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John Wall says he knew Kevin Durant wasn't signing with Wizards, wishes they kept Trevor Ariza

John Wall says he knew Kevin Durant wasn't signing with Wizards, wishes they kept Trevor Ariza

One unexpected part of the NBA's months-long hiatus has been the unearthing of stories from Wizards and Bullets past. We have learned some amazing things like the fact Gilbert Arenas was behind John Wall doing 'The Dougie' before his NBA debut, how Arenas mistakenly talked trash to Kobe Bryant while on the tarmac after his 60-point game and how Jerry Stackhouse hated playing with Michael Jordan.

This week brought another revelation from Wizards lore. Wall appeared on the Team 980 and told host Kevin Sheehan he had a good feeling how the summer of 2016 would go for the Wizards.

If you remember, the Wizards lined up everything to go after Kevin Durant in free agency, including by letting defensive specialist Trevor Ariza leave. Turns out, Wall still wonders 'what if' and says he knew Durant wasn't coming to Washington.

"One thousand percent. We still think about that to this day. I feel like that was the biggest piece we lost," Wall said whether he felt they should have kept Ariza.

"We felt like we weren't getting Kevin, just from knowing everything and thinking ahead. Like, okay we know Kevin's not coming here so just keep the core we have. We have a great core with Trevor Ariza and all the guys we had. Don't get me wrong, Paul was great for us. Paul Pierce was great for us, but we just felt like that experience we had with Trevor and the way he was shooting the ball and things and the way he defended, he was the perfect person we needed for LeBron [James]. Even though nobody's going to stop LeBron, he just made it tough on LeBron."

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The Wizards not only missed out on Durant that summer, they famously never even got a meeting with him. The plan didn't work out, but that doesn't mean it was a bad plan.

To this day, you could argue the Wizards did some things right along the way. They found two young stars in Wall and Bradley Beal, cleared cap room and then went after a star player who would have complemented their core perfectly. The reason they ultimately had no chance to sign him was not their fault, he admittedly just didn't want to play at home.

Could they have sensed that? Maybe, maybe not. Durant didn't express that publicly until after he signed with the Warriors. That said, it sounds like Wall had an inkling Durant wasn't coming to D.C.

Where the Wizards truly erred that summer was not in chasing Durant, it was not having a viable back-up plan. Their Plan B was to sign Al Horford, but he went to Boston. That led them to Plan C, which was to hand out a slew of multi-year contracts that strapped their salary cap for years to come. The decision to sign Ian Mahinmi to a $64 million deal is still affecting them now.

In hindsight, it's hard to disagree with what Wall said. The Wizards thought they couldn't afford Ariza, but then the salary cap spiked and his contract became a bargain as he helped the Rockets become one of the best teams in the league.

Who knows how things would have turned out for the Wizards if they kept Ariza. Easy to say now, but clearly it remains on Wall's mind.

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Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Though the percentages may be lower for young, well-conditioned athletes, coronavirus remains a real threat to NBA players and the Washington Wizards were served a reminder of that this week with the reported positive tests for Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II.

Forward Troy Brown Jr., who is close with Bryant, said he has talked to his friend and teammate since he came down with Covid-19. He believes Bryant will be able to join the team in Orlando before too long.

"I talked to him a little bit. It's just more so day by day," Brown said. "I don't think it was anything other than just him doing normal stuff [when he contracted it]."

Guard Jerome Robinson is with the Wizards at Disney World, taking their team flight down on July 7. But he says the decision to play was not a simple one.

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Robinson felt uneasy about the risk of being around people and playing basketball during the worldwide pandemic.

"There was some thought [of not going]. For the most part, for me my concerns were just the safety of it all. It's a deadly virus and we don't have a vaccine," he explained.

"It was kind of scary being around my family and things like that. I don't want to get put in a circumstance where we all get it our I get it or things of that nature, [especially] any elder. The biggest thing is how can we be safe during this whole thing."

Robinson is 23 years old and an NBA player in tip-top shape. But he has read enough of the news to realize, though the odds are lower, the possibility remains for someone of his age and health to be affected by the virus.

"Even us, being young people, you don't want to be that one because it can happen. It's a deadly virus and it's something that we have to take seriously," he said.

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Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

They began with 36 hours in quarantine, a day-and-a-half of just sitting in their hotel rooms at Disney World, waiting to get to work as the NBA aims to resume and finish the 2019-20 season.

Wizards forward Isaac Bonga talked to his friends on the phone and played XBOX. Head coach Scott Brooks FaceTimed his family. Guard Ish Smith marveled at how similar his hotel room was to the one he stayed in last summer at Disney World.

They had just arrived to Orlando, FL from Washington, D.C. for the NBA's restart. They had to wait those 36 hours and test negative for coronavirus twice before going free.

"The forced relaxation drove me crazy. It was the weirdest thing," Brooks said.

The Wizards were eventually let out of their rooms and on Thursday held their first practice at Disney World; a 5 p.m. get-together that featured real, live basketball, the type they had abstained from for weeks at their training facility due to social distancing protocol.

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They were missing a few players and not just the previously established absences of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans; their three best players. Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews were all reportedly away from the team; the first due to coronavirus and Mathews because of personal reasons.

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Still, getting out in the open floor and scrimmaging was a major step for the Wizards as they look towards July 31, their first regular season game.

"I thought the practice was outstanding. I was real concerned because we hadn't done anything live," Brooks said.

"I don't know how they did it, how the NBA was able to get it all done. Our facility here, our gym is pretty incredible. The weight room is amazing. The hotels are great. Everything is good. I have no complaints. It's just like a road trip for us."

"It just felt good to be out there," Smith said. "It was very similar to a normal practice that we would have, just coaches have gloves and masks on."

What happens on the court, the NBA hopes, should feel familiar. It's off-the-court that will require the biggest adjustment, as everyone there will be away from their families for an extended period of time and in an environment intended to stop the spread of a worldwide pandemic.

But the early returns from the Wizards were good. They are pleasantly surprised with the situation so far.

"Look, we get to play basketball. To me, it's like going away to basketball camp," Brooks said.

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