Do John Wall and his Wizards have a problem with each other?

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The Wizards won five straight immediately after John Wall was sidelined with a knee injury.

After the third win – a victory over the Raptors in which Washington had 30 assists – Marcin Gortat tweeted:

And Bradley Beal said, via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:

“Everybody eats. That’s our motto,” Beal said. “That’s fun basketball. Everybody gets to touch it, everybody gets shots. It makes life easy. It just keeps the locker room close, it keeps our camaraderie going.”

The way Gortat put “team” in quotation marks, the way Beal was talking after a game without the ball-dominant Wall… were they implying something about Wall?

Maybe, maybe not. But Wall quote-tweeted Gortat’s tweet with “Lol”. Though that was deleted, it elevated suspicions.

Beal responded, via Hughes:

“For us to say that we’re a better team without John it’s, like, that’s comical in a sense. Come on, let’s be real,” Beal said.  “The guy’s the head of our franchise, a five-time all-star. Let’s be realistic. I think what benefits us is we figured out how to play without John. Reality is reality… We’re not sitting here saying we’re a better team without him, by no means.”

Beal also noted that he was quoting the movie “Paid in Full,” but that doesn’t affect whether or not he was initially indirectly referring to Wall.

And Wall didn’t rush to push the narrative that Beal’s words had been misinterpreted.

Wall, via NBC Sports Washington:

“It’s funny to hear everybody say, because I’m not playing that they’re getting extra shots or they’re doing extra things. That’s just a laugh and a joke to me,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller on Tuesday.

Wall on his reply to Gortat, which Wall , via ESPN:

I put laugh out loud because it was just the way he put the team – you know what I mean? – the way he put the team in the little exclamation points. And I’m like, “whoa.”

It was more just shocking to hear from him and understanding that he gets the most assists from me and the most spoon-fed baskets ever.

Gortat, via Hughes:

“I talked to him about that a few days ago. I thought we verified that,” Gortat said. “I told him it was nothing personal. I definitely didn’t think about him when I was writing that. I never thought about attacking him.”

Gortat, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“We talk about team win with 30 assists a game, everybody played for each other. We enjoyed the game,” Gortat continued. “And basically I see that, you know, he felt different way. He felt it was a different way and he came back with that kind of a comment. So, now we got to ask each other questions, who’s attacking who?”

This might have started as a non-issue with Beal and Gortat making innocuous statements that were misinterpreted. They also might have been taking shots at Wall.

Either way, the disconnect – especially with Gortat – seems to be escalating as Wall takes offense and shoots back. (Yes, Gortat needs most of his baskets set up, and Wall does that more than anyone.) Now, Gortat feels attacked, and everything snowballs. For what it’s worth, Beal keeps reiterating Washington is better with Wall.

Still, repeated sagas like this are why people think Wall’s teammates dislike him.

Take a step back with facts: The Wizards averaged 32 assists per game in this five-game win streak without Wall. That’s well above their 24 assists per game when Wall plays. However, they’ve averaged 22 assists per game in 12 other games without Wall, including a loss to the 76ers yesterday.

Don’t overreact to a small sample, and that caution extends to players within Washington’s locker room.

Yes, playing without Wall can be freeing. The offense becomes more equalitarian, everyone participating in facilitating. When Wall plays, so much runs through him. But he can break down defenses far better than anyone else on the roster, and that skill is sometimes necessary. It’s hard for a team to survive just on lesser players keeping the ball moving, even if it works against some opponents some nights.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.