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Unfinished Business (2017 Washington Wizards Media Day)

Nick Wass/AP Photo

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

More than four months after the end of last season, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal was asked on Monday how he feels now after his team was a better-played fourth quarter away from the Eastern Conference Finals in one of the best teams in franchise history. Let’s just say that he has not gotten over it just yet.

“Hurt…hurt, hurt, hurt hurt, hurt and still hurt. To this day.”

If anything, the Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics should act as motivation for Washington going into this season, which officially kicked off today as the members of the Wizards met with the media as part of the league-wide media day across the league. In an offseason where many big names changed places, the Wizards decided to stand pat, hoping that the young core of the team continues to develop and is able to get them over the hump an into a conference final for the first time in almost 40 years.

Those lofty goals, according to Wizards star John Wall, is the requirement going into this season.

“Try to get over 50 wins, get to the Eastern Conference Finals, and give us a chance to make the NBA Finals,” said the four-time All-Star in what he expects from his squad in 2017-18. For a team that won 49 games in the regular season, that number was made all the more remarkable in light of the 2-8 start it had, forcing Washington to dig out of an early hole to climb to the Eastern Conference’s elite. That’s something that Wall is hoping does not happen again this season.

“As a team, we’ve got great chemistry and great camaraderie,” Wall said. “We’re all used to what Coach Brooks wants from us. We’re a defensive-minded team that wants to get out and run, space the floor. It all starts with me and Brad [Beal]…The way we come into training camp, the way we lead is going to be what everybody follows us from.”

Wall’s leadership went into an extra gear last season, as he averaged a career high in points per game (23.1), assists per game (10.7) and field goal percentage (45.1). And he might be even better this season.

“If people think that I just arrived [as a superstar player], it’s just the beginning of what can be more,” Wall said.

Here were some of the other highlights of Washington Wizards Media Day.

Second Verse, Same as the First?

Probably the biggest news from the Wizards standpoint in the offseason was their relative inactivity, given all of the moves that have reshaped the Eastern Conference landscape. Scott Brooks, going into his second year as head coach, believes that locking up John Wall and Otto Porter Jr. to longterm deals over the offseason is just as big of a transaction than any other team has made to shore up their rosters.

“I know people have said that, but we’ve added a lot of important pieces for our longterm,” said Brooks in responding to whether not making a move for a superstar was a good thing or not. “John is with us for a lot of years. Bradley we signed him to a longterm, Otto to a longterm. We got a lot of good players coming back, into their prime, if not even into their prime. The future is bright. We have to just continue to play the brand of basketball we want to play: unselfish basketball.”

That doesn’t mean that the Wizards did not make moves at all, as the team shored up its bench – inarguably its biggest weakness last season – by signing sharpshooter Jodie Meeks and point guard Tim Frazier to add depth to the backcourt. Washington hopes those additions can take some of the minutes burden that Wall and Beal had to deal with last season, especially in the playoffs.

“Jodie Meeks is one of the best shooters in the game,” said Brooks. “He’s had some unfortunate injuries the two few years, so hopefully we can keep him healthy and on the court. If you can do that, he spaces the floor as well as anybody in the league. He’s a 40 percent three-point shooter and he can knock down four or five in a quarter.”

“We added also Tim Frazier, whom I consider as tough as a competitor as there is in the league: small in size but has a big heart.”

Stick to Sports? Nope!

It was not surprising that, especially given the events of the past few days, the conversation turned to politics and the events that unfolded with the protests by National Football League players during the national anthem and the comments to those made by President Trump. Bradley Beal, not one to be shy about giving his opinions about many issues, went into detail about his thoughts on the controversy, which included the president tweeting that he was uninviting the Golden State Warriors from their White House visit after Stephen Curry intimated that he would probably turn down a potential White House invitation.

“I feel like, honestly, that’s not a leader,” said Beal about Trump’s response. “For you to come out and, for one, disrespect the whole sport that the world basically loves and call people S.O.B.’s, that’s out of pocket for me. You have guys who’ve won a championship and they have the freedom to decide whether they want to go. When one man decides not to go, how in the world can you [uninvited the entire team]? That doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, you’re a clown. That’s unacceptable. That’s not what a leader does. Your job is to bring everybody together, and everybody in the world feels like since [Trump] got into the office, that hasn’t been the case.”

Beal continued his point and highlighted the NFL protests.

Puerto Rico doesn’t have water and power. They’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem. Well, if you would actually look at the reason they’re kneeling versus your own personal pleasure, then you’ll fully understand. But until you do that, you’re not going to understand it. I disagree with what [Trump’s] doing. I disagree with his thoughts. Hopefully as a nation, we can come together better and understand what’s really at stake here and the disasters that are really going on in everyday life and really see it from the perspective of people who actually go through it. It’s different to see it from a Twitter screen and from social media, but when you have people actually dealing with nonsense on a daily basis, it comes to a point where it gets out of hand and people get tired of it.”

“If we can’t exercise our right to freedom of speech, what are the Amendments for?,” Beal said in closing. “At the end of the day, he’s the president, but at the same time, I don’t support anything he represents and what he’s doing.”

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