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Kelly Oubre, Jr. on depression, anxiety and his own battles with mental health

Kelly Oubre, Jr. on depression, anxiety and his own battles with mental health

Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s life has been defined by overcoming profound obstacles to do amazing things. At just nine years old while growing up in New Orleans, LA his family was uprooted due to Hurricane Katrina. The historic natural disaster produced dramatic changes in his life from where he lived - they moved to Houston, TX - to the very structure of his family.

Through it all, Oubre developed into one of the top basketball recruits in the country, a hyped freshman at the University of Kansas and then a first round pick for the Washington Wizards.

As Oubre's basketball career has steadily trended upward, the acclaim has followed. He has money, fame and by all accounts a bright future. But underneath it all are demons he battles periodically.

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NBA stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love recently shared their struggles with depression and anxiety. Oubre has his own story of mental health to tell.

The Washington Wizards forward pulled the curtain back in an interview on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, describing issues he has dealt with that even those who are around him daily may not be aware of. 

Oubre has a lot on his mind. At just 22 years old, he is a rotation piece on one of the best teams in basketball and his role is expanding. With that comes increased responsibilities and accountability for mistakes.

All while growing into himself as a man and a person, he is trying his best to succeed in a lucrative, high-pressure industry while millions are watching. It's not easy.

"A lot of people are coming out with things about mental health. I feel as if, yeah man I've suffered through a lot of things in my life. I've been through a lot of things," he said.

"I can definitely relate to it all... I'm really good at keeping a poker face because when I was growing up my dad always told me 'don't let anybody see you weak.' Nobody sees that I'm weak, but deep down inside I am going through a lot. Hell is turning over."

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DeRozan and Love telling their stories has made Oubre think more about his own. DeRozan spoke of his battles with depression in an interview last month with the Toronto Star and Love followed up with his own story of anxiety and panic attacks in the Players' Tribune.

Oubre says both of their accounts hit close to home.

"That s--- is serious," he said. "I just go into a quiet place and breathe, man. Just being mindful is the only way I know how to get through any anxiety, any depression or anything like that."

Oubre says his issues are partly rooted in his quest to be great. He sets high expectations for himself and has difficulties dealing with falling short.

He is a young player prone to mental mistakes due to inexperience and admits he's harder on himself than he should be. The internal struggle "can get overwhelming," he says.

Oubre thinks there are many out there who don't see the true grind of professional sports and what athletes are actually up against, both physical and mental. Through social media and from the stands, Oubre hears things from fans all the time that suggest many miss what is really going on.

Everyday problems are compounded when put under the microscope of bright stadium lights and the relentless news cycle.

"We're normal human beings. We face a lot more adversity, a lot more problems... It's a little bit more amped up, we just can't show it," he said. "I feel like people who are on the outside looking in don't really understand because they see us as superheroes, but we're normal people, man. We go through the issues that normal people go through times 10."

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Things are changing quickly in Oubre's life. He is three years into his NBA career and one year away from the end of his rookie contract with the Wizards. Two summers from now, he could make enough money to set his family up for generations.

To remember where he came from, all Oubre has to do is look into the stands at Capital One Arena, just a dozen or so rows to the right of the Wizards' locker room tunnel, where his father Kelly Oubre, Sr. sits for every game. Oubre, Sr. keeps a close eye and gives advice and discipline where needed.

Last spring, when Oubre, Jr. was suspended for Game 4 of the Wizards' playoff series against the Boston Celtics, he stayed at home to watch the game with his father. Each time Oubre, Jr. celebrated big plays by his teammates, his father reminded him that he should be there and not at home on the couch watching on TV.

After a recent game where Oubre had a poor shooting night, his father pulled him aside near the locker room for a chat before Oubre had even changed out of his jersey.

Oubre, Sr. helped his son get through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and he continues to be a guiding light in his life.

"It's just that peace of mind, that mental stability he gives me just by seeing him. He doesn't even have to say anything. I just see him," Oubre, Jr. said. "I feel like we've been through it all. This little piece of adversity, it's not going to hurt me. I will be able to get through it. He's definitely like a crutch that I use to stand on in this life, man."

"Mental health is definitely something that he always preaches. He worries about me keeping my head. Obviously, you know, I'm crazy as hell. I just love him because he's there and he wants to see me be great."

You can hear the full interview with Kelly Oubre, Jr. on our Wizards Tipoff podcast right here:

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WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

The Washington Mystics and Elena Delle Donne finally get to play in the WNBA Playoffs after a week off due to a double-bye from winning the No. 1 seed. 

The Mystics will play the No. 4 seeded Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET. It begins a best-of-five series between two of the best teams in the WNBA this season. 

Midway through the year, the Aces were arguably the best team in the league. They were trading turns with the Mystics and the Connecticut Sun sitting atop the WNBA Standings. Led by MVP candidate Liz Cambage, one of the most dominating centers in the league, the Aces were squarely in the running for one of the top seeds and a double-bye.

Then they went cold, finished the season 2-4 and witnessed the Mystics and Sun continued success.

The Aces, honestly, should probably not be here after the incredible end-of-game sequence from the previous round. Dearica Hamby's steal and desperation shot are the only things that have the Aces here and not the Chicago Sky.

Much of the dominance from Cambage and A'ja Wilson has dissipated over the past several weeks. Still, they bring in one of the strongest defensive units in the league to try and slow down the most potent's in WNBA history. In the regular season, the Aces held opponents to a WNBA-best 43.5% from the field and the second-best from 3-point range (32.1%). 

Washington won the regular-season series against Las Vegas 2-1. Yet in the process, one game was postponed at halftime by an earthquake and another game delayed because of clock failures. The only game the Aces won was the one that Delle Donne missed. 

Washington finished the regular season with a franchise-best 26 wins. They set the WNBA record for made 3-pointers on the season (9.3 per game) and in a game (18), and fewest turnovers (11.3 per game) among a few.

While the Mystics have a much-needed eight days off before they play the Aces, one also has to be concerned if it was too much time off. They will have more time to recover in a series as opposed to the winner-take-all first and second rounds. However, there is not much wiggle room in a five-game series predicated on homefield advantage.

ACES VS. MYSTICS GAME 1:

Who: Las Vegas Aces at Washington Mystics

What: WNBA Semifinals Game 1

When: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

TV Channel: ESPN2

Live Stream: WatchESPN

MYSTICS vs. ACES WNBA SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE:

Game 1: Tue, Sept. 17: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 2: Thurs, Sept. 19: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 3: Sun, Sept. 22: Mystics at Aces, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 4: Tue, Sept 24: Mystics at Aces, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

Game 5: Thurs, Sept. 26: Aces at Mystics, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

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Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon now? Here's what you need to know

Just joining the Mystics' bandwagon now? Here's what you need to know

The Washington Mystics are set to kick off their playoff run on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm against the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Semifinals. You may have followed the entire journey to this point, or you may just joining in on the fun, hoping to hitch a ride on the bandwagon of a great team.

If you are in that second group, you're in luck. Here is what you need to know about the 2019 Mystics as they gear up for the postseason...

They are historically good: The 26-8 Mystics weren't just the best team in the league this season by their record, they were dominant to a degree rarely seen in the WNBA. Washington scored the most points per game (89.3), had the most assists (21.9), the fewest turnovers (11.8) and the highest field goal percentage (46.9). 

The Mystics had the best offensive rating (112.9) with an 11.3-point edge over the second-best team, the Chicago Sky. With the sixth-best defensive rating, the Mystics' 14.8 net rating was 10.7 points better than the next-best team, the Las Vegas Aces. 

Washington's offensive rating is the best ever, ahead of the 2000 Houston Comets who were at 109.1. Their 53.6 effective field goal percentage is also an all-time best. Basically, no one has ever scored as efficiently as this year's Mystics.

Delle Donne could be MVP: Mystics star Elene Delle Donne may take home her second WNBA MVP award. She had another monster season with 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while posting the first 50-40-90 season in WNBA history. She shot 51.5 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 97.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Delle Donne is also healthy this time around. Last year, she battled a left knee injury that limited her during the playoffs and contributed to the Mystics demise in the Finals.

They make lots of threes: The three-point shot has never been more important in basketball and the Mystics are better at it than anyone else in the WNBA. They led the league in three-pointers made and attempted, and were second in percentage this season. They hit 36.6 percent, second only to the Aces, on 25.4 attempts. Their 9.3 made threes per game were 1.8 more than the next team, the Connecticut Sun. 

The total numbers are impressive, but so is the Mystics' versatility of perimeter threats. Delle Donne is 6-foot-5, yet she hits her 43 percent on 3.9 attempts per game. Meesseman is a 6-foot-4 center who makes 42.2 percent on two attempts per game.  Then they have Myisha Hines-Allen, Tianna Hawkins, Aerial Powers, Kristi Tolliver and Ariel Atkins, who all shoot 35.7 percent or better from long range. 

Their defense is elite: It isn't just scoring and outside shooting that makes the Mystics great. They also have one of the best defenses with the athleticism and length to frustrate opponents. Washington was fourth in points allowed (77.3), sixth in defensive rating (98.1), fifth in turnovers forced (14.5), eighth in opponent field goal percentage (43) and seventh in opponent three-point percentage (34).

That led to both Atkins and Cloud earning second-team All-Defense this season. LaToya Sanders also drew consideration and, if you ask her teammates, was a glaring snub.

Run it back: The Mystics are on a mission to clear up some unfinished business. Last year, they made it all the way to the WNBA Finals, only to lose to the high-powered Seattle Storm.

The path is there for another deep playoff run, this time perhaps with a different result. 'Run it back' has been a mantra for the team all season. You will see it in hashtags on Twitter. They want to get back to the Finals and take home the first championship in franchise history.

Thibault could get a ring: Head coach Mike Thibault has enjoyed a long and distinguished basketball career that includes two NBA championships as an assistant with the Lakers in the early 1980s. He is the winningest coach in WNBA history.

But Thibault does not have a WNBA championship on his resume, at least not yet. He has lost in the Finals three times including twice during his days with Connecticut. Winning a title would represent a breakthrough for him and would make for a great story of someone finally reaching the mountaintop in their sport.

Toliver has been hurt: The biggest question mark for the Mystics going into the playoffs is the health of All-Star guard Kristi Toliver. She has been sidelined since Aug. 8 with a right knee contusion, an injury that forced her to miss 11 games. According to Thibault, she is "probably" going to play in Game 1 but if she does, she will be on a minutes restriction.

The Mystics closed the season well without her, winning 10 of the 11 games she missed. But Toliver is an important piece as a veteran leader and because of her three-point shooting and passing.

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