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Bradley Beal's second All-Star experience went much smoother than the first

Bradley Beal's second All-Star experience went much smoother than the first

CHARLOTTE -- There were some distinct differences for Bradley Beal between his second All-Star Game and his first. On Sunday in Charlotte, his second go-around, he didn't experience the jitters he got one year ago in Los Angeles.

"I was more comfortable. I wasn't even nervous. Even intros, everything just felt like I belong," Beal said.

He also noticed the effects of being a two-time All-Star. After checking in late in the third quarter, he ran over to the sideline to shake hands with some celebrities during a TV timeout. 

To his surprise, he needed no introduction.

"Never in a million years did I think Chris Tucker would know my name, let alone J. Cole and all these other guys. It's amazing," Beal said. 

Beal happens to be a big fan of both Tucker and Cole. He says he can quote all of Tucker's movies like Rush Hour, Friday and Money Talks.

Cole is also his favorite rapper. Beal saw him perform when he was in high school back in 2011 at the Jordan Brand Classic. Little did he know their paths would cross again.

Cole performed at halftime of the All-Star Game and, though Beal had seen him before, he didn't want to miss it. Some fans pointed out on Twitter that he returned for the second half without the headband he had in the first. The prevailing theory was that he wanted to change things up because he was 0-for-5 from the field.

No, that wasn't the reason.

"I was going to throw it back on, but they said J. Cole was performing. I sprinted out and forgot my headband," Beal said.

Beal didn't have his best game. He went 4-for-11 with 11 points and three assists. His highlights included a steal against Khris Middleton and a fastbreak dunk.

The slam included a few extra steps as he hesitated when he got the ball before dribbling to the rim. That had some on social media comparing it to his infamous travel from last week against the Pistons.

Beal laughed at the connection and quipped that fans can nickname him the 'Walking Bucket.'

Even after all the events on Friday, the media frenzy on Saturday and the pomp and circumstance of Sunday's game, Beal was engaging with the media and smiling as he spoke. Last year, he was dead-tired by the end of it all. Now, he's an All-Star veteran.


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The Mystics' playoff opponent was determined off one of the craziest endings you'll ever see

The Mystics' playoff opponent was determined off one of the craziest endings you'll ever see

It took until the final seconds of the Second Round of the WNBA Playoffs for the Washington Mystics to know their semifinals opponent. 

A ridiculous steal and desperation heave by Las Vegas Ace Dearica Hamby propelled the team to a victory over the Chicago Sky. The Aces now have a date with Washington in the next round.

As the clock was ticking down on potentially the final possession of the game, Las Vegas turned up the pressure on Chicago. With 14.6 seconds left and a two-point lead the Sky in-bounded the ball to Courtney Vandersloot. Chased, she hastily threw the ball up the court as Hamby made a phenomenal read on the ball for a steal. Stradling the sideline, she regained balance and lofted the game-winning shot with over five seconds left.

Watch it five times in a row and it still is unreal how it all played out.

Yes, it happened. The steal, followed by the bucket. No conservation of greatness there. Take another look.

After the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Seattle Storm in the earlier Second Round contest, the Mystics had to wait for the result of the No. 4 Aces- No. 5 Sky contest to know their semifinal fate. To get there, Las Vegas had to erase a 14-point second-quarter deficit. Liz Cambage led the way with 23 points. 

Results-wise, the Mystics had a favorable record against both the Sky and the Aces in the regular season. Top-seeded Washington took two out of three games against the Aces this year. However, Mystics-Aces games are known for being unconventional. One game was postponed mid-game because of an earthquake. Another matchup had a 20-minute delay due to the clocks shorting out.

The two squads will play a best-of-five series starting on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Now, just go back to watching that game-clincher on loop because it is a true basketball treat. 


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Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

Jordan McRae feels more comfortable ahead of Year 2 in Washington

WASHINGTON -- Wizards guard Jordan McRae made his way around the parish hall of St. Francis Xavier in Southeast Washington slowly, stopping to greet kids one-by-one and bending his 6-foot-7 frame down to take pictures and shake hands. He handed out bags of school supplies to underprivileged youth that said 'work hard, play hard.' He told them each "good luck in school."

It was a day McRae got to do something he feels like he could have done more of last year. He was giving back to the D.C. community and helping out with a cause he believes in. Last season, when he played through the uncertainty of a two-way contract, he didn't have a real chance to lay down roots in the Washington area.

But now back for a second year with the Wizards, and with an NBA contract and a possible rotation spot to seize, McRae feels a new sense of comfort in D.C. Though he has been in town for a year, now it is home.

"Since being in the NBA, this is probably the best opportunity I've gotten," he told NBC Sports Washington.

"Last year, it was tough. It was different from what I've been through before, just the unknown. Not knowing was the hardest part."

McRae, 28, came to the Wizards last summer after rehabbing a shoulder injury and playing overseas. But he had two years of NBA experience under his belt, including a championship ring from the 2015-16 season with the Cavaliers.

At the time, a two-way contract made sense for McRae. He had to prove he was healthy and needed a team to take a flier on him. The Wizards did, but they couldn't offer McRae much of an opportunity to play. They were entering another year with high expectations and had loaded up on veteran players in the offseason.

Things, of course, didn't go as planned for the Wizards but McRae didn't exactly benefit from the turmoil and roster turnover. He spent much of his time in the G-League, appearing in more games with the Go-Go (31) than he did with the Wizards (27). 

That was partly because late in the season McRae was close to maxing out the 45 days his two-way contract allowed him to spend at the NBA level. The Wizards had financial incentive to keep him in the G-League and in the final weeks of the season, when the two-way clock was no longer an issue, he suffered an Achilles strain that ended his season a few days early.

McRae felt like he showed the Wizards what he is capable of in his relatively brief time on the floor, but is looking forward to a more extended opportunity this season. 

"I'm a person who can play multiple spots. I can be on the court with Brad [Beal] or without Brad," McRae said. 

"I'm just looking forward to it. The opportunity is there. This is what you work for all summer, this type of opportunity."

There could be an opening for McRae at back-up shooting guard. The Wizards didn't address that position specifically this offseason like they did a year ago by trading for Austin Rivers. McRae may be their best option behind Beal.

It also may be the ideal spot for McRae, whose best attribute is scoring. He led the G-League last season with 30.3 points per game and showed some flashes at the NBA level as well. He scored 20 points or more twice and dropped 15 points in eight minutes against the Cavs on Jan. 29 when the Wizards nearly stole a victory after the benches were emptied in a lopsided game.

McRae can get buckets quickly. He can also play some point guard, which should come in handy this season as the Wizards play without All-Star John Wall for at least several months. They are also resting hopes on Isaiah Thomas as one of their top two point guards and he only played 12 games last season.

The Wizards' roster is in transition and it may not yield many wins in the 2019-20 season. The Westgate sportsbook set their over/under at 28.5 wins. That is about 10 short of playoff contention, even in down years in the lesser Eastern Conference.

It could work out well for McRae, though, as he could get much more playing time. He is excited about that possibility and also the style shift they hope to undergo as dictated by managing partner Ted Leonsis and general manager Tommy Sheppard.

"We're gonna be young and obviously we have to change up our style," McRae said. "We want to be one of those teams where teams don't want to play, a team that you know they're diving for loose balls, playing hard and playing fast."