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Though rivalry has changed, still plenty of storylines in Wizards-Celtics Christmas Day matchup

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NBC Sports Washington

Though rivalry has changed, still plenty of storylines in Wizards-Celtics Christmas Day matchup

Most of the central figures that made the Wizards-Celtics rivalry one of the best and most heated in the NBA are now no longer part of it. Jae Crowder was traded from the Celtics to the Cavaliers. Kelly Olynyk left via free agency to play with the Heat. Even Jonas Jerebko departed to play for the Jazz and Brandon Jennings left Washington for China.

Going through a timeline of why the Wizards and Celtics learned to hate each other isn't really even a worthwhile exercise, as most of the events do not apply anymore. But enough players remain in the matchup to leave potential for the rivalry to continue. There are plenty of storylines to monitor as the two teams prepare to lock horns for the first time this season at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Celtics knocked them out

Though the Celtics swapped out many of their best players from last season including Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, it is still the same team that eliminated the Wizards from the 2017 playoffs and the Wizards have not forgotten. The Wizards were one game away from their first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 1979, but Boston edged them in seven games.

That will definitely be on the minds of Wizards players on Monday.

"That's the team that knocked us out last year, so we're going to feel some type of way about it and come out with that mindset. We'll be mad and keep that same memory in the back of our head," guard Bradley Beal said. "I was beyond mad. If you can find a word that is worse than mad, that's what I was."

[RELATED: KYRIE IRVING SAYS CHRISTMAS ISN'T A HOLIDAY]

Kelly Oubre, Jr. in Boston

Olynyk is gone from the Celtics, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. is still on the Wizards and Boston fans surely haven't forgiven him for shoving Olynyk to the ground in Game 3 of their second round playoff series. Oubre was suspended for Game 4 and was then treated to boos and chants of 'f––– you, Oubre' in Game 5 in Boston. Citizens of Beantown love booing opponents much like they do clam chowder, the Dropkick Murphys, Sam Adams beers and Tom Brady.

Expect them to keep booing Oubre any chance they get. Let's just hope they keep it clean. Either way, Oubre won't be fazed. Remember, of getting booed he said "it makes me feel like I'm alive."

Markieff Morris vs. Al Horford

Some of the Celtic's best villians are gone, but one of the Wizards' biggest enemies is still there. Al Horford, who stepped under Markieff Morris' shot in Game 1 and sprained his left ankle, remains a key cog in Boston. Morris can't stand the guy and isn't exactly the forgiving type. He thought Horford did a dirty play and held it against him the rest of the series. Don't be surprised if Morris has some words for Horford on Monday beyond "Merry Christmas."

[RELATED: MARKIEFF MORRIS SAYS HE'S DOWN TO CONTINUE RIVALRY]

Markieff Morris vs. Marcus Morris

The Celtics made many moves this past summer including one that significantly changed the rivalry in a unique and interesting way. They acquired Marcus Morris, twin brother and best friend of Markieff. Now these teams can't possibly hate each other that much. Markieff talked about that dynamic this week and admitted things will be much different now.

Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier

If Wizards fans are searching for Celtics players to hate, look no further than their backcourt and Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, who both have played roles in the Wizards-Celtics rivalry already. Both are tough, physical guards who are likely to continue being agitators against the Wizards.

Smart has had run-ins with both Beal and John Wall. Beal suffered a broken nose and concussion after colliding with Smart in 2016. Last season, Wall was ejected for a hard foul on Smart in a game in Washington.

Smart is even playing the part of rivalry denier, which is oh-so-annoying. He's taking a page right out of LeBron James' playbook by saying the Wizards and Celtics never had a rivalry in the first place. Wizards fans won't like that.

[RELATED: HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS FOR WIZARDS FANS]

John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving

There's a new matchup to watch in Wizards-Celtics that offers plenty of intrigue, as both teams have All-Star point guards and former No. 1 overall picks. The Wizards have Wall, a four-time All-Star who went first in 2010 and the Celtics have Kyrie Irving, a four-time All-Star who was the top pick in 2011. 

The two play very different styles. Wall is much bigger and is more of a distributor. Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Wall and Irving should bring out the best in each other each time they face off.

"It's always been a great battle competing against each other," Wall said. "We are great friends off the court but on the court we are trying to take each other's head off and just trying to win the game."

Bradley Beal vs. Jayson Tatum

There is another close friendship between these teams in Beal and Jayson Tatum, two St. Louis natives who went to the same high school. Beal is five years older, but the two are very good friends and talk to each other all the time.

"I told him and he knows that we're not going to be friends when the ball goes in the air," Beal said.

Beal even has a bet to pay up on when he sees Tatum in Boston:

"I owe Jayson Tatum a gift, for a bet I lost. Duke and Florida. I got to give him his gift tomorrow. He asked for a pair of red bottoms so he's trying to break my pockets a little bit," Beal said.

[RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS]

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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USA Today Sports Images

Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards set introductory press conference for Dwight Howard

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?