Dwyane Wade’s cousin murdered in Chicago

NEW YORK CITY — The city of Chicago has been gripped by gun violence, and according to ESPN, over “2,600 people have been shot in the city, mainly on the South and West sides. With 463 murders as of Wednesday, Chicago is on pace to record its largest number of homicides since 1997, when 761 people were killed in the city.”

Just yesterday, ESPN’s The Undefeated hosted a multi-platform discussion on the topic, featuring the input of community leaders and area athletes, including Bulls guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native.

Today, that violence hit home for Wade, as he addressed via Twitter…

According to Chicago’s ABC affiliate WLS, Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge, a 32-year-old mother of four, was an innocent bystander in the shooting…

Police said Aldridge was walking from the Dulles School of Excellence around 3:30 p.m. in the 6300-block of Calumet when two men approached another man in the vicinity and opened fire.

Aldridge, 32, was struck in the head and arm by crossfire. She was taken to Stroger Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Family members, including Wade’s mother, Pastor Jolinda Wade, to speak about Adlridge. Pastor Wade held her sobbing sister close the entire time.

“Just sat up on a panel yesterday, The Undefeated, talking about the violence that’s going on within our city of Chiacgo, never knowing that the next day we would be the ones that would be actually living and experiencing it,” Pastor Wade said.

Investigators said she was an innocent bystander and not the intended target.

A relative took custody of the child, police said. The child is unharmed.

Two people are being questioned by police. The shooting remains under investigation.

The NBA Jewel That Got Away


For some, it’s Seattle. For others, Vancouver. With all due respect, as far as anyone here at Hang Time HQ knows, no one yet has offered up Rochester or Fort Wayne as The Best NBA City Ever to Get Away.

But a compelling case can be made for San Diego, that gorgeous ocean-side locale in southern California with the nation’s greatest weather. For six seasons from 1978-79 to 1983-84, the Los Angeles Clippers made their home 90 miles south. Long before they shared a building with the more pedigreed Lakers, the Clippers played at the San Diego Sports Arena.

Played and mostly lost – 186-306 (.378) with no playoff appearances – while ranking at or near the bottom in NBA attendance. The franchise that had relocated from Buffalo had some respected coaches – three in six seasons in San Diego, actually (Gene Shue, Paul Silas, Jim Lynam) – and notable players such as Sidney Wicks, World B. Free, Swen Nater, Tom Chambers, Terry Cummings, James Donaldson and Norm Nixon while headquartered there.

But three fifth-place finishes in the Pacific Division were followed by three in last place, after which owner Donald Sterling moved the entire operation up to L.A. It was the NBA’s second abandonment of San Diego – the Houston Rockets had begun life there, playing their first four seasons from 1967 to 1971. And it something for which the franchise’s most notable player then or since still blames himself.

That’s right, Bill Walton – the Naismith Hall of Famer and San Diego native – feels personally responsible for his hometown losing the NBA more than 30 years ago. He left no doubt of that when speaking to ESPN.com’s Arash Markazi for a piece posted Friday:

“When you fail in your hometown, that’s as bad as it gets, and I love my hometown,” said Walton, who grew up in La Mesa, nine miles east of downtown San Diego. “I wish we had NBA basketball here, and we don’t because of me.”

When Walton signed with the San Diego Clippers in 1979, he had missed the previous season with a foot injury. But the center was arguably the NBA’s best player after leading the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1976-77 championship and winning the league’s MVP award for 1977-78. The Buffalo Braves had relocated to San Diego and been rechristened in 1978, and his homecoming was supposed to jump-start the franchise in its second season on the West Coast. But it wasn’t meant to be.

“It’s my greatest failure as a professional in my entire life,” Walton said. “I could not get the job done in my hometown. It is a stain and stigma on my soul that is indelible. I’ll never be able to wash that off, and I carry it with me forever.”

Walton, whose penchant for absolutes and exaggeration is well-known to those who familiar with his work as a broadcast analyst, seems a little hard on himself given the severity of his equally well-known foot injuries. He played only 14 games with the Clippers in 1979-80, then missed the next two seasons while enduring additional surgeries and rehabs. He appeared in a total of 88 games in 1982-83 and 1983-84 (and were 35-53 with Walton compared to 20-56 without him).

