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Wizards' game against Knicks just small part of packed itinerary in London

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Wizards' game against Knicks just small part of packed itinerary in London

At some point on Monday, once the biggest snowstorm the Washington area has seen in three years subsides, the Wizards will take off from Dulles airport and fly roughly 3,700 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to England. They were supposed to leave Sunday evening following their double-overtime loss to the Raptors, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The delay should disrupt what was already set to be a busy and unusual week, as the Wizards are going overseas to play the New York Knicks on Thursday at The Q2 in London. The plan was to arrive in England around 7 a.m. Monday morning and have three days to get adjusted to the time change of five hours, plus some jet lag. Now, they will have less time to get acclimated.

Once there, the Wizards will have a busy schedule of practices and events. They have team dinners and charity appearances as they, along with the Knicks, will represent the National Basketball Association on the global stage.

The Wizards are taking a large group that goes well beyond the players, coaches and team staffers. Some players are bringing their families. Members of the WNBA's Mystics are going and so is the Wizards' dance team.

It is set to be a special week for the entire Wizards organization.

"We want them to enjoy it. We're not going to be there just to focus on basketball," head coach Scott Brooks. "We have a chance to be together in London. That's a great trip. It's a players' and coaches' dream. We get to go to a cool city and represent the league and represent our organization."

Brooks understands the privilege of going overseas for an NBA showcase. He was a player on the 1992-93 Houston Rockets who began their regular season with two games against the Seattle Supersonics in Yokohama, Japan. Though his Rockets lost both of those games, he has fond memories of the trip.

Brooks has been to London several times before and plans to visit Hyde Park at Kensington Palace where the team will have dinner one evening. Trevor Ariza is a big soccer fan and plans to go to Premier League game with his teammates. 

Tomas Satoransky and Ian Mahninmi, the team's two European players, will see their extended families during the trip. They both plan to have dozens of friends and family members at the game.

For many Wizards players, a major appeal of London is the shopping. Fashion is taken seriously in the NBA and Mahinmi, who grew up nearby France, apparently knows the best spots.

"Ian said he had a couple of places he wanted to take me," center Thomas Bryant said. "I'm gonna get some exclusive drip, get some clothes over there."

Brooks may not be as fashion forward as his players, but he said he also may do some shopping.

"I need some new drip. I'm gonna hang with Thomas," he joked.

Basketball has taken Bryant all over the world, to Uruguay and Dubai. But he has not been to London and never takes these opportunities for granted.

"It's not every day that somebody gets to do this," Bryant said. 

"Who gets to do that each and every day? I cherish that moment right there because I grew up in the inner city with not a lot of time traveling and everything. So, I'm just trying to take that time out there in London, I get to cherish it. I will take a lot of pictures, sightsee and just enjoy."

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Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

Mark Jackson thinks Wizards should retool like the Clippers, not tank or trade Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards have flipped their roster this offseason, to the point where they are one or two moves away from what could be considered a significant rebuild. Those two moves would be trading Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The team has no plans to do the former and probably can't do the latter due to Wall's injury and contract. But the point at which they arrived has sparked some debate about whether the Wizards should go all in and blow it up completely.

Count ESPN's Mark Jackson among those who believes the Wizards should not completely tank. The NBA Finals broadaster and longtime star point guard thinks there is a model to follow that equals a reset but also keeps Beal, in particular, in the mix.

"The Clippers," Jackson said. "They didn't tear it down, but competed until the point where they added pieces to where it gave them a real chance. I think that's the avenue to take."

The Clippers have dominated headlines recently after signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, a pair of moves that have installed them as title contenders. But Jackson was speaking more about the steps they took the previous year. They traded off many of their pieces, but did not fully rebuild. And they did it all while keeping their veteran head coach.

"They didn't sell all the way out. They were relevant and competed and they gained valuable experience as they got to the point where they are a championship contender," Jackson said.

"You lose Blake Griffin, you lose DeAndre Jordan and you lose Chris Paul; everybody says that's a teardown, but they defended, they competed at a high level and they were pros. They were high character guys. Good things happened until now where they have a real chance to win it all."

