The Warriors are sitting back laughing as the rest of the NBA is in scramble mode

The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in three years on June 12th. And ever since that day, every team not named the Warriors is scrambling to try and play catch up. The blueprint is out on how to win a championship. Just years ago, a “Big 3” would be enough to get the job done. But as we just recently saw, having three all-stars including LeBron James, was barely enough to keep the Cavaliers from getting swept which would have been the ultimate embarrassment.

A “Big 4” is now required to compete for a championship. And as a result, teams are in full-on scramble mode in trying to orchestrate a team that will give them a fighting chance against the Golden State Warriors over the next few years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have made three-straight finals appearances and won one of them. However, in the owner, Dan Gilbert’s mind, that plus “disagreement on the direction of the future” led to the termination of General Manager, David Griffin.

Let’s think about that. A General Manager who made the finals three straight times and under extreme circumstances (having to consult LeBron James on every decision) still wasn’t enough to warrant an extension.

Now that Cleveland is aware that a “Big 3” of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving isn’t enough to compete with the Warriors, they’ve started reaching out to the Pacers and Bulls to gauge the interest of Paul George and Jimmy Butler respectively.

Even with Cleveland’s success, the Cavaliers are still left scrambling as they were trying to acquire star Jimmy Butler from Chicago. After it felt like Kevin Love had found his niche with the Cavs, he’ll now be the centerpiece in all trade talks that the Cavs are involved with.

And remember the Lakers? The lowly Lakers who finished 26-56 this past season? Well, they’re just as much in the mix as Cleveland is. Just last night, The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov (salary dump) to the Nets in exchange for Brooke Lopez and their first round draft pick.

This is significant because with the Lakers expected to draft Lonzo Ball on Thursday night’s draft, they’ve now cleared up roughly $60 million in salary cap space which will allow them to sign one and potentially two max deal free agents in the summer of 2018.

Now that Paul George has made it clear that he’s leaving the Pacers after next year to go to the Lakers, teams are in a bind debating whether they should take a shot on the all-star for one year knowing that he’ll leave or just stay away altogether. About a half a dozen teams are interested in George but realistically, he’s going to be in either a Pacers, Cavaliers, or Lakers uniform next year.

And remember that Lebron James guy? He can also opt out of his deal in the summer of 2018 and has been linked to the Lakers on several occasions. Now the Lakers have the cap space necessary to sign both James and George next summer including other aging stars if they are willing to take pay cuts to form yet another super-team.

To recap: A GM who won a title just one year ago has been fired. The best player in the league is unsettled with the firing of his GM and now looks more likely than ever to leave for L.A. after next year. A perennial all-star has demanded out of his current situation. The Lakers have cleared an enormous amount of cap space to make a run at one, maybe two more free agents. And the NBA season ended just nine days ago.

Not to mention, the Celtics could potential land Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward. The Clippers are now shopping De’Andre Jordan. And the Knicks (yes the Knicks!!!) have started shopping Kristaps Porzingis to gauge the interest level of other teams.

And why all the chaos? Because how the hell else are you going to beat the Golden State Warriors?

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Wizards drop Lakers 117-109, win Southeast Division Title for the first time since 1979

The Wizards climb their way back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Lakers, 119-108. John Wall led the way with 34 points and 14 assists while Otto Porter and Bradley Beal chipped in with 16 a piece as the win gives the Wizards their first Southeastern Division title since 1978-1979.

From the beginning, it looked like the Wizards might run away with this one. Washington started a hot, 11-19 from the field as they took and early 26-15 lead in this one. John Wall had a magnificent first quarter with eight points and five assists but the bench came in and blew the lead as we’d be tied at 27 after one.

The defense hasn’t been a strong suit for the Wizards as of late and we got a glimpse of that in the second quarter. The teams traded baskets for most of the first half. The starters came back in for the Wizards and it looked like they’d regain control however the Lakers ended the quarter with a 15-8 run to take a 58-55 lead into halftime.

That Washington defense, or lack thereof? It was even worse in the third quarter. A combination of poor defensive play from Washington and hot shooting from LA (15-16 from the field in the third quarter) turned this game into a potential blowout as the Lakers stretched the lead to 16, 86-70 late in the third quarter.

However, this time, it was the bench that brought the Wizards back. The bench came in an hit two straight threes to cut into the deficit. Jennings would knock down two free throws as the Wizards started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to four, 101-97. A couple of John Wall steals and layups on the other end and we’d be all tied up at 101 midway through the fourth quarter.

Bradley Beal kept the Wizards alive as he drove baseline and hung in the air for this tough basket.

With the Wizards up one, Washington would run an isolation play for Beal as he’d hit this tough step-back jumper and get fouled.

Wall put the icing on the cake as he hit a tough step-back jumper over D’Angelo Russell to give the Wizards the win.

Washington wins 119-108. The Wizards capture the Southeast Division Title.

Wizards win their 16th straight at Verizon Center behind 33 from Wall.

John Wall leads the way with 33 points (14 in the fourth quarter) as the Wizards hold off a feisty Lakers team for their 16th straight victory at Verizon Center, 116-108. Markieff Morris (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (21 points, 14 rebounds) each had double-doubles while Bradley Beal added 23 points, shooting 5-9 from three-point range.

Bradley Beal came out scorching the nets tonight as he connected on his first five three-pointers, three of which coming in the first quarter. The Wizards made it a point to get Gortat going early which paid dividends as the big man turned in a monster performance. The Wizards shot 41 percent from the field but Los Angeles was letting it fly from three (5-12) as the game was close, 31-29 after one quarter.