It wasn’t enough to avert Sterling’s move up the coast. All due to Walton’s inability to stay healthy, if you believe him.

“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it,” he said. “I was injured literally the whole time. If I could have played we would still have NBA basketball in San Diego. If I was any kind of a man I would have just quit on the spot when the team moved to Los Angeles and said, ‘I’m staying here.’ But I wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t healthy. I was not strong enough to stand up for what was right. I should have stayed in San Diego and done something else. I was very sad.”

Fortunately for Walton’s legacy, a bunch of lifelong friends among Celtics teammates and NBA fans, the big redhead didn’t choose San Diego over all else. He played one more season with the Clippers, then re-invented himself as a sub in Boston, helping that team to the 1986 title while earning the league’s Sixth Man Award.

The NBA never returned to San Diego beyond the occasional preseason game. But Walton, 63, has made his permanent home there, savoring its climate, its lifestyle and its pace. As he told ESPN.com:

“San Diego is the greatest place in the history of the world, and there’s nothing that could happen in my life that would lead me to leave San Diego,” he said. “I wish the NBA were still here, but that’s just something I’m going to have to live with.”

It’s a destination NBA traveling parties have had to live without.

Celtics’ Crowder rates as Jackson’s biggest Knicks ‘mistake’


If any player on Boston’s current roster could be said to bleed Celtics green, it would have to be forward Jae Crowder. Crowder, one of those guys credited with instilling “heart” into whatever team he’s on, turned the loyalist/”company man” stuff up to 11 with his reaction to Kevin Durant‘s decision not to join Gang Green as a free agent in July. The 6-foot-6, fifth-year man from Marquette was surprised that Durant turned down the pitch from a contingent that included Crowder, and he especially was peeved that the Celtics revealed some of the tactics they used against the former OKC star and his new team in Golden State.

Just because Crowder is long on Celtics pride, though, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t feel good about his near-miss at playing for the New York Knicks. That path-not-taken came up in an interview with Knicks team president Phil Jackson, conducted after the season by Jackson’s pal Charley Rosen and posted Friday by Today’s Fastbreak.

Jackson, in assessing this past season, looked all the way back to his earliest move in June 2014 and the regret that lingers over not grabbing Crowder when he had the chance:

“I don’t consider hiring [since-fired Derek Fisher as coach] a mistake because he worked hard and got the guys to stay as positive as possible while the losses piled up. I think the biggest mistake I made was actually this…One of the first deals I engineered when I came back to New York was to trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, plus a second-round pick that the Mavs owed to the Celtics. In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo, so I took the pick which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.

“Anyway, for all of us, making mistakes are part of the learning process…”

Crowder’s value was harder to ascertain back then, coming off his second season in the league and filling a reserve role for the Mavericks. Even pro-rated to 36 minutes, Crowder then (10.2 ppg, 11.9 PER) wasn’t the player he’s become (16.2 ppg, 15.8 PER in 2015-16), his defense and leadership blossoming in Boston as well.

But to have a legend such as Jackson kicking himself publicly for passing you by – and then to know you’ve avoided the Madison Square Garden mess of the past two seasons that only now seems to be getting straightened out – has to rank as a double-blessing for the 26-year-old Crowder.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Harden organizes players-only camp | Kaminsky working to improve his defense | Sefolosha: Hawks have ‘different dynamic’ now

No. 1: Harden organizes Rockets’ players-only camp — Star players on NBA teams are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, with overall leadership of the team being perhaps their most important job to succeed at. As such, many standout players — from the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday to Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — are organizing players-only workouts and mini-camps before NBA training camps open in late September. According to Marc Berman of Fox26Houston.com, James Harden is doing likewise for the Houston Rockets:

For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.

Last September Harden had the Rockets players together for a minicamp in Los Angeles.

“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader.

“He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”

Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.

Eric Gordon said the Rockets players had a “good group” for players-only workouts around the same time as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

“It was just everybody getting together,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a real structured thing.

“It was just guys working out together.”

