A lot of people — a lot — who’ve been in D.C. mor…

A lot of people — a lot — who’ve been in D.C. more than 10 minutes, and who have roots here, came to love Wall, what he did for poor people and families in the parts of town many don’t care about. How he was clearly flawed but owned it, how he wore his heart on his sleeve and cried openly — when he signed his max extension, when his mother was sick, when a little girl he’d befriended died. And how he played in the playoffs with a broken hand, and how he led Washington to within a game of the Eastern Conference finals, and jumped on the scorer’s table after winning that Game 6 in 2017 over Boston, and how the crowd roared that night, having a legit contender in town for the first time in God knows how long, and the point guard and the crowd both hoping the night, and the feeling that washed over the building, would never end.
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January 21, 2021 | 10:39 am EST Update
While the Nets starters tired and Harden, Irving and Durant played the final 18:45 together, Brooklyn’s best on-ball defender, Bruce Brown, sat on the bench. Brown’s 6-2 frame made for an ideal matchup to potentially cool down Sexton, who is 6-1, but after seeing the reserves struggle in the second quarter, Nash elected to tighten his rotations and play just nine all game. After the game, Brooklyn’s stars said Sexton hit a lot of difficult shots on them and his performance isn’t a total reflection of the defense. “He made some tough shots,” Harden said. “And if he missed those shots, is it good defense? No, he made some tough shots, everybody’s tired at that point, and I think we did enough, especially in the fourth quarter and first overtime. I don’t know how many points he had in that second overtime, but I think he had the majority of them. Chalk your hat up to him.”
Irving said his time in Cleveland with LeBron James and Kevin Love taught him that resolve, compromise and sacrifice was necessary for the Cavaliers to win at a high level. Irving thinks the same can happen in Brooklyn with his new star-studded team. Like his last one, it isn’t going to happen immediately. “We’ll have good nights, we’ll have great nights, but it’s how we galvanize as a group together,” Irving said. “It’s how we sacrifice and compromise for the greater good. And that still remains to be seen. Obviously, one game is out of the way, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”
His teammates have noticed a difference in him, too. Osman has noted the advancements in Sexton’s game from his rookie year to now. Sexton is competitive on the defensive end of the floor, he’s making the extra pass and his assists this season are up to 3.7 per game. “Obviously, last year he was better, and this year he’s even better,” Osman said. “He made like 14 or 15 points in a row, and then there was good defense on him, but then he found TP (new Cavalier Taurean Prince) in the corner for a 3-point shot that was wide open. That was a beautiful play from Collin. He could have taken that one too but saw TP was open, and that was the right play, so he made the right play. You can see from his first year until now — he’s just getting better every day.”
Meanwhile, Kerr says the Warriors focused the “vast majority” of their initial practices this preseason on defense so they can compete in early games while beta testing the offense on the fly. “Training camp before was just about getting in shape,” Curry says. “Now we gotta do that and figure out who needs to be where, what sets are going to be our bread and butter, defensive chemistry and communication — everything that makes a team great.”
“Steph is so unique. There’s nobody like him in the NBA,” Kerr says. “Nobody who can play on and off the ball at that level and who creates that kind of havoc. And so I think with most players who come in, they’re not used to the second half of the possession. They’re sort of used to whatever the pattern is in the beginning. But as soon as maybe Steph gives up the ball, that’s when the action really starts the way we play. And that’s the tricky part for guys to figure out.”
Wiggins’ latest display came Wednesday night, when he contributed 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and terrific defense in a 121-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs. He says he wants to “change the narrative” that followed him to the Bay Area, and all indications are he is serious about it. It is being noticed, even earning him a nickname. “He’s more than capable as ‘Two-way Wiggs,” as we call him now, at just being able to make his presence felt,” Stephen Curry said. “I think he really cares about the defensive end, and being with us, he’s able to kind of show it night after night. There’s an expectation of it now. He’s proven that he can definitely make an impact on that end of the floor, guarding the ball, off the ball or whatever.”
Wiseman noted that his consistent film study has made him feel more comfortable on the floor, but it was Green who has really assisted him when it comes to figuring out how to stay in the game and stay out of foul trouble. “Listening to Draymond, talking to Draymond,” Wiseman said. “He’s giving me little tricks, different tricks on how to be smart. How to stay on my feet, because I’m 7-1, so I don’t have to jump. So if I’m going to jump, be the second jumper. But just like using verticality, which I’m getting better at.”
Now that they’re in, it’s going to be very hard to get some players to opt out. “I love the game of basketball, so if I have the chance to play it, I will,” Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant told me on a Zoom Monday. “I also feel like COVID is a big thing going on right now. We still have to be safe. I feel like the league’s doing a great job, from last season to even this season, trying to stop it, make sure we keep the games going and everybody staying safe and healthy. I feel like as long as everybody locks into it, hold each other accountable and also their self, I feel like the season will be fine to continue to go on.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
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