The bench was productive when they came in led by Jason Smith who had another putback dunk off a miss

The third quarter was a different story. The Wizards got off to a slow start this time knocking down four of their first 12 field goals from the field. D’Angello Russell caught fire knocking down a couple of three-pointers and all of a sudden, the Wizards 19-point lead was cut to julst 11. Fortunately for the Wizards, Gortat scored 13 of his 21 points in the third period to maintain a 90-79 lead.

A three-point field goal from Jordan Clarkson and three free-throws from Lou Williams had the Lakers faithful at Verizon Center erupting as the baby Lakers cut the Wizard lead down to six, early in the fourth quarter. The Lakers used a 9-0 run to tie the game at 91 as the Wizards’ 19-point lead was erased.

John Wall flipped the switch scoring eight straight points for the Wizards as they’d regain the lead 99-93. Wall would hit two key fourth quarter jumpers as he scored 14 points in the period and the Wizards outlast the Lakers, 116-108.

Marcin Gortat stays rock solid

Probably the most overlooked player during this hot stretch for the Wizards is Marcin Gortat. Gortat has 28 double-doubles on the season, just one short of Wall’s 29. Gortat had one of his more explosive games of the season with 21 points and 14 rebounds. He took control in the third quarter with 13 points during a time when the Wizards struggled to score the ball. Gortat was extremely efficient knocking down 10 of his 13 field goal attempts (77 percent) and knocked down his only free-throw attempt tonight as well.

Wizards limit turnovers

Turnovers have been a major issue for Washington but not tonight. The Wizards committed just 12 turnovers resulting in just six points for the Lakers. In the past, the team has committed some errant passes often leading to easy baskets on the other end for the opposition. Luckily for the Wizards, the Lakers are one of the worst defensive teams in the league so no only did they not force Washington into pressure situations, they were unable to capitalize as well.

John Wall comes up big in the fourth quarter

As mentioned, Wall scored 14 of his 33 points tonight coming in the final frame. Wall hit two three-pointers to get things started only to knock in some key clutch jumpers from his favorite spot on the court, the elbow, down the stretch. Things were tense at Verizon Center after a 19-point lead evaporated but John Wall scored eight straight points for the Wizards to regain the lead.

Everyone loves talking about Wall’s jumper, and tonight he proved that he can knock it down with confidence when the game is on the line.

Wizards vs. Lakers final score: Washington starts road trip with 101-88 win over Lakers

John Wall turned in yet another double-double with 22 points and 13 assists as the Wizards beat the Lakers, 101-88.Kobe Bryant scored 17 points on 6-15 shooting in his last game against the Wizards.

Right from the get-go, it looked like Kobe was in for a vintage Kobe Night. Bryant hit three of his first four three-point attempts just minutes into the game, and the Wizards found themselves down 16-4.

John Wall was the only Wizards player who looked interested in playing. Wall took matters into his own hands, as he’d score the Wizards‘ next 12 points on 5-5 shooting to claw away at the Lakers’ lead.

Once Wall started going, the Wizards’ fast break offense started to click. The team scored 19 points in transition in the first half, which allowed them to take a 50-44 lead into halftime.

Otto Porter was invisible in the first half but morphed into “Third Quarter Otto” knocking down his first four shots of the third quarter as the Wizards extended their lead in the fourth quarter.

J.J. Hickson also had a nice night off the bench. He played over 19 minutes tonight doing most of his damage towards the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth. Hickson had some nice finishes at the rim and showed off some of his post moves.

The Wizards lead got stretched out to 24 but the Lakers had one last run in them. Larry Nance Jr. capped it off with a thunderous dunk over Hickson with 4:55 to play to cut the Wizards lead to 13, 90-77. The Wizards responded with another Otto Porter three-pointer and a John Wall – Marcin Gortat alley-oop to ice this one and pick up a 101-88 win.

Third quarter Otto shows up: If you watched the first half of this game, you would have though Otto missed the flight to L.A. Otto was nonexistent in the first half but that all changed after the intermission. Otto hit his first four shots after the break and went 4-6 from the field in the third quarter for nine points and three rebounds.

Otto finished the game scoring 12 of his 14 points after halftime. The Wizards need more consistency from Porter during these next nine games. He played terrific and had a disappearing act in the same game.

J.J. Hickson turns in best game as a Wizard: J.J. Hickson scored 14 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting tonight. Hickson and Wall had some nice chemistry going as the two connected on a nice alley-oop midway through the third quarter:

Hickson was also effective in the post and had some nice finishes around the rim. The ugly? He shot 4-12 from the free throw line.

Free throw shooting: The Wizards shot 16-29 (55 percent) from the free throw line tonight. Insert rant here_______________________.

Kobe’s legacy can be summed up by one word: Greatness.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, file)
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, file)

I used to hate Kobe Bryant.

During the late 90’s and early 2000’s I wasn’t a huge NBA fan. I pulled the “they don’t play defense” card whenever in sports discussions and it probably didn’t help that the Bullets/Wizards were the laughing stock of the league. Even so, I still hated that Lakers team that three-peated in 2000, 2001, 2002.

They were cocky, arrogant, and featured two of the NBA’s biggest stars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and I rooted for them to lose every game. I mean here they were, forming a super team with arguably the two best players in the league at the time. Of course they were the villains to everyone not living in Southern California.

For some reason, Shaq was a more likeable player than Kobe. Was it because he threw down powerful dunks? Cause he could double as a TV character with his larger than life personality? Or maybe it was because Shaq didn’t seem as entitled as Kobe? Here Kobe was, 17 years old (His parents had to sign his first NBA contract) and on draft day; refused to play for the team that drafted him, the Charlotte Hornets. Who was he to have the audacity to tell an NBA team at 17 years old that he didn’t want to play for them? That takes some chops.

After the messy divorce between Kobe and Shaq during the 2004 season; something happened. I watched more Lakers basketball since nearly every one of their games was nationally televised and I started liking Kobe. I didn’t know