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Once again, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wizards look ahead after 2nd-round exit

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WASHINGTON (AP) — For the third time in four seasons, John Wall and Bradley Beal exited the playoffs in the second round, extending the Washington Wizards’ nearly four-decade drought without a conference finals appearance.

“It feels a little different, but a little bit of the same. It’s kind of like I’m tired of being in this situation. I’m tired of losing in the second round. I’m kind of at that point now,” Beal said Tuesday, about 15 hours after Washington was eliminated with a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.

“I felt like we were right there,” he added. “That’s the worst thing, especially about the day after.”

Still, it’s primarily because of backcourt mates Wall and Beal that the Wizards do have reason to look on the bright side after winning only a single playoff series.

“Obviously, having those two guys on the team, like Brad and John,” center Marcin Gortat said, “we’re always going to have expectations.”

This season began with a new coach – Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman, who was fired after missing the playoffs a year ago – and with questions about the chemistry between Wall and Beal. It also started with a 2-8 record.

But Washington turned things around, thriving at times under Brooks and finishing with 49 wins, and its guard tandem could smile Tuesday while discussing the perceived rift between them.

“It didn’t do anything but make our friendship and brotherhood become more tight,” Wall said.

As for where they need to improve, Wall sounded a note he’s hit after past postseason exits.

“I’m tired of saying the same thing,” the four-time All-Star said, “but we’ve got to do a better job of closing out games.”

Beal wants this season’s ultimate disappointment to fuel the Wizards for the future.

“For sure, I’m confident in our team. … It’s on to getting better this offseason. And next season, it’ll be totally different,” Beal said. “We’ve got to remember that feeling that we have now and be better next year.”

Here are other things to know about the Wizards as they head into the offseason:

GORTAT’S FIT

Gortat tends to speak his mind and did so again Tuesday, raising the possibility that he might wind up elsewhere despite still being under contract with the Wizards. “I’m just going to sit down in the summer and talk to my agent, talk to my people, my closest people,” he said, “and I’m going to analyze if this is the right fit.”

A couple of other nuggets from him:

– About his critics, “I know there’s a lot of freaking idiots looking directly at the column with the points, telling me that, `You scored only four or six points; team lost because of you.”‘

– About his position’s place in today’s NBA, “Nobody respects centers anymore. Nobody looks at them as a valuable piece.”

– About the way the season ended, “Yeah, we could say `If, if, if, if.’ There’s a lot of `if.”‘

PORTER’S PATH

One key question is whether restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr. will return to his only NBA team. He didn’t shed any light on the matter, saying, “I haven’t really thought about that yet.”

BROOKS REVIEW

Brooks received glowing praise from players after Year 1 of his five-year, $35 million contract. “As a team, we respect him, we respect how he coaches, the way he does and how he is as a person, outside of coaching,” Beal said. “I loved him. He granted everybody confidence, freedom, on both ends of the floor.”

INJURIES

Reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said that he had an MRI exam last week on his injured right knee but did not want to hear the results, so he doesn’t know if he will need offseason surgery. Backup center Ian Mahinmi, who missed a chunk of the regular season with a knee problem and the start of the playoffs because of a calf issue, said he is not sure whether he might need any sort of procedure now that the season is over.

 

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

AP
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LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

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We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.

Lou Williams, Andre Drummond are #madonline about All-Star snubs

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Lou Williams is having a career year. He’s done everything for the ailing Los Angeles Clippers, who have turned things around and are battling for the No. 8 seed in the West.

Likewise, Andre Drummond is having a statistically important year for the Detroit Pistons as he leads the league in rebounding and in defensive box plus/minus.

Needless to say, both of them had a strong case to make the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. The only problem is that neither of them did.

That had both Williams and Drummond speaking their minds on Twitter on Tuesday, letting fans know what they thought about their snubs.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

Via Twitter:

Who should have been left off the East and West teams in voting, respectively, to make room for Williams and Drummond? No doubt this will be some topic of discussion for years to come as both players use it as fuel for the rest of the season.

All-Star reserves announced, Kristaps Porzingis, Damian Lillard make cut

Associated Press
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Last week the All-Star Game starters were announced, and a few players felt burned by the selections.

Now the reserves have been announced, and the real snubs happen.

As a reminder, the NBA is trying to inject some life into this staid event by having LeBron James and Stephen Curry — the top vote-getters in each conference by the fans — named captains who will pick the All-Star teams. Playground style. Just one after the other, whoever they want from either conference (but not televised… boo), first from the pool of other starters selected by fans, media, and current players, then from the list of reserves selected by the coaches (those coaches had to choose two backcourt players, three frontcourt players and two wild-cards for each conference). Curry and LeBron can pick anyone — if Lebron wants to choose James Harden, he can.

Here are who the coaches chose to round out the rosters:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Russell Westbrook
Klay Thompson
Damian Lillard
Jimmy Butler
LaMarcus Aldridge
Draymond Green
Karl-Anthony Towns

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Kyle Lowry
Victor Oladipo
John Wall
Bradley Beal
Kristaps Porzingis
Al Horford
Kevin Love

The Warriors become the first team to have four All-Stars in consecutive years.

There are four first-time All-Stars in there: Towns, Beal, Oladipo, and Porzingis.

So who got snubbed? The West was so deep there was just no way to get all the deserving guys in, but the biggest snubs are the Clippers’ Lou Williams (he has carried that team), Chris Paul of the Rockets (probably due to missed time), and the Thunder’s Paul George. Out East Andre Drummond was just off the board, as were Goran Dragic and Ben Simmons.

Just as a reminder, the starters are, from the West, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins; and from the East Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.

The All-Star Game is Feb. 18 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.