NBA Draft: John Wall seems sold on the Wizards, but he'll have to sell the team to free agents

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The 2009-2010 season was a dream campaign for the Washington Wizards. Just, y’know, one of those dreams where you keep falling and falling without salvation or even resolution. The problems just kept on coming, and while things didn’t necessarily get progressively worse over the course of the season, the sustained funk that surrounded the Wiz as a franchise throughout the year was unmistakable.

All of that ended last night, when Irene Pollin’s shocked expression said everything. The franchise with miserable luck in the lottery suddenly had its fortunes reversed, and if everything goes according to plan, John Wall, the man, the myth, the legend, will be suiting up for the Wizards next season. 

Wall is the future, and while he’s not going to say anything about the team’s controversy last season or even anything about his potential teammates, he did indicate the mildest excitement at the possibility of having the Commander-in-Chief in attendance for his games. From ESPN.com’s Andy Katz:

“President Obama can be at your games,” said Wall, as he stood outside
on Fegan’s patio. “I’ll keep working hard and hopefully they’ll pick
me.”

Wall is a hell of a selling point himself, but he may need to reiterate that same point to some of the free agents the Wizards are targeting this off-season. Thanks to Ernie Grunfeld’s cap-clearing trades involving Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and Brendan Haywood, Washington will have the cap space necessary to make a splash this off-season. They just, aside from Wall and Obama, don’t really have a compelling brochure.

The roster is filled with question marks. Andray Blatche finished the season in style, but he still needs to prove that he can keep up that level of play consistently in a less prominent role. Gilbert Arenas will be back, but will he be able to complement Wall? And where do Al Thornton, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee fit into the picture? I’m not saying the Wizards roster won’t work because honestly I think it could. Rather, that if I’m a free agent to be looking at possible destinations, I may not see Washington as an ideal situation.

Then again, John Wall.  Being his running mate could be tempting enough for a number of free agents, and certainly more so than just being Gilbert Arenas’ sidekick. There’s no doubt that Wall is the big prize of the draft lottery, but don’t underestimate the power of his mere presence as a free agent draw. Without Wall, the Wizards were just another team with cap room, even if Obama did stop by to catch a game. But with him, free agents will have the opportunity to build a team from the ground up with one of the best young point guards in the game.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.