Brewer is looking forward to getting together with his teammates.

“I’ve got to go down there with the fellas,” Brewer said. “It’s a good thing. We got to get together. Get to know each other, team camaraderie. You need that, especially now days the way the NBA is. A lot of good players, but you got to be a team.

“We want to send a message that we’re ready to go. We’re going to work our butts off. All the guys have been working hard this summer. Last year was a year that we didn’t like. Everybody has a bitter taste in their mouth. So we can’t wait to get started.”

***  

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 245) Featuring Michael Lee

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kevin Durant called it therapy, his time this summer with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team at the Rio Olympics.

We couldn’t agree more. Durant needed something to free his spirit after what turned out to be a tumultuous free agent summer that saw him leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rival Golden State Warriors.

Durant will have to deal with more drama when the NBA season begins and the furor over his summer decision cranks up again. But winning that gold medal certainly helped ease Durant’s mood, something The Vertical‘s Michael Lee captured in the aftermath of the Olympic team’s domination of Serbia in the gold medal game.

Lee got off of his flight home from Rio and immediately jumped on with us on Episode 245 of The Hang Time Podcast to discuss Durant and his wild summer, gave us some inside scoop on his experiences both covering Team USA and attending other events while in Rio. He highlighted his surprise performer (DeAndre Jordan) from the Olympics and gave us his take on the John Wall-Bradley Beal dynamic in Washington.

Lee, a longtime friend of the program, also provided us with a superb dinner recommendation, should you decide to head to Rio anytime soon, while also reminding us that there will be a positive (MVP-level perhaps) bump for someone who suited up for Team USA this summer.

You get all of that and more on Episode 245 of The Hang Time Podcast … Featuring Michael Lee of the The Vertical.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

***

Blogtable: Do Warriors have a short window to contend?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Team USA in 2020? | Do Warriors have a short window to contend? |
Who benefits more from change in scenery: Al Horford or Dwight Howard?


> David Robinson says the Golden State Warriors “have a short window” to win titles. Agree? Disagree?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThose comments were odd, coming from a guy whose favorite franchise has kept its championship window open for the better part of two decades. Maybe Robinson’s point was that San Antonio is one of those exceptions that proves the rule (though I’ve never quite understood that aphorism). Yes, it’s rare that a team could back up a Hall of Fame player such as Robinson with an even greater one in Tim Duncan — but hasn’t Golden State essentially done that with Kevin Durant coming aboard to help Stephen Curry? To me, setting aside career-altering injuries, it comes down to how you define “team” vs. “franchise.” Teams do have compact life cycles, and pieces come and go more swiftly than ever in this era of shorter contracts.

Replenishing with invaluable role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston will be the Warriors’ next big challenge, after caulking up the gaps opened this summer. Then again, Golden State figures to be a free-agent destination for a while, with the momentum of the short term and a sparkling new arena carrying them all forward. If Warriors GM Bob Myers & Co. can master the art of roster-and-talent transitioning, there’s no reason the Warriors’ ambitions can’t match the length of Curry’s career and beyond.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m not sure which window “The Admiral” is looking through, but barring major injury to a key player, the Warriors are in the championship conversation for the next five years. In today’s NBA, that’s an eternity.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: If he considers five or six years a short window. But if Robinson is thinking two or three years, he is way off. It’s hard to dissect the semantics. It is not hard to see the Warriors being very good until the current core is in its 30s.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Well, what’s “short?” Two years? Four? Or less? It’s hard to put a cap on their title chances because of unknown factors that can work for or against them: Injuries, defections, etc. No team can rip off eight straight titles anymore as the Boston Celtics once did. Something similar to the Shaquille O’NealKobe Bryant Lakers would be considered reasonable if, again, the Warriors are fortunate enough to escape injury.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Disagree. When the season begins, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will be 28, while Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will be 26. So they’re basically the same ages as Chris Bosh (26), LeBron James (25) and Dwyane Wade (28) when they started their first season together in Miami. That group went to four straight Finals and could have gone to more if James didn’t leave and Bosh wasn’t dealing with a non-age-related health issue. At 34, Wade showed us that he can still come up big in the playoffs. So I see the Warriors’ having at least five more years (in addition to the two they’ve already had) as a championship contender, as long as GM Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr keep those guys happy.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: David Robinson doesn’t need me or anyone else to remind him that championship windows are only open as long as the superstars on a roster stay healthy and together. So I’ll assume that “The Admiral” is speaking code when he says the Warriors’ window is short, as in at least three to five years with their current core group. The days of a dynasty the likes of which Robinson helped start along with Tim Duncan in San Antonio is no longer feasible, not with the way superstars are willing to change teams these days. In this new NBA world, five years of competing at the highest level is anything but short.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It’s absolutely true in the sense that the Warriors have to play as if the window is short. If they don’t win the championship in the first year or two, then it may be hard to keep the team together amid the criticism that is sure to follow. Will changes in the salary cap rules of the next collective bargaining agreement make it difficult to carry huge contracts for their four stars and fill out the roster with qualified role players? These days no team can count on a long run: Look at Oklahoma City, which had only three years of young Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden before changes were made.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWait, what exactly is a short window? Is that something like an overweight door? Anyway, who am I to disagree with “The Admiral?” I will say this, though: I don’t know how long the Warriors’ window will be open, but I do believe the pressure to win starts right this second. No adjustment period will be given, despite any common sense required. These guys will be expected to show what they can do right away.

