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.

Royce O’Neale agrees to four-year, $36 million contract extension to stay in Utah

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Royce O'Neale is a name casual NBA fans may not recognize.

However, GMs around the league recognize him is the kind of role player teams need to win. O’Neale is asked to guard the opposing team’s best wing player nightly, while on the other end of the court he’s shooting 44.3 percent from three. He’s become a critical part of Utah’s rotation.

So the Jazz have locked him up with a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Jazz — who have won 16-of-18 — just got Mike Conley back in the rotation, and have jumped up to a top-four seed in the West (as of this writing). Things are looking up, and also they have set themselves up well financially for the future.

Bigger bills are coming in Utah, in the summer of 2021 the Jazz will need to max out Donovan Mitchell with an extension plus re-sign Rudy Gobert. Which is why locking in a quality role player like O’Neale at a fair price now is a smart move.

Watch Marcus Smart set Celtics’ record with 11 threes, still not enough to beat Suns

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BOSTON (AP) — Devin Booker had 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Phoenix Suns overcame a franchise-record 11 3-pointers by Boston’s Marcus Smart and beat the Celtics 123-119 on Saturday night.

Smart shot 11 for 22 from 3-point range and finished with a career-best 37 points. His performance marked the first time in NBA history that a player made 11 or more 3-points in a losing effort, according to Stats.

Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Mikal Bridges added a career-best 26 points for the Suns, who have won four of their last five games.

Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Gordon Hayward added 22 for Boston, which has lost three straight and six of eight.

Three years ago, Booker scored 70 points in a loss to the Celtics in TD Garden. He finished an assist shy of his first career triple-double.

The Celtics were missing two of their top three leading scorers – Kemba Walker (team-best 22.1 per game), out with left knee soreness, and Jaylen Brown (20.0), sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained right thumb.

Boston cut its deficit to 90-85 early in the fourth, but Dario Saric and Bridges answered with consecutive 3s. The Celtics had it down to 114-111 on Daniel Theis‘ breakaway dunk with about a minute left, but Bridges hit a jumper in the lane with 37 seconds to play.

Booker’s two free throws sealed it with 4.8 seconds left.

The Suns led 60-51 at halftime and answered – mainly behind Booker and Ayton – any surge by Boston. The lead never fell below seven in the quarter, with Booker scoring nine points and Ayton getting eight.

The loss of two key players showed for the Celtics in the first quarter when the Suns broke in front 26-10 before Boston’s bench helped spark a 15-0 run.

 

LeBron James gets ‘M-V-P’ chants in Houston

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Laker fans are everywhere.

Decades of stars and success — from Magic Johnson through Kobe Bryant — turned the Lakers into the biggest franchise brand in the NBA, the only thing that might rival it is LeBron James‘ brand. Combine those two and there seem to be loud, at points obnoxious, Lakers fans in every arena.

Case in point: LeBron James got “M-V-P” chants in Houston while the Lakers beat the Rockets.

LeBron called it humbling.

LeBron’s play this season — 25.5 points and a career-high 10.9 assists a game, playing his best defense in years and leading the Lakers to a West best 34-8 record — has him in the hunt for a fifth MVP award (although he’s not who we would vote for right now).

Expect to hear these chants in a lot more buildings this season.

Check out Stephen Curry the sideline reporter (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry, the most overpaid sideline reporter in the NBA.”

That’s how Curry was introduced on the Warriors broadcast Saturday night as he took over some sideline reporting duties while still out after fracturing his hand four games into the season. What else has he got to do?

Above you can see the best of Curry’s reactions, or check out his walk-off interview with Eric Paschall:

I’d say he shouldn’t quit his day job, but that job also pays a little better.

By the way, the Warriors ended their losing streak with a 109-95 victory over Orlando. D'Angelo Russell led the way with 26 points.