Washington Wizards' Wall brings ball up court past coach Wittman during NBA basketball game against Toronto Raptors in Washington

Wizards expect a lot of growth from John Wall this season

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There are a lot of things that need to go right for the Washington Wizards to make their playoff goal — Nene needs to stay healthy and be a force in the paint, Bradley Beal needs to take a step forward, Otto Porter has to fit in, Emeka Okafor needs a solid season.

But in the end it’s really all about John Wall.

Finally healthy, he is the guy who has to carry this team as a leader, the guy who is the lynchpin of their offense.

Coach Randy Wittman, when asked by J. Michael of CSNWashington.com which Wizards player he expects the most growth from this season, singled out Wall, who just signed a new five-year, $80 million contract with the team.

John (Wall) has had another good summer. I see him not only physically, on the court, but I think his maturity is at another level. People forget how old John is (23). Going through what he’s gone through this summer, his work in becoming a better player, his contract, the responsibility of that I’ve been really pleased with his development. I see a different John Wall.

He needs to be the same John Wall from a stretch of late last season — for a 10-game stretch last season he averaged 24.6 points a game, shooting 49.1 percent overall and 53.3 percent from beyond the arc, plus he dished out 8.4 points per game. The final 10 games of the season, as the Wizards were just playing out the string, those numbers faded. But you get the idea — when Wall plays like that, the Wizards are in the playoff mix. He needs to be that guy every night now.

Wittman also talked about other guys where he has seen improvement.

“Kevin (Seraphin) is a more confident person in himself right now. He’s had two years where he’s played. Once you realize and believe that you belong, you carry yourself differently. I noticed that in him. Bradley (Beal) has had a really good summer. He was a little disappointed in the amount he missed having to sit through the first part of the summer to get him healthy (because of a stress injury to his lower right leg). He had a great July and August. Emeka (Okafor) was in town just about every day working on his body. There was a lot of good things we were able to accomplish and we still have time to. … (Otto) Porter has no hamstring issues. He’s been full-go the last three weeks. Martell (Webster) and is great. He’s been back here since the third week of August and he’s been a full-go. No problem with the (abdominal) strain. I expect a fully competitive training camp.”

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).