night before the game he was going to play, though he didn't expect to play as much as he did. He said what helped was that the Go-Go run the same playbook and terminology as the Wizards.

"When I got on the court, I feel like I knew what to do and the plays. I felt like a part of the team," he said.

Pasecniks had a 'welcome to the NBA' moment on Wednesday. While he was standing under the rim, Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. went up for a rebound and came down with an elbow to Pasecniks' face. It knocked the Wizards rookie to the ground and Carter was assessed a flagrant foul. 

Pasecniks was sporting a gash on his right cheek, right under his eye. But that was from the day before when he got clocked by a teammate during the Wizards' practice. 

Such is life as an NBA player. But that last part is all Pasecniks cares about now: he's an NBA player.


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NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

While we wait for the 2019-20 NBA season to return from suspension, the league may have found another way to entertain us. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring several high-profile players, though they are unnamed as of now. 

In this case, players would shoot by themselves, presumably at their homes, and go shot-for-shot with other players remotely. The great thing about H-O-R-S-E is all you need to be able to do is shoot, leaving the door open for former players like Paul Pierce to get in on the fun. 

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen NBA players playing H-O-R-S-E on television. Back in 2010, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played each other in H-O-R-S-E as a part of All-Star weekend. As you'd expect, Durant won. 

This follows the NBA kickstarting the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Friday, where 16 NBA stars play each other in an NBA 2K20 tournament for charity. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura headline the event that is expected to run until April 11. 

According to Woj, the details on the H-O-R-S-E competition are still being finalized with the league and ESPN, who'd ultimately air the event. 

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Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said -- as if there was going to be any doubt -- that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant's death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.

“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him."

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.

Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He also was part of Boston's 2008 NBA title.

“This is the culmination," Garnett said. “All those hours ... this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer' is everything."

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

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