The Clippers took a step back when they traded Paul before the 2017-18 season, but not a major step back. They went from 51 to 42 wins. After trading Griffin and letting Jordan go in free agency, they took a step forward and improved to 48 wins this past season.

L.A. maintained a winning culture while shifting gears. It is worth noting the two biggest winners in 2019 free agency - them and the Brooklyn Nets - were not tanking teams starting from scratch.

There are plenty of differences between where the Wizards are now and where the Clippers were when they began their reset, of course. L.A. had more talent to deal from and got more back in some of the trades they made. 

They got a lot for Griffin and then Tobias Harris when they traded him to the Sixers. The Wizards have little to show for the deals they made involving Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris. There is also the obstacle of Wall's injury and contract, which complicates things further.

But, as Jackson notes, the Wizards are on a different playing field. They don't have to compete in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.

"The fortunate thing for them is that they're in the Eastern Conference. They have a home run hitter in Bradley Beal who is finally getting the recognition he deserves," he said.

"Ultimately, it's about getting John back healthy and allowing these young players to grown and develop and continue to add pieces that can play a role. I think the future is bright for them."

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Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

Still winless without Elena Delle Donne, Mystics fall to league-leading Aces

WASHINGTON – When Elena Delle Donne is on the court the Washington Mystics are one of the best teams in the WNBA. When she doesn’t play, the Mystics look lost and struggle to keep the contests close. Unfortunately for Washington, they were without the former WNBA MVP on Saturday, yielding an 85-81 loss to the Las Vegas Aces.  

With the absence of Delle Donne because of a broken nose, the Aces (11-5) pounded the paint in a game between the league’s two best teams. Forty-four points came in the paint for the Aces, compared to the Mystics’ 30, a far contrast from Washington's style of basketball.

Recent All-Star selections A’ja Wilson (17 points) and Liz Cambage (13 points) commanded the lanes on both the offensive and defensive ends. Combined with forward Kayla McBride, those three scored 46 of the team’s 85 points. Las Vegas also added 21 points from the charity stripe, preventing the game from becoming a barnburner in front of a sellout crowd of 4,200. 

Paired with Sydney Colson’s 17 off the Las Vegas bench, the Aces methodically erased a 15-point deficit the Mystics (9-6) built in the first quarter. 

In fact, the best part of the night for the Mystics was right after everything went wrong on their home court at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. A clock malfunction delayed the start of the contest by 20 minutes. It was yet another crazy quirk of the history of these two teams. 

Once the game got underway the Mystics came out firing. Flying up and down the court, Washington did not let the stoppage deter their success. The Aces were not so lucky and started the game 1-for-9 from the field and eventually found themselves down 22-7. 

“[It’s] always something with Vegas. Oh my God. We can’t ever just play a normal game with Vegas,” Natasha Cloud told reporters postgame. “For us as professional athletes, it is hard to sit there and be waiting, but you know we all focus. We all do different things … I like to dance to stay loose and not get tight.”

All five starters for the Mystics reached double figures without Delle Donne. Replacing the All-Star captain was Emma Meesseman who just finished playing with the Belgian National Team at the EuroBasket tournament. It is the second time the 6-4 forward started for an injured Delle Donne this season. Meesseman had 15 points and Cloud led all scorers with 18 points. 

Without Delle Donne, the Mystics are 0-3 this season. Essentially 0-4 because she only played one minute in the loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Saturday was the second straight game that she had missed. 

Since she joined the team in 2017, the Mystics are 6-11 without her and 49-31 when she plays. 

“We’re being held kind of together by baling wire right now,” head coach Mike Thibault said postgame.

Combined with Delle Donne’s injury, Meesseman was sick and Latoya Sanders and Tianna Hawkins both played through minor injuries. It does not make things any easier when they are playing their four games in nine days with two of those being on the West Coast. 

With the loss, Washington has now lost a season-high three games in a row. At home, they’ve lost three of their last four. Fortunately, they get a chance to rest and heal some of those nagging injuries. They get six days off for only the second time in the first half of the season before playing the Indiana Fever on Friday.

“Luckily, we have some time to kind of regroup," Thibault said. "Three games left before the All-Star Break. I told them, you know, ‘get the next couple of days off, get your bodies feeling better and come back in here on Tuesday and get ready for Indiana.”

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