Associated Press

Frustrated Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks: “We’re a selfish basketball team right now”

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The Washington Wizards, a team that has gotten John Wall back and should be peaking heading toward the playoffs, has lost four in a row and 8-of-10. In those last 10 games, the Wizards have a bottom 10 offense and defense, and have been outscored by 4.9 points per game. It’s been ugly.

A frustrated coach Scott Brooks had enough after a sloppy loss to the Hawks Friday night (without Wall) and unloaded on his team, calling them selfish. From Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:

“It’s embarrassing that we don’t play with the passion that we need to play [with],” Brooks said. “Selfish basketball is no fun to coach, it’s no fun to play with and it’s no fun to watch. We’re a selfish basketball team right now…

“It’s a simple game: you pass it to your teammate, you pass it because the game tells you to,” Brooks said. “If you don’t pass to your teammates, you’re not going to end up getting good shots. One-on-one players, there aren’t many in this league, and we don’t have one on our team.”

Wall averages 5.2 isolation possessions per game, third-most in the NBA (behind James Harden and LeBron James) and he scores less than a point per possession on them. However, Wall also moves the ball on those drives — he had 14 assists the game before, the Wizards had just eight assists as a team Friday night. The Wizards run a lot of pick-and-roll (42.2 percent of their offensive possessions vs. the Hawks) but without Wall the ball sticks on those plays.

The Wizards sit in the coveted seven seed in the East playoffs right now, which would mean facing a wounded Boston team in the first round. A series that should be winnable for the Wizards — but not the way they have played of late. Washington is stumbling into the playoffs and it’s going to be a short stay no matter who they face if the team doesn’t improve on both ends.

Russell Westbrook backs teachers in walkout in Oklahoma

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Russell Westbrook cares about education — and he’s put his money where his mouth is. Westbrook, through his foundation, has opened more than 20 reading rooms at schools around Oklahoma and made other investments in education in the state.

That’s a state where public schools are closed as teachers walked out in a dispute over pay and school funding. That walkout (it’s not a strike because those are illegal in Oklahoma) is expected to continue into its second week next week. Those teachers have seen no raises for a decade while school funding statewide has been cut.

Russell Westbrook has their back.

“Education is very very important to me and the teachers are stand up for something I obviously believe in, that’s helping the kids get a better education,” Westbrook said. “Obviously them getting paid more, more funding for the schools is very, very important. So I’m definitely all in for that. I believe education is key to a lot of different things that’s going on in society.”

Good on Westbrook. Oklahoma is bottom three in teacher pay by state, and the state is bleeding teachers to Texas because trained teachers can go there and get an instant pay raise. He knows what he believes, and isn’t afraid to use his pulpit to back it.

Nuggets eliminate Clippers, move into tie for eight seed 134-115 rout

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Will Barton scored 31 points and Nikola Jokic added 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists and the Denver Nuggets earned their fifth consecutive victory with a 134-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Nuggets pulled into a tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves for eighth place in the Western Conference with two games to play. Both teams are 45-35.

The Nuggets finish up the regular season at home against Portland on Monday night before playing the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.

Minnesota, which holds the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, hosts Memphis on Monday night.

The Clippers were eliminated from the playoff race. The Clippers suffered their fourth loss in five games, falling to 42-38, 2 1/2 games out of eighth place with two to play. The elimination ends a run of six consecutive postseason appearances for the Clippers, who previously missed the playoffs in 2010-11.

Jamal Murray added 19 points, Paul Millsap had 15 and Wilson Chander 13 for the Nuggets, who shot 62.4 percent from the field.

Lou Williams scored 24 points to lead the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 17 rebounds, with Tyrone Wallace added 18 points and Tobias Harris had 16 for Los Angeles.

Leading 81-71, Barton hit a 3-pointer after the Nuggets grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to ignite a 12-3 run that finished with Harris making the score 93-74 with 3:09 to pay.

The victory was Denver’s first this season over the Clippers, who won the first two meetings, 109-104 at Staples Center on Jan. 17, and 122-120 in Denver on Feb. 27.


Lakers’ legend Elgin Baylor gets well-deserved statue outside Staples Center

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There may be few more underappreciated superstars than Elgin Baylor.

The Hall of Famer was playing above the rim long before Dr. J made that trendy. He averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds a game, was a 10-time All-NBA player, and was the guy a generation of players — such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — built their attacking, high-flying game upon.

Friday night, Baylor became the latest legend to get a statue outside the home of the Lakers, Staples Center (joining Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and broadcaster Chick Hearn).

Listen to some NBA and Laker legends congratulate Elgin Baylor.

Check out some Baylor highlights, and if you have the time (45 minutes or so) the entire statue unveiling is below.

Lakers may shut Kyle Kuzma down for final games with sore ankles

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Back on March 13, Kyle Kuzma sprained his right ankle against Denver. He missed just one game, but has played through some pain since.

Friday night against Minnesota, Kuzma tweaked his left ankle and did something he rarely does, asking out of the game. While postgame X-rays were negative, the question is will the Lakers play him in their final three ultimately meaningless regular season games?

Maybe. From Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Kuzma may have to rest his ankles although he typically tries to play through injuries. “I tried to move and push around [on the left ankle in the third quarter] but it is kind of hard to move around on two flat tires,” Kuzma said about trying to play through the latest ankle injury in the third quarter before being ruled out of the game. “My body feels great. At the end of the day, it is just my ankles. I can’t tell you anything right now [about playing in the final three games]… [this latest ankle injury is] just really throbbing. [It’s] a little different than my last one. My last one was an inside sprain. This is an outside sprain.”

There is no reason to risk anything worse happening — sprained ankles are easy to re-injure and make worse — and setting back his off-season work.

Kuzma has had an impressive rookie campaign — 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 36.6 percent from three — that is going to land him on the NBA All-Rookie team (probably first team). He’ll probably even get a few third-place Rookie of the Year votes. Going into Summer League and the NBA season he was not the hyped Laker rookie, but he was decisive and aggressive from day one, not playing like a rookie at all. He is going to be part of their core going forward.

That is more important than a few games at the end of a non-playoff season.