John Wall has matured, that gives Washington a chance

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NEW YORK — John Wall at age 14 was a mess, particularly off the court. As detailed in a must-read piece by Mike Wise at ESPN, Wall was a hot-head nicknamed “Crazy J” who was thrown out of one prominent basketball camp, a guy whose father was in prison for armed robbery then died while Wall was young, and whose brother remains in jail to this day. Wall could have easily gone down that same path.

So what would 14-year-old Wall think of 24-year-old Wall, the All-Star Game starter voted in by fans?

“Very, very proud of him,” Wall said in an Adidas store in Manhattan where he was promoting his shoe line before heading to Madison Square to play last Sunday. “I mean, 14-year-old John Wall played basketball because he loved it, when I got outside of that I did whatever. Just to release my pain and hurt from losing my father and not having a father figure around. I was just doing anything; I didn’t have anyone who could tell me yes or no. I listened to my mother, but it’s not the same when your dad’s like ‘come here, I want to tell you something.’ It’s totally different.”

It wasn’t smooth or painless, but John Wall has grown up.

For a lot of fans that’s evident on the court. Wall is averaging, 17.4 points but more importantly leads the league with 10.1 assists a game. He also leads the league in assist percentage at 45.9 percent (the percentage of teammate field goals a player gets an assist on while he was on the court).

However, it’s on the defensive end where Wall is having a bigger impact for the Wizards. The Wizards are fifth in the NBA in defensive rating (giving up 1 point per possession) and Wall is key to that — Washington is 10.8 points per 100 possessions worse defensively when he is on the bench.

Wall admits he used to take plays off on that end, knowing he had to attack and lead the offense on the other. No longer. Wall said it started with improved conditioning so he could have the energy at both ends, it allowed him to be more aggressive. Then it just became about focus.

“I think just fighting over screens, you’ve got a lot of pick-and-rolls that teams run,” Wall said of what he’s doing better defensively this season. “And just being more locked in and focused, knowing that I’m the head of the snake on my team. So the better I start off the game, going the whole game playing defense, it gets my guys going.”

That commitment to conditioning is something that took shape last summer and is continuing in the season.

“A lot of stuff, changing my diet, and just being in better shape,” Wall said of what he’s done. “I have a chef now, so I’m eating healthier. Just making sure I’m staying with my workouts and staying stronger for the whole season. I think most of the time the second half of the season your legs start to get heavy, you start to lose muscle in your legs, all that factors in to what I’ve got to do to stay healthy.”

It is all part of a more mature Wall — the one the Wizards hoped they were drafting No. 1 back out of Kentucky back in 2010. The one that could be a foundational piece for a team.

“My first two years, me I was just excited to be in the NBA, going through the things,” Wall said. “I came in at 19. I think being injured taught me I need to do things so I’m not injured every year. And I think just maturing, growing up helped me out a lot.”

That maturing includes the people he keeps around him.

“I’ve just never been a person that likes yes people around me,” Wall said. “I want someone to be honest with me — if I’m doing something wrong I need somebody to be able to tell me ‘no’ and keep me out of trouble.

“In the past, you had a lot of people who was leeches, all they want to do is be like ‘yes, yes, yes’ as you’re taking them to shows and inviting them to events and paying for certain stuff. I don’t need you around for that.”

On the court, Wall puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with his speed, especially off an opponent miss, but his game has evolved into much more than that. Anyone that tells you he’s a shoot-first guard hasn’t watched him play in a couple years (and there still are talking heads saying that).

“They say I’m a shoot first point guard but I’m like how, I only take 12-13 shots a game?” Wall asked, although the answer is he takes 14 shots a game on average this season. “I think I lead all guards in double-doubles, so I was like ‘I don’t pass?’ That’s my job for my team; I key into passing first.”

NBA fans got it, which is why they voted him an All-Star starter for the first time this season.

“It was shocking to me when I first seen the (All-Star) ballots and I was one of the top guys in vote getting,” Wall admitted. “It was a surprise. I know I got some amazing fans, I just didn’t think my fans would vote me so high so quickly. I think my game and the way I developed during the season, they’re starting to see it.”

With all that notoriety comes opportunities, and Wall has a lot going on off the court now. He has his shoe deal and a lot of apparel with Adidas. He’s one of the guys that’s part of American Express’ new pivot campaign.

In the end, Wall’s personal success will be judged through the prism of how the Wizards do as a team. Wall knows if his team is one round and out in the playoffs this April he will take the brunt of the criticism. So what does he have to do for the Wizards to advance?

“My job is to just keep playing the way I am, and I got to play a little better,” Wall said. “When guys get injured a little bit, or we lose a couple close games, I have to do a better job of closing out games and getting those guys open shots.”

If he can do that come the playoffs — and if the Wizards are healthy and execute consistently — they are capable of pushing, if not beating, anybody in the East. The Wizards defense and Wall’s play on offense makes the Wizards a team that is a threat to be in the conference Finals.

And that would be another step in the maturation of John Wall.

Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio out 4-8 weeks with broken wrist

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This is not going to impact the Bulls’ rotations — Cristiano Felicio has yet to touch the court for the Bulls this season — but it’s a setback for a player trying to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Felicio fractured his wrist during the Bulls practice Monday and will be out at least a month, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Cristiano Felicio, who has yet to land on the active roster this season, broke his right wrist after falling in Monday’s practice, according to coach Jim Boylen. The Bulls’ coach said Felicio will miss four to eight weeks with the injury.

“We had the X-ray. It did not show up on the X-ray. Then we had the CT scan and it showed up on the CT scan,” Boylen said. “We’re going to do an MRI (Wednesday) just to let them give us a little more certainty on maybe how much separation there is in there and how much time it will be.”

The Bulls gambled on Felicio a couple of years ago and signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. That roll of the dice has come up snake eyes so far, with Felicio playing a limited role the first two seasons — and this season no role at all.

It is expected the Bulls will try to use Felicio’s salary in any trade packages they put together closer to the deadline, this injury would not impact that.

Asked about getting stabbed in back, Chris Paul says trade from Rockets

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Chris Paul has gotten traded three times in his career.

New Orleans sent him to the Clippers – but only after David Stern nixed a deal with the Lakers – in 2011. In 2017, Paul engineered a trade to the Rockets by opting in. Then, in an unprecedented star swap, Houston dealt Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook last summer.

Paul recently discussed trades with comedian Kevin Hart.

Hart:

Why is it always such a crazy time when it comes to these trades and whether they’re happening. You’ve been part of some big conversations. Is it at a point where it’s just business, or is it becoming personal?

Paul:

Every situation is different. But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth nother thing.

Hart:

That’s the business side.

Paul:

Exactly.

Hart:

Do you feel like there’s been times where, “Damn, that’s a little eye-opening. I got stabbed in the back”?

Paul:

Absolutely. This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is an easy target right now. Many people around the NBA resent him tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and costing the league significant revenue in China.

But, in this case, Morey brought it upon himself. He said in June he wouldn’t trade Paul then did so, anyway.

Maybe that was to protect Paul’s feelings if he stayed in Houston. In that case, Morey could tell Paul he believed in him all along. There’d be no way to know Morey was fibbing. Now that Paul is gone, Paul being upset is someone else’s problem. It’s a common tactic by executives.

Paul reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets, but he denied it. I don’t necessarily believe Paul. There was plenty of evidence of tension between him and Harden. It’d be pretty conniving to request a trade then throw Morey under the bus for making the trade.

But Paul’s denial of a trade request is on the record. So is Morey’s declaration that he wouldn’t trade Paul.

Morey must own that.

Report: Rockets have lost about $7M in China revenue this season, $20M overall

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms, has cost the NBA and its players a lot of money in China.

Probably no team has been harder hit than Houston.

Early estimates pegged the Rockets’ potential lost revenue at $25 million. It apparently hasn’t been quite that bad yet, but it’s already close. And the effects are trickling down to Houston star James Harden.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

League sources say the franchise has lost more than $7 million in revenue this season from cancelled Chinese sponsorship agreements and nearly $20 million overall when terminated multiyear deals are calculated.

For their superstar James Harden, the losses could be considerable if no resolution is reached. A source says Harden’s endorsement agreement with Shanghai’s SPD Bank Credit Card is imperiled.

This is why NBA teams are preparing for a lower-than-projected salary cap. It’s also why the union is planning to better educate its players on global issues.

The money involved is significant.

Nets, CEO David Levy part ways after fewer than two months

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Gersson Rosas – who lasted just three months as Mavericks general manager – was the standard for a short front-office tenure in the NBA.

David Levy, whom the Nets hired as CEO in September, is out after fewer than two months.

Nets release:

The Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center today announced that David Levy and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways. Oliver Weisberg, Chief Executive Officer of J Tsai Sports and NBA Alternate Governor of the Nets, has been named interim Chief Executive Officer of the Nets and Barclays Center.

“I want to thank David for his collaboration over the past several months and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Weisberg. “As we enter an exciting next chapter of our organization, it’s important that ownership and management are completely aligned on our go forward plan. We are proud of the culture of the Brooklyn Nets under the leadership of General Manager Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson, and we look forward to continue bringing the best experience to our fans.”

This shockingly short tenure raises questions. Mainly: What happened? Absent other information, good luck convincing people there’s not a scandalous story behind this.

The Nets generally appear to be in a good place. They have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a good amount of young talent. Brooklyn (4-5) has been mediocre, but this was always going to be a limbo season before Durant returns.

There have been a couple controversial incidents. Nets owner Joe Tsai spoke up during the NBA’s China-Hong Kong-Daryl Morey crisis, toeing the Chinese government’s line. A report also emerged about Nets officials being concerned with Irving’s mood swings.

Does either relate to Levy’s exit?

This vague statement leaves the door open to speculation. That isn’t necessarily fair to the people involved, but it’s what they’ll have to deal with.