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.

Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation, check out L.A. tribute video

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Lakers fans take a lot of abuse from other fan bases, some of it well deserved, but the core fans know the game.

And they know how much Dwyane Wade has meant to it.

Which is why they gave him a standing ovation when he checked into the game Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also put together a tribute video that played in the arena.

Classy move, Lakers. Well done.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.