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Bubble Talk: Odd circumstances make this the hardest NBA championship to win

Bubble Talk: Odd circumstances make this the hardest NBA championship to win

As the NBA returns in a bubble format, NBC Sports Washington's Nick Ashooh and Wes Hall discuss some of the biggest storylines.

Wes: Nick, the NBA restart has so many opportunities for cool things happening both on the court and off it. Beyond any coronavirus-related topics, what are some of the things you're most excited to see or better yet hope to see?

Nick: Big thing from a non-basketball standpoint has to be how players handle this weird routine. It's just such a unique situation. You know how often I harp on the "mental side" of sports. I really think bubble fatigue can be a real factor. The teams that have the most success are the ones that come together and stay focused on what they're there for. It's why this is the hardest championship an NBA team has ever tried to win. 

Wes: You're absolutely right about the mental side of this entire situation. Never before have athletes been asked to perform under conditions such as these. I'll go a step further and say this might be the hardest championship to win in sports period. I can't recall anything similar. Can you?

Nick: No way. We know the whole world is different right now and clearly this bubble will be no different. Although I'm sure if LeBron wins another title you'll say it's watered down. 

Wes: I can't help it if my knees won't allow me to kneel at the throne of King James. Lol, besides, it's not guaranteed the Lakers are winning it. They have to overcome the Clippers, Bucks, and JR Smith's late-game decision-making.

Nick: Haha the J.R. Smith thing is so true. He's already been told to chill on all the IG Live stuff because he's showing too much. Our reality show idea just keeps adding more reasons to exist. I love the Clips though man. They're so deep, you almost forget how many guys they added to that roster. Remember how they were picking guys up to keep them from going to the Lakers? It was like an episode of Hoarders. 

Wes: And the strategy works bc now the Lakers are down [Avery] Bradley and [Rajon] Rondo. I think I have a solution for the NBA's concern over JR and others.

Nick: What's that?

Wes: Send me to the Bubble. Sit me in a room with a 20-monitor wall with closed-circuit security access. I'll watch all screens wearing a referee-striped hoodie and whistle. Give me a PA microphone and I will chastise any player violating (or at least by my perception of violating) quarantine protocols. They can call me "Wes the Bubble Snitch" and it'll be awesome!!! ...for a small fee lol. 

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Nick: So you just want to spy on everyone? This feels like a terrible decision. But maybe some time around LeBron will help you understand his greatness. 

Wes: The most entertaining ideas tend to be the worst ones. Lol I need you on board with this. You coming to the Bubble with me?

Nick: As long as we don't have to share a room.

Wes: No room shares...gotta be able to scream at the screen while on 2k or Madden. 

Nick: By the way, I really see at least one surprise team pushing through.

Nick: A team where everyone comes together and just doesn't feel any pressure in winning.

Wes: The Rockets could be 'that' team. 

Nick: See I was thinking that too only because they have so much talent but they just do things so...weirdly.

Wes: Houston is a sneaky team that can catch you slipping if you're not focused or prepared

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Nick: It's crazy because the West is so loaded but I don't see anyone knocking the Bucks out in the East. Maybe Boston but the rest just can't compete with Giannis and Milwaukee.

Wes: I concur. The East belongs to Milwaukee...for now. I will say that I'm genuinely interested to see how Giannis or Joel Embiid could fit into a theme park ride. THAT would be something to see.

Nick: I think there's height limits on BOTH sides of the spectrum. By the way speaking of Embiid and Philly, the Sixers want to try and use Ben Simmons only at PF. They're nuts he's never comfortable off the ball and all he'll do is clog the middle and force Embiid away from the basket. That's clearly on its way to disaster. 

Wes: The Philly process is nowhere near the Philly Special. Moving Simmons to PF must be a backhanded way of saying "since you don't shoot threes, come on inside and try something else." It feels weird...kinda like his relationship with...let me stop before I say something lol

Nick: Yes, a name we shall never speak of, but a family curse that ruins all athlete's careers.

Wes: Here, Here!!

Nick: Ok one last thing...Zion or Ja [Morant] getting into the playoffs?

Nick: I see the Pels sneaking in

Wes: Ja has the motor, but Zion has the roster. I'm with you on the Pels

Nick: They'll overcome Portland and Memphis I think. Plus Zion lost some weight so that can be huge for him. The NBA needs him in the playoffs too

Wes: Indeed, this is All-Stars on deck! See what I did there? haha But seriously, we're witnessing history right now, and to the victors go the spoils. Regardless of the conditions, a championship is on the line and someone has to win it. We'll keep an eye on it and hopefully I won't have to eat any crow.

Nick: It's gonna feel different but NBA fans are starving for a chance to watch games again. I can't wait to see how this goes. 

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NBA will award an MVP, All-Bubble Team for seeding games

NBA will award an MVP, All-Bubble Team for seeding games

There will be an NBA Bubble MVP.

The league announced that there will be an All-Seeding Games Team and a Player of the Seeding Games, honoring the best performers from the seeding games that started July 30 and will conclude Friday.

The awards will be announced Saturday afternoon, prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference play-in series.

A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who have been on-site at the Walt Disney World resort covering the season restart will vote for the award winners. There will be a five-player first team and a five-player second team, with no breakdowns by position.

Top candidates would likely include Phoenix's Devin Booker, Dallas' Luka Doncic, Portland's Damian Lillard, Houston's James Harden, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and Indiana's T.J. Warren.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Moe Wagner after headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Moe Wagner after headbutt

Despite seeking him out after the whistle and headbutting him with force to earn an ejection from Tuesday night's game, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo says he has no problem with Wizards big man Moe Wagner. He explained the move as general frustration boiling over.

"I don’t have nothing against Wagner, it wasn’t just him. It was just, like, in my mind all these games I’ve played guys hitting me so I lost it for a second," Antetokounmpo told reporters. 

He went on to express regret over the incident, which is certain to result in a fine and possibly a suspension. His explanation, though, runs a bit counter to how the Wizards saw it all.

Wagner was not made available to the media, but his teammates weighed in and all seemed to believe it stemmed from something that happened between them earlier this season.

"They have something in the past, I don't even know," Rui Hachimura said.

"That was just some blood from back then," Ish Smith said. 

They seemed to be referencing the Feb. 24 meeting between the teams when Antetokounmpo fouled out in only 25 minutes, and with some help from Wagner. That night, Wagner gave a quote that could also have been said after this game: "He’s a really good player. I want him out of the game, obviously."

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On Tuesday, Antetokounmpo again exited early against the Wizards, and again the Bucks held on for the win, just like they did in February. Still, him leaving gave the Wizards a bit of a break. 

The reigning MVP had been dominating with 12 points and nine rebounds in 10 minutes.

"I'm not saying he's a dirty player, but he's good at those little things," Hachimura said of Wagner. "Giannis was actually out for the game. It was really big [for] us. He changed the whole game, actually. Moe's a great guy."

RELATED: GIANNIS EJECTED FOR HEADBUTTING MOE WAGNER

Wagner has a tendency to get under the skin of his opponents. He has had run-ins with other big men, most notably Joel Embiid.

He did his part, but the Bucks still had enough to beat the Wizards. Now the question is whether it was a pyrrhic victory with a potential suspension for Antetokounmpo coming next.

"There's no place for that. It's unfortunate," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's unfortunate that it happened. I'm sure the league is going to look at it and make a decision. Fortunately for [the Bucks], it's not a playoff game [up next]. I'm sure he's probably going to miss a couple of games."

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