Washington Wizards players want to make the playoffs this year. John Wall and others have talked openly about that as a goal. They think the team — with the additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza — can make the leap.
But in speaking to the media, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis seemed to tamp down expectations about this season.
At the lottery last June he said that another season in the lottery would be “unacceptable.” Now, he is redefining unacceptable. From CSNWashington.com.
“We would all find it unacceptable if we finished with the second- or third-worst record in the NBA this year. That would be a failure and the failure would start with me. I think we’re in a much better position. I think we will get better because our young players have now been seasoned.”
Leonsis spent a lot of time talking about a process, about how they want to draft well and retain guys like Bradley Beal. That is how to build a winner that lasts. But that means incremental growth not huge leaps.
Yet even Leonsis wouldn’t totally rain on the playoffs parade.
“It’s a combination of all those little things and those investments that we’re making that we think will incrementally improve the team so that this year it’s very respectful, very competitive and why not try to make the playoffs? Just a couple games over .500 seems to get you there and that’s how the guys are looking at it. So who am I to argue to with the players and the coaches? They feel upbeat, so that’s why I feel upbeat.”
Upbeat may not mean playoffs. Not with Wall out for the first month of the season (and Nene still battling the foot issue that slowed him last season). But the Wizards should be better. They are improving. But it’s a process.
The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.
Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.
At least they’re having fun with it.
On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.
Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.
As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.
For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.
His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).
“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”
Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.
We’re going to miss Kobe.