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Used to being underestimated, Moe Wagner ready to prove World Team can hang with U.S.

Used to being underestimated, Moe Wagner ready to prove World Team can hang with U.S.

CHICAGO -- Moe Wagner enjoys having a certain level of anonymity despite being an NBA player, which has made playing for the Wizards a refreshing change from his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In L.A., he says, everyone knows who the Lakers players are. They are the biggest team in town and fans treat them like celebrities in public. In Washington, people leave him alone. Well, for the most part.

"What I always hear is 'how tall are you?' I should wear a t-shirt with '6-11' on it," he said.

In a way, Wagner is used to being overlooked. He remembers committing to play at the University of Michigan with no guarantees for minutes from coach John Beilein. Wagner had to fight for a role in the rotation before becoming a star and later a first-round pick.

"I'm from Berlin, Germany. You don't just go to the NBA. You have to dare a little bit. You have to risk a little bit. Going to college wasn't a safe bet at all. It probably would have been safer to stay at home," he said

"I don't think anyone knew me when I went to college. I barely played my freshman year. That's probably the biggest risk I took, but it paid off big time."

Wagner found himself in a similar situation in the NBA after being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He only averaged 10.4 minutes per game as a rookie.

But after getting traded to Washington last summer, he has found a better opportunity to grow. This year he's averaging 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 59.1 percent from the field.

It's enough to get him in the Rising Stars game, set for Friday night in Chicago, where he hopes to help the World Team show they can hang with the U.S.

"I remember when I first got to college, people would always act like European players or foreign players wouldn't be as good as Americans and that would really bother me. It doesn't bother me anymore because I just know it's false," he said.

Wagner says that has been proven because of the success of stars like Giannis Antetokoumnpo, last year's MVP. Wagner also believes the Canada-based Toronto Raptors was a breakthrough for international basketball.

Friday night is another chance to show how much the sport has been globalized. Wagner will take the court at the United Center with a World Team led by Luka Doncic of the Mavericks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Thunder. They will face a loaded U.S. Team with Zion Williamson of the Pelicans, Ja Morant of the Grizzlies and Trae Young of the Hawks.

Since the game format was changed from rookies vs. sophomores to the U.S.A. vs. the world, Team World has won three of the five meetings. Wagner can help make it four out of six.

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Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

NBA fans will get a chance to watch some of their favorite players go head-to-head once again, just not in the setting we're used to. 

With the regular season under suspension, the NBA announced the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament, featuring 16 players who will play each other in NBA 2K20 for $100,000 donated to coronavirus support efforts. 

The tournament will begin on April 3 on ESPN and will include the following players seeded 1-through-16 based first on their 2K rating and second on their seniority in the league:

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (96)
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (90)
3. Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers (87)
4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (87)
5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (86)
6. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers (85)
7. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (85)
8. Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers (85)
9. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (85)
10. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (85)
11. DeMarcus Cousins (81)
12. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (81)
13. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (79)
14. Patrick Beverley, LA Clippers (78)
15. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (78)
16. Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat (78)

Each player will choose eight current NBA teams to use before the tournament starts, though they can only use each of their selections once. The first two rounds are single elimination, while the semifinals and finals will be best of three. 

Wizards standout rookie Rui Hachimura enters the tournament as the No. 13 seed and will begin the tournament against Utah's All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell Friday. Mitchell may have a higher 2K rating and status in the league, but there's no telling where either player's 2K skills stand. 

Hachimura could very well take Mitchell down and set up a showdown with the winner of Andre Drummond vs. DeMarcus Cousins. 

The first round will begin Friday and run through the weekend, with the second round airing next Tuesday and the semifinals and finals wrapping up the tournament on Saturday, April 11. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Drew Gooden will answer questions in a special-edition mailbag

Drew Gooden will answer questions in a special-edition mailbag

Retired NBA player and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Drew Gooden is taking your questions.

To ask Drew a question about the NBA, Wizards, his career or anything else (within reason of course), please email drewgoodenmailbag@gmail.com. 

Drew will pick a handful of questions to respond to in this special-edition NBA on hiatus mailbag.