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Bullets legend Wes Unseld excited for Phil Chenier ahead of jersey retirement

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Associated Press

Bullets legend Wes Unseld excited for Phil Chenier ahead of jersey retirement

When Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey is raised to the rafters at Capital One Arena on March 23, there will be a lot of emotions for those who have followed his career. There will be a unique sense of pride for his former Bullets teammates who know how integral he was to the franchise's success in the 1970s.

Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, for one, thinks it's not only well-deserved but that it is probably overdue.

"It's about damn time, to be honest with you," he said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Julie Donaldson. "I thought it should have been up there a long time ago. This guy was instrumental in a lot of the success this organization has had over the years."

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Chenier and Unseld played nine seasons together with the organization, first in Baltimore and then representing Washington, D.C. Unseld recalls Chenier, a three-time All-Star, as a gifted player on both ends of the court. Many remember Chenier for his shooting abilities and the fact he consistently averaged 20-plus points per game, but Unseld wants everyone to remember the defense as well.

"He was the total player," Unseld said. "He could get into you defensively."

Unseld first met Chenier when he had already made a name for himself and Chenier had yet to set foot on campus of the University of California. It was in San Francisco and Unseld was stopping through on his way to Japan.

They played together in a scrimmage and Chenier was just in high school. 

"They brought this little kid out on the court who looked like he was in the sixth grade. I thought, man, this little kid could play," Unseld said.

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It was just four years after that when Chenier joined Unseld on the Bullets as a selection in the hardship draft. Chenier made an instant impact and earned All-Rookie honors for the 1971-72 season.

Unseld still saw Chenier as a kid playing well beyond his years.

"When he came to the team, he looked so young. I remember a few of the older guys said they had to protect this guy because he could carry us. He could give us something that we really needed. We couldn't allow him to get beat up or hurt," Unseld said.

There was one time in particular where Unseld remembers he had to look out for Chenier. They were playing against Walt Bellamy, another NBA Hall of Famer who had previously played for the Bullets. Bellamy would stick his knee out on screens and caught Chenier a few times with the trick.

Chenier was furious and told Unseld in the huddle. Unseld made sure it didn't happen again.

"I sure as hell didn't want him hurting Phil at that time. We needed him," Unseld said. "I just wanted to make sure that if Walt stuck another knee out then it was something we would have to deal with."

 

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Unseld saw Chenier grow up as a basketball player and as a man. He is now thrilled to know that Chenier's jersey will be hanging up along with his and that Chenier will finally get this day he has so long deserved.

Chenier will have many close ones on hand for the ceremony including his kids, grandchildren and longtime friends. Unseld hopes they and all the Wizards fans out there understand how good Chenier truly was.

"It just shows them visually and it tells the rest of the Washingtonian people that they recognize that [Phil] was a pretty damn good player," he said.

Chenier's jersey retirement will take place at halftime on March 23 when the Wizards host the Denver Nuggets.

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You can listen to Wes Unseld's full interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast right here:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

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USA Today Sports Images

Kawhi Leonard going to the Raptors may actually be good news for the Wizards and the East

Through nearly three weeks of NBA free agency and almost a month of trades, the Eastern Conference had remained eerily quiet. The Wizards had arguably been the most aggressive team in the East, as all the biggest moves had occurred in the West and, most notably, LeBron James changed coasts.

That all changed on Wednesday as the Toronto Raptors pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to land Kawhi Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year. The full deal includes All-NBA guard DeMar DeRozan going to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick. The Raptors also get guard Danny Green, according to ESPN.

Here are some takeaways from the trade...

This is good, potentially great news for the Wizards

The worst-case scenario for the Wizards and most of the East would have been if Leonard got dealt to either the Sixers or Celtics, as the potential would have been there for a dominant team. The Sixers, in particular, could have conceivably traded for Leonard without giving up much in the way of pieces that can help them now. They would have teamed Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would probably be the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Instead, the Sixers struck out and now face the prospect of taking a pretty big L on this offseason, given all the guys they were tied to going into it.

Leonard and the Raptors will be good and they may even be better than they were last season. Though the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season, they disappointed in the playoffs. Leonard could change that, but he won't have the help to make them an unstoppable force. Kyle Lowry is good, but he's an aging player and they don't have a third star, at least not yet. They have a lot of recent first round picks that could, in theory, make the leap.

This deal is good for the Wizards and could become great if Leonard leaves in free agency next summer. If he does, the Raptors will be in deep trouble.

What will the Lakers do?

When James signed with the Lakers, most assumed they would then add at least one star to run with him. But now that Leonard is going to Toronto, it's very possible they don't add one at all. James might actually have to play with Lonzo Ball in addition to Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee. Sure, they can sign Leonard next summer or find another star then, but this is shaping up as of now to be a lost year for James.

As consistitued, they aren't winning anything of substance. It's just so surprising James would be cool with this level of talent around him considering what he could have done this season if he signed with Philly or some other team.

People are looking at the wrong contract

Much of the instant reaction to the Leonard trade was praise for the Raptors in ridding themselves of DeRozan's deal. That's a headscratcher. DeRozan is set to make over $27 million in the next three years, the third being a player option, but he's an All-NBA player who turns 29 next month. In the context of NBA contracts, that isn't too bad.

Lowry's contract, on the other hand, is borderline awful. He's 32 with his numbers heading in the wrong direction and he's due to make $31 million next season and $33.3 million the year after. It's not like the Raptors freed themselves of their worst deal.

Masai is making moves

This is a risk for the Raptors and you have to respect it. Their general manager, Masai Ujiri, had seen enough of the DeRozan-Lowry duo falling short in the playoffs. He fired head coach Dwane Casey and pulled off a trade for Leonard, who at his best is one of the premier players in the NBA.

There is considerable risk in this move with Leonard having missed 73 games last season with a quadriceps injury and given the fact he can opt to test free agency next summer. If he really does want to join the Lakers, he could leave the Raptors empty-handed.

But it's a risk that is probably worth taking. Everyone assumed the same future for Paul George and he ended up staying in Oklahoma City. It's not a guarantee Leonard leaves and now the Raptors have a year to convince him to stay. Ujiri should get praise for this deal because it's bold and he did one of the hardest things a GM can do in finding a top-5 talent for his team.

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