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Mystics players look for improved WNBA travel, calling current plan 'trash'

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Mystics players look for improved WNBA travel, calling current plan 'trash'

Picture LeBron James or Steph Curry boarding a plane and squeezing their legs into a coach seat the day before a road game. 

It doesn’t happen.

But for the Washington Mystics and WNBA players, it’s part of their weekly routine.

“It’s trash,” Mystics point guard Natasha Cloud said.

Earlier this week, Indiana Fever forward Natalie Achonwa documented the team’s travel woes in a Twitter thread. It took her team 24 hours to get home.

“Where do you see that in the NBA?” Cloud said. “I know they play a lot of games, but we’re doing the same thing in a short amount of time in three and a half, four months. So it would make the biggest difference for us.”

The travel inconveniences happen all too often.

Forward Tianna Hawkins said before the third game of the season against the Connecticut Sun, both the teams' original and back-up planes to New York had technical problems, and they were delayed four to five hours.

The same thing happened last season. The Mystics needed a redeye flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, but the first trip was delayed, so the team missed its connecting flight and ended up stuck in Chicago. 

“It’s hectic,” Hawkins said. “We go to the airport like ‘alright, I hope we don’t get a delay today.’ But we know that something’s gonna happen.”

Players said their travel experiences in college were better than they are in the WNBA. Now, road games present an unexpected hurdle for the professionals who want to play the highest level of their sport.

“It’s sad because I feel like the college days are better,” guard Shey Peddy said. “We had private planes. I don’t remember our flights being canceled at all. So it kinda feels like a step back when it should be a step forward.”

Cloud said there’s no reason the WNBA shouldn’t be chartering. Her alma mater, St. Joseph’s (PA) – “a mid-major with not a lot of money” could afford to charter.

But those private jets? They’re considered an unfair competitive advantage, according to the current collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s an unfair advantage for [Mystics forward] Elena Delle Donne, who’s 6-foot-5, to have to sit in economy in the middle seat of an aisle and then go perform,” Cloud said. “You expect us to perform, we expect to be able to have our bodies healthy and not lock up on planes.”

Because commercial travel is undependable, Mystics players have abundant advice for rookies on travel days: wear compression leggings, bring a gallon of water, keep electronics charged, pack a book and stock up on snacks and sandwiches – because “airport food is expensive, everybody knows that,” as Peddy puts it.

Cloud advises sneaking into a more spacious exit row.

But, changes could be on the way. The Women’s National Basketball Players Association will opt out of the current CBA after the 2019 season. The players hope to receive higher salaries and more accommodating travel schedules.

“I think we deserve it,” Peddy said. “I think if some of the [NBA] G-league players have [private jets], we should have that. Hopefully that’s a priority.”

Guard Kristi Toliver, playing in her 10th season, isn’t as optimistic.

“It is what it is, but it’s not changing soon,” Toliver said. “I would prefer to get paid more money than worry about travel.”

But still, when the schedule gets tough, she tells herself to keep her head up.

“Think gratitude. You get to play the game that you love.”

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Wizards vs. Nets: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Nets: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Wizards enter Wednesday's matchup with the Nets having lost three straight games since the All-Star break, but not all losses are created equal.

First, they fell at home to the struggling Cavaliers, followed by a road loss to the also-struggling Bulls. Then, they took the Bucks, the best team in basketball, to overtime in a thrilling 137-134 loss Monday night.

The real story, though, is the recent play of Bradley Beal. The Wizards' star has scored at least 25 points in 15 straight games, the second-longest streak in team history. 

More importantly, he dropped 53 and 55 points in back-to-back nights Sunday and Monday. He's the first NBA player to reach 50 points in back-to-back losses in more than 50 years, and he has the most combined points in back-to-back games in franchise history.

The biggest question Wednesday night will be what he has in store for a follow up. Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. NETS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Brooklyn Nets

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: Wednesday, February 26, 2020, at 7:00 p.m.

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Nets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Nets on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. NETS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Nets

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live

10:00 PM: DC Sports Live

10:30 PM: Wizards Talk

WIZARDS vs. NETS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards (30.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.0 APG): Beal has scored 53 and 55 points in his last two games, the first player in franchise history to score at least 50 in back-to-back nights. What will he do for an encore?

Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets (20.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 6.7 APG):  With Kyrie Irving out for the season, Dinwiddie is the Nets' leading scorer and assist man. He will be charged with going toe-to-toe with the scorching hot Beal.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Bradley Beal's brilliance is worth appreciating, no matter the games ending in losses

Bradley Beal's brilliance is worth appreciating, no matter the games ending in losses

WASHINGTON -- You don't often see emotions mixed in basketball to the degree they were for Bradley Beal on Monday night. After his team fell just short against the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime, he described the game as simultaneously "terrible" and "the most fun [he's] ever played in."

That is a bizarre range of extremes. But it also makes perfect sense if you either watched the game or took a glance at where Beal's recent surge has placed in NBA history.

Take for instance the fact Beal scored 55 points, a career-high, one night after setting a career-high with 53 points against the Bulls. He became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, 58 years ago, to have 53 points or more in consecutive games and lose both of them.

Two losses in two games, but 108 points scored. That will certainly leave you conflicted.

Also look at the way the game transpired. Beal scored 22 of the Wizards' final 24 points in regulation to force overtime. It was a miracle effort against a Bucks team currently on pace for the third-most regular season wins in NBA history. The 20-35 Wizards even forcing an extra period against this team and after trailing by 20 points was impressive in its own right.

Still, they lost. And that left Beal talking out both sides of his mouth.

"I'm a winner, so you can throw those 55 out with the last 53," Beal said seconds before adding: "We showed some resilience. In our head, we're viewing this as a first round match-up if we get [to the playoffs]. This is kind of our message to them."

Really though, no matter the result, this was arguably the best game of Beal's career and not just because of the point total. You could build a case for other games of his, ones where he had triple-doubles or that actually resulted in Wizards wins. But scoring 22 of his team's 24 points in a span of about seven minutes to will them to overtime was a next-level takeover. 

And Beal happened to have this night with the reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton on the court. Beal, of course, was not a 2020 All-Star and this was yet another moment that made people say he should have been one.

"He’s an All-Star," guard Shabazz Napier said. "We expect that."

Beal was not an All-Star, though. And the more he plays like this, the more he does indeed make it seem ludicrous he wasn't one. After these last two games, for example, he is now averaging 30.1 points per game, the most in the Eastern Conference. Only James Harden (35.3) is averaging more this season.

Speaking of Harden and Chamberlain, Beal joined them as one of only three players in NBA history to score 53 points or more in consecutive games. He is the first to drop 50 on back-to-back nights since Kobe Bryant in 2007. Those are some of the very best scorers of all-time.

So, maybe Beal's name wasn't included with Middleton and Kyle Lowry and Ben Simmons, and the other Eastern Conference All-Star reserves. For now, he will just have to settle with Chamberlain, Bryant and Harden instead.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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