Blogtable: What will Team USA look like in 2020?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most

important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Team USA in 2020? | Do Warriors have a short window to contend? |
Who benefits more from change in scenery: Al Horford or Dwight Howard?


> Look into your crystal ball and tell me what the U.S. Olympic team looks like in 2020? What’s the team’s personality? Who are its key players?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: My crystal ball is showing me a Russell Westbrook takeover in Tokyo, not unlike his old pal Kevin Durant‘s superstar turn down in Rio. Westbrook will be perfectly situated at that point, in terms of his chosen franchise and latest enormous contract, so he’ll be hot on the trail of his second gold medal to bookend a championship ring or, like Carmelo Anthony, to make up for the absence of one. I’m seeing five or six returnees from this summer’s squad, from among Kyrie Irving, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, maybe Durant. Then additions such as Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, either Karl-Anthony Towns or Andre Drummond and a 35-year-old LeBron James in the role Team USA impresario Jerry Colangelo had carved out for Kobe Bryant, had he wanted it this year. Kawhi Leonard seems a natural fit given his likely career arc with the Spurs and the presence of Gregg Popovich as the next U.S. coach. Then stir in fresh blood from the likes of Jabari Parker, Victor Oladipo or Brandon Ingram and the national team shouldn’t miss a beat.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Call them Team Bailout: Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Bradley Beal and maybe a veteran who wants last hurrah wrapped in the flag named LeBron James. All the stars who took a pass on Rio come back for Team USA and coach Gregg Popovich in Tokyo. Add in a couple of point guards — Chris Paul and John Wall — who were rehabbing injuries and you’ve got your gold medal roster for 2020.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The personality will be business-like. If anyone has forgotten in Tokyo in 2020 that some opponents made life interesting in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the coaches and USA Basketball leaders will be glad to remind them. The ’16 team had the right attitude, but maybe the easy victories on the U.S. tour before heading to Brazil and then the opening games of pool play created a false sense of security. That won’t happen next time. I also think the U.S. will benefit from the unique schedule coming up — World Cup in 2019, Olympics in 2020. The roster will be largely the same for both, helping with cohesion. A lot of the players from Rio will also be playing, but Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard will be added. Maybe others. Three years until the World Cup is more than enough time for a new star or two to emerge for the United States.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The next team will have a fresh new look, starting of course with the coach. LeBron James said how neat it would be to play for Gregg Popovich but I’m not so sure LeBron will be willing to put his aging body on the line by then. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant should give the team a Warriors flavor, with help from newcomers Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker. Still can’t see another country keeping pace four years from now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: At 31, Kevin Durant will remain the primary alpha dog among the rest. But there could be better offensive cohesion with Gregg Popovich on the bench. I think there were lessons learned this year about the value of complementary players like Paul George and DeAndre Jordan. So, while I see Durant, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis as obvious picks, there will need to be some guys that are willing to do the defensive work.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Olympic team in 2020 will once again be flush with the best homegrown players the NBA has to offer. The Golden State crew of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will take up a quarter of the squad alongside Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and “old heads” LeBron James and Chris Paul. There won’t be any leadership or chemistry issues and the talent level will rival any group to wear the USA across their chests since the original Dream Team. It’ll be all business as the U.S. claims its fourth straight Olympic gold.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The stars in their primes will include Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant at forward, and Stephen Curry plus Kyrie Irving in the backcourt. But the identity figures to be drawn from the potential comeback of LeBron James, who may become – if only for the 2020 Olympics – the starting center for USA Basketball. In that case the next tournament would shape up as an international celebration of LeBron’s career as well as his versatility. It could be an opportunity he cannot refuse.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog With my dirty dozen, it doesn’t matter whether the rest of the world is able to get its act together: Anthony Davis starts at the five, with Kevin Durant and LeBron James (on his international hoops farewell tour) at forward, supplemented by a Splash Brothers backcourt. Then, coming off the bench my second five is Draymond Green, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as my frontcourt, along with a backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. DeMarcus Cousins and Kyrie Irving round out my twelve.

Blogtable: Will Al Horford or Dwight Howard benefit more from new environment?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most

important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Team USA in 2020? | Do Warriors have a short window to contend? |
Who benefits more from change in scenery: Al Horford or Dwight Howard?


> Who will benefit more from a change of scenery in 2016-17: Dwight Howard in Atlanta, or Al Horford in Boston?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Gotta be Howard with the Hawks. He’s the one escaping — from Houston’s wacky management, from James Harden‘s self-absorption — so he’ll be in a better environment with, frankly, a lot to prove individually. I don’t see Howard’s numbers changing much — he’s not exactly Tim Duncan in predictability but his stats have been pretty consistent, allowing for injuries — but I can see his reputation improving a lot as a teammate. If he wants it to. Horford to me will just go from butting heads with Cleveland and LeBron James while wearing red and volt green to doing the same while wearing green and white. And falling short for the foreseeable future.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Easily Al Horford. He’ll be a perfect fit with what coach Brad Stevens and team president Danny Ainge are doing in Boston and could make the Celtics a real threat to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors in the East. On the other hand, different scenery will produce the same old Dwight Howard, part center and part sideshow, a rolling bundle of missed free throws, underachievement and excuses.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Howard more on a personal level because he has the most rehabilitating to do, but Horford and the Celtics will have a better season. Horford should be welcoming the pressure and expectations that come with that kind of contract. More people will be watching him then before, so more people will be appreciating his important contribution in Boston.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Al Horford went to the playoffs routinely in Atlanta, so I’m not so sure how that changes things in Boston. Dwight Howard, however, hit speed bumps in Los Angeles and Houston and could use a makeover. That doesn’t mean his time with the Hawks will translate into a cosmetic facelift for him, but compared to Horford, Howard has the most to gain by a change.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comHorford just needs to be himself and stay healthy, and things will work out fine for him in Boston. Howard has more to gain in regard to both his reputation and his ability to live up to his potential, but the change of scenery is not enough. He’s got to make some changes in himself. On offense, he needs to be more willing to be a pick-and-roll big and less worried about his post touches. On defense, he needs to be more focused and more active. If he’s the center he thinks he is, his team shouldn’t have ranked in the bottom 10 defensively with him playing 71 games last season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Dwight Howard needed a new team and city in the worst way. The fact that he’s back in his hometown only magnifies that truth. But where it’s hard to see what sort of fit Howard will be in an Atlanta system that asks its center to do things Howard never has (shoot the ball well from the perimeter and the free throw line). Al Horford is an ideal fit in Boston, where he won’t have to be a savior in a system that is perfectly suited for his skill set. Horford fits on and off the court in Boston and will finally be appreciated by an adoring fan base the way he never really was in Atlanta.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Horford is going to a young, improving team with 50-win potential, a passionate fan base and championship infrastructure – not to mention potential access to the No. 1 pick and cap space for another max free agent next summer. He has a chance to contribute to a franchise on the rise.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Dwight Howard. Which isn’t to say Al Horford won’t be successful in Boston. When I think of Horford in Brad Stevens‘ system, I think of all those long jumpers I saw Jared Sullenger and Kelly Olynyk miss last season, and know that Horford will sink the majority of those shots. But if Boston needs help on the boards, I’m not sure Al is the guy to look for. To me, Dwight has a lot of upside if only because he’s going to get touches in Atlanta on plays run specifically for him. I don’t know if he can knock down shots like Horford — although Dwight has been filling social media all summer with videos of him shooting 18-footers — but I just think Dwight has a bigger opportunity than Al this season.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wall, Beal try to get past their on-court ‘dislike’ | Boeheim doesn’t think Anthony will win an NBA title | Rose ready show new aspect to game in 2016-17

No. 1: Wall, Beal try to get past on-court ‘dislike’ of each other — Bradley Beal and John Wall have been the backcourt of the future for the Washington Wizards since Beal came aboard as a rookie in 2012-13. Since then, the duo has seen its share of highs (back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013-14 and ’14-15) and lows (non-playoff seasons in ’12-13 and last season). To reach greater heights, Beal and Wall will have to work together, something they both say doesn’t always come easy to them in an interview transcribed by J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com:

It’s no secret that the Wizards’ future — and two best and highest-paid players — have work to do with builidng their relationship. It’s Wall’s seventh season and Beal’s fifth.

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball,” Wall said in a sitdown interview with CSN’s Chris Miller that airs tonight, Wizards Central: Offseason Grind, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

“Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star.  If we were playing well as a tandem like the other two superstars that play together as a backcourt, play as a tandem, one night it’s going to be his night, one night it’s going to be mine, some nights it might be both of us. Those are nights it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

Since the backcourt has played together for four years, there’s a tendency to asume that they’re best friends. But they don’t spend much time together outside of Verizon Center and they have had to be separated on more than one occassion after blowups.

In a 41-41 season that had the Wizards out of the playoffs, Wall concluded the overall bickering amongst teammates was as much of a problem as the injuries.

One of the early signs of the season going south came after an embarrassing 123-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers in which Wall remarked postgame he’d only gotten nine shots up in 31 minutes. He didn’t mention anyone by name, but it appeared to mean he likely was unhappy that Beal took 22 in comparison. The next night, in a road game vs. the Charlotte Hornets, Wall predictably had nine shots by the end of the first quarter in a 101-87 loss.

Beal’s first injury last season was a shoulder contusion that came a few games prior to that episode, when he went down to the floor for a loose ball and took a knee against the Atlanta Hawks. While teammates ran to his aid, Wall bypassed Beal and walked to the other end of the court during the dead ball. This sort of body language speaks more than any words.

If Wall and Beal are truly going to be leaders, they have to be the voices of reason and not fan any flames with the likes of Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Oubre and likely Jarell Eddie.

“It’s tough because we’re both alphas. It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves, who will bet on themselves against anybody else, who want to be that guy. We both can be that guy,” Beal said.

“Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other. I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in without John. John wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in without me, without the rest of the team. It goes hand-in-hand so it’s kind of a pride thing. We got to (hash) out our pride, fiigure out what our goals are individually, help each other achieve those goals, figure out what our team goal is, where do we see ourselves five years from now, 10 years from now and go from there.”

It’s a rough patch that coach Randy Wittman never was able to smooth out. This is where new coach Scott Brooks is expected to help in their development as the leaders witth the core veterans gutted from the roster, some of whom insisted that during games it can be difficult to get through to the backcourt when they’re frustrated.

“Guys got to know their role. I think that’s the key. I think with coach Brooks coming in he’s going to hold everybody accountable starting with me,” Wall said. “Just make sure everybody know what their role is. If everybody buys into their role, we’ll be fine.”

This was viewed as Wall’s team since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010, became a three-time All-Star and second-team All-Defense. Beal, who played a career-low 55 games last season, has yet to achieve those sorts of honors. Wall has to be willing to share.

“I want it all to be on me. At the same time I want him to be right there with me. He’s my sidekick. I’m A. He’s A-1. He’s right there,” Wall said. “That’s something we got to do on the first day of training camp. We have to go in there and understand and get on the same page.

“If we’re not on the same page and we have our ups and downs we’ll keep dealing with the same problems. We have to get control of it. I think it’s hanging out off the court, doing those little things (helps).”

“It kind of goes back to when I was in college,” Wall said. “Me and DeMarcus (Cousins), E-Bled [Eric Bledsoe], they all knew I was getting all the media attention but every time I win I brought those guys along with me. I didn’t leave them behind. That’s because we hung out so much. We built a bond together. When you build that bond it’s kind of hard to break.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant: Olympics were ‘therapy for me’ | Colangelo challenges other countries to step up their game | Robinson says Warriors have ‘short window’ as contenders

No. 1: Durant calls Team USA experience ‘therapy for me’ — The Golden State Warriors officially signed Kevin Durant on July 8, but the news of his move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Oakland came out before then. Durant anticipated some backlash from fans for his decision and even said he stayed out of the public spotlight for a few days after his decision. Shortly after his move came training camp for USA Basketball and the 2016 Olympics, two events which helped Durant deal with his move to Golden State. Michael Lee of The Vertical caught up with Durant in Rio, who had plenty to say about his free-agency decision:

During an emotional summer in which he left behind his first professional franchise, was (mis)cast as a villain for siding with a former enemy and found himself having to defend his character, Team USA provided a much-needed sanctuary. For nearly a month, Durant got to play the game he loves, bond with some new and old friends – and win – without sweating any manufactured controversies or external second-guessing.

“It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life,” Durant told The Vertical in the bowels of Carioca Arena 1 about an hour after scoring 30 points in Sunday’s 96-66 victory. “It made my life easier … I knew [a backlash] was coming. It was definitely different for me, but to come here in an environment where people accepted me and didn’t care about anything except being my buddy, that’s what I needed.”

Wanting to “impose my will on the team,” Durant scored 71 points in the final three games, with his teammates hopping from their seats to celebrate whenever he squared up to shoot. USA Basketball managed to win at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain without Durant, who surprisingly pulled out of his commitment after realizing his heart wasn’t in it. Krzyzewski and Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo accepted his decision and welcomed back Durant this summer, when the team was unlikely to escape this tournament unscathed without at least one superstar takeover.

“You see guys who like to play, he loves to play,” Colangelo said of Durant. “Kevin Durant is one of the great players that we’ve ever had in USA Basketball, that’s for sure, and certainly in the NBA. I’m so happy for him to have broken the stigma of the media taking issue with him going to Golden State. This was good for him, for his psyche.”

Durant doesn’t like to admit it, but he is sensitive to negative perceptions, and has had to adjust to criticism from fans in Oklahoma City who once cheered him and others who were disappointed that he decided to form a super team with players who eliminated him from the postseason in a heated seven-game series.

“I can’t let anybody steal my joy,” Durant said while crediting the presence of Team USA and former Oklahoma City assistant Monty Williams with developing that approach. “Monty Williams used to tell me that every day: don’t let anybody steal my joy. I get joy when I’m out there playing and it went to another level just playing alongside these great players and playing under Coach K and his staff. I focused on that. All that noise around me kind of quieted down.”

After each of the past five international competitions, a participant in USA Basketball went on to win the league’s MVP. From the players on the latest gold-medal-winning roster, Durant is probably the favorite to claim the honor as the league’s best player next season. In a few weeks, Durant will shift his focus to the one glaring omission on his resumé – a ring. But for now, Durant will cherish a fulfilling gold-medal pursuit that was fruitful because of the process that yielded the positive outcome.

“I worked on my game everyday with the greatest players in the world, you can’t beat that. So winning a gold medal was an amazing cherry on top,” Durant told The Vertical. “It’s something nobody will ever take away. This experience will be embedded in my brain forever. This gold medal is going to sit in my house, in my trophy case, forever. Got two of them now. It’s amazing. For a kid from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, to make it on an international stage, it’s a dream come true.”

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