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Caps winning, new practice facility has Ted Leonsis thinking bigger for Wizards: 'No excuses'

Caps winning, new practice facility has Ted Leonsis thinking bigger for Wizards: 'No excuses'

No matter what happens this fall and winter, the year of 2018 was a big one for Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis.

The Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup and the new practice facility and arena for the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go in Ward 8 was opened.

Even the Valor won the Arena Football League in 2018, and Wizards District Gaming played its inaugural season.

The Caps winning and the St. Elizabeth East Entertainment and Sports Arena opening its doors has Leonsis thinking bigger and particularly when it comes to the Wizards. As he puts it, there are "no excuses" anymore. It's time to accomplish their goals and Leonsis has some specific ones in mind.

"We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I'd like us to win 50 games. I'd like us to go to the Eastern Conference Finals," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington.

Leonsis, in many ways, feels like he has done his part as the owner. He has given the Wizards the resources to compete and win at the highest level. They have the salary commitment - the Wizards are fourth in the NBA in payroll ($134.9M) - and the facilities that any team in the NBA would covet.

"We have one of the highest payrolls in the league with the Wizards. They have a beautiful, world-class practice facility. They're healthy entering the year," he said. "Alright Wizards. If you have this practice facility and one of the highest payrolls in the league and you're getting well-tended for your health, nutrition and the like; no excuses. Let's play ball."

When it comes to the practice facility, it's much more than just added space, new locker rooms and shiny courts. The Wizards will have at their disposal the newest training technology and all the medical resources they need from Medstar. 

The facility has a virtual reality room, which goes way beyond the headsets and cameras they have utilized in recent years. They will also have a sensory deprivation tank. 

It's a pod that fills with salt water and allows people to float without light or sound. The benefits include decompression of the spine, alleviation of soreness and muscle tension and stress relief. In case you are wondering, they aren't cheap.

The weight room at the Medstar performance center is also calibrated for different exercises and methods. And with more space, the Wizards can continue to move into the future from a technology perspective and stay ahead of the curve.

"It's not just being an early-adopter. If you make an investment in this size and scale, you'll be at an advantage because you can build in and not add on a lot of that right into the utility of the building," Leonsis said.

In having this type of facility for the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go, Leonsis hopes those teams can follow the model that worked for the Capitals. The Caps have had a specialized training facility in Ballston, Va. for years and have benefitted from a strong minor league system, most notably with the Hershey Bears. That top-to-bottom approach can help the Wizards, in particular, as they now have a G-League affiliate.

The foundation is in place for the Wizards to someday compete for an NBA championship. Many never expected to see the day the Capitals would reach the mountaintop. Now the Wizards can follow the blueprint.

"We've proven that there is no [D.C. sports] curse," Leonsis said. "If you are patient and work hard and are committed to continuous improvement than you can win a championship."

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‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

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Capital City Go-Go

‘Grateful for the opportunity’ A tale of the second Capital City Go-Go open tryouts

The Washington Wizards G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, held their second open local player tryouts at the Entertainment and Sports Arena Saturday morning in Southeast D.C.

Over 100 hopefuls filed into the arena with plans to impress Go-Go General Manager, Pop Mensah-Bonsu, head coach Ryan Richman, and his staff. 

Although each player in attendance has a unique path that’s led them here, they all shared one simple, yet intricate goal:

One shot in the G League. 

Adam Stanford, a prospect from California, traveled on a red eye to make the tryout on a less-than-ideal amount of sleep.

“My plane left at midnight from LAX, I had a two-hour layover in Denver, made it to Reagan National at five, checked into my hotel at six, took an hour nap and then Ubered here for tryouts,”  he said. 

“If I made this team it’d be big. Not just for me but for everyone who knows what I’ve been through from college to now.” 

Stanford is a 6-foot-4 wing from Campbellsville University, where he averaged 7 points, 5 rebounds, and was an academic All-American. 

Even with his positive outlook on the process, and an impressive showing Saturday morning, Stanford’s name wasn’t called for a follow-up workout later in the afternoon. 

The harsh reality that your chances are extremely slim to make a G League roster from an open tryout can be a tough pill to swallow, but as a guy who’s been on the opposite end of the chopping block, Mensah-Bonsu had an immense amount of respect for those who showed up to compete Saturday.

“Personally it’s tough because I never wanted to be that guy to read out the numbers of those who did make the team, and skip over those who didn’t,” Mensah-Bonsu said, “it’s heartbreaking. We always anticipate what the DMV has to offer in terms of the wealth of talent in this area.

"I was pleasantly surprised because we ended up selecting 15 guys to stick around for the afternoon portion, but going into this we were only planning to pick five.” 

Those who made the cut won’t be announced until a later date, which leaves the larger point of how those who were passed on respond?

The all-time leading scorer in Peach Sun Belt Conference history, Detrek Browning, was in attendance Saturday and put on a show. His combination of quickness, deep range shooting ability, and a knack for loose balls/putbacks captured the attention of every media member in attendance. 

However, his name wasn’t called for the next round of tryouts. 

Still, in a state of shock, he delivered words of encouragement not just for his self, but others to turn to after a similar letdown. 

“I for sure thought I was going to get a place here, but you just gotta focus and move on,” Browning said. “I quit my job in June to focus on basketball and it’s been paying off. I’ve seen my game increase exponentially.

“I did my best and that’s what matters,” he added. “I appreciate them not picking me up, it’s just going to make me work even harder.”

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Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Elena Delle Donne thanks makers of face mask, knee brace after 2nd MVP honors

Most MVP award winners thank coaches, parents and anyone who helped them become great. Elena Delle Donne is not most people.

The Washington Mystic's superstar forward had a lot to be thankful for after receiving the second MVP honors of her career, creating a long list on Twitter. Some injury-preventing accessory manufacturers made their way high up on her list.

Delle Donne became the first woman player to shoot 50/40/90 splits over the course of an entire WNBA season this year, but she was perhaps more grateful for the apparrel that allowed her to stay on the court: her knee brace and face mask. 

The Delaware native often deflects praise onto her teammates and coaches when receiving accolades, but when EDD's knee is being held together by her bulky brace and her nose is feeling protected after a fracture earlier in the season, they definitely deserve the thanks. 

She had a gruesome knee scare in a Game 2 loss to the Atlanta Dream in the playoffs last season, and even missed some early season games this year in recovery. Still, Delle Donne wouldn't let her knee keep her out of action, as her 31 regular season starts were the most games she's played since 2015. It's been evident she's had an edge all season to help her Washington Mystics get back to the Finals, and this time finish the job. 

Delle Donne's face mask has also been somewhat of a fashion trend in recent weeks with star athletes around the District. Wizards all-star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal along with Redskins runing back Derrius Guice, all wore the face masks in solidarity when they came to support the Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

Despite Delle Donne's nose having been fully recovered, she's kept the face mask on during games for style and reassurance. Considering these ailments, it's impressive Delle Donne's shooting touch not only hasn't been affected, but instead has improved. 

After a Game 2 win over the Las Vegas Aces, Delle Donne and Co. have the opportunity to make their season mantra come true and #RunItBack to a second straight WNBA Finals appearance. 

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