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Dwight Howard signing with Wizards is proof of John Wall's power as a recruiter

Dwight Howard signing with Wizards is proof of John Wall's power as a recruiter

When Dwight Howard was given the floor to offer opening comments at his introductory press conference this week, he made a point to thank his new teammate, John Wall. The reason why, as Howard expounded on later, is that Wall was a pivotal reason for why Howard signed with Washington.

It wasn't just about their potential fit on the court. Wall helped bring Howard to D.C. and Howard wanted to make that clear.

"Shoutout to John for reaching out to me and asking me about joining this team," Howard said.

Howard, in fact, hadn't really thought about the Wizards much at all when he began contemplating his next step as he proccessed a trade by the Hornets and a looming buyout by the Nets. It was while he was considering his options that he received a message on Instagram from Wall.

"No lie, when I saw the message on Instagram, I really got so happy. I was like 'John just DM'd me, oh man this is crazy!' After that, I really just started to put on my thinking cap," Howard said. "I just thought about all the possibilities. I was like 'man, this could be the best spot for me.'"

If there is one thing clear about the Wizards' offseason so far, particularly their two biggest free agent signings in Howard and Jeff Green, it's that recruitment by NBA stars definitely works. It has been effective for other teams, most notably Draymond Green's recruitment of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, and now it has led to success for the Wizards.

Wall, interestingly enough, has been averse to free agent recruiting in the past. He has said on numerous occasions that he isn't a fan of doing it.

He even said it this past April in his exit interview with the media following the 2017-18 season.

"I think people understand what they'll get if they come here. They've seen our team. They kind of know what it is," he said.

Wall decided to change his tune and the results are undeniable. Howard admitted that it didn't even take much convincing.

"He just said 'do you want to come to D.C.?' It wasn't too much to be said. After he said that, I was like 'bro, I'm with it.' That conversation was like a confirmation for me," Howard said. "Him reaching out, I've never had a guy like John Wall as a point guard, so why lose that opportunity?"

Team president Ernie Grunfeld was surely appreciative of Wall's role in landing Howard. There are strict tampering rules for league executives for when and how they can contact free agents. Wall was able to have a conversation with Howard just player-to-player.

"We always talk to our players and who is available and who can help our team," Grunfeld said. "We realized it was a good opportunity for us to get [an athletic big man]. John did his part in it and he was very happy about it."

Howard liked the thought of playing with Wall and appreciated his communication so much that he says it helped sway him from signing with the Warriors. Golden State ended up doing well for themselves by signing DeMarcus Cousins, but they did reach out to Howard.

Howard, though, liked Wall's pitch better.

"Golden State called and I thought about them. But once John sent me that message, I was like, man. I couldn't tell him at first, but I was like 'man, I'm going to be a Wizard.' That was my mindset," he said.

Perhaps this experience will have an effect in the future on how Wall and the Wizards approach free agency, knowing this method worked out quite well for them.

Tyler Byrum contributed to this report

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5 must-see moments from the Wizards' blowout win over the Cavs, including John Wall owning Collin Sexton

5 must-see moments from the Wizards' blowout win over the Cavs, including John Wall owning Collin Sexton

The Washington Wizards blasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-95 on Wednesday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Wall vs Sexton: This game featured a matchup between one of the sport's most accomplished point guards and one who is just getting his career started. John Wall of the Wizards and Collin Sexton of the Cavs went at it and, not surprisingly, Wall had the edge on the rookie.

The five-time All-Star only scored eight points, but two of them came on a play that made Sexton show his inexperience. Wall zoomed down the court and had Sexton way off balance as he backpedaled towards the rim:

 

In addition to eight points, Wall had nine assists, two steals, and a block. He played only 21 minutes because the Wizards were able to rest their starters late due to the blowout.

2. Beal's big dunk: Bradley Beal put up some impressive numbers for a guy who only played 28 minutes. He posted 20 points with three assists, three rebounds, and three steals. He also hit his 900th career three-pointer.

This was his best play, a two-handed slam that Jordan Clarkson wanted no part of:

Speaking of Clarkson, what the heck was this, man?

3. Oubre's block: Kelly Oubre Jr. only shot 3-for-11, but did a lot of other things to help the Wizards win. He pulled in seven rebounds, had a steal and a block.

His block was nasty:

4. Mahinmi's first three: This was the most memorable moment of the night. Ian Mahinmi, playing in his 11th season and his 556th regular season, knocked down his first career three-pointer.

As we learned afterward, Wall set it all up. He told Mahinmi to go to the corner and, sure enough, it worked:

5. Beal's and-1: Beal had eight of his 20 points in the third quarter as the Wizards held off the Cavs' final push. This play was a good example of how he was just plain feeling it.

The Cavs had no hope in stopping him get to the rim for an and-1:

The Wizards have now won three straight games. At 5-9, they are only one game out of a playoff spot, which is crazy to think about given how poorly they started off the year.

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Ian Mahinmi's first ever 3-pointer a fun, proud moment for Wizards

Ian Mahinmi's first ever 3-pointer a fun, proud moment for Wizards

Ian Mahinmi is in the middle of his 11th NBA season. He has appeared in 623 total games, including the playoffs. Yet, until Wednesday night, he had never made a single three-point shot in an NBA game that counted.

With just over a minute left in the first half of the Wizards' win over the Cavs, Mahinmi stepped back behind the line in the weakside corner. John Wall drove to the elbow to collapse the defense and fired him a pass. Wide open, Mahinmi rose and released like he had done it many times before.

Technically, he had. Mahinmi has been working on his three-point shot persistently. At the end of every Wizards practice, he can be seen going around the horn popping threes.

In practice, Mahinmi makes long range shots consistently. Head coach Scott Brooks has put the number at around 70 out of 100 on his best days. Mahinmi even made a few this preseason, suggesting it might actually happen in a regular season game this year.

Sure enough, it did.

"It's something I work on. I work on threes and especially from the corners. It's good to see one finally go in," Mahinmi said.

Mahinmi had attempted two threes already this season. One clanged off the side off the backboard. The second rolled in and out of the rim.

Mahimni said the second attempt was actually a designed play to get him a three-point look. On this one, Wall called his number again.

Mahinmi said Wall told him to go to the corner. The team was up 20 points and it was late in the first half. 

The stars had aligned. It just seemed like the right time.

"Obviously, I was looking for it," Mahinmi said. "If the ball comes my way, I'm shooting it."

Brooks has expressed confidence in Mahinmi's outside shooting ability for months now. And he reiterated after Wednesday's game that Mahinmi has the green light.

"I want Ian to shoot threes if he's open," Brooks said. "He practices that every day. We see it go in every day. The league is changing. It's not just a small-ball league for the smalls."

That last point was not lost on others around the Wizards locker room. When Mahinmi entered the league in 2007, centers were expected to camp around the rim. He was asked to block shots and play with his back to the basket. 

In the decade-plus since, new species of big men have flowed into the NBA. Many of them hit threes, leap high above the rim and break down defenders off the dribble.

Mahinmi, though fully-developed at 32 years old, isn't letting that stop him. He has added a three-point shot that opponents have to at least know is possible to go in.

"He's adapted to the game and that's not easy at his position because they try to kick fives out of the league," guard Bradley Beal said.

No one expects Mahinmi to all of a sudden become Dirk Nowitzki and hit threes all the time. It was a small moment that probably won't mean much in the big picture.

Still, it was a reason for him and his teammates to celebrate.

"I'm glad to see him do that," center Dwight Howard said. "I'm so happy for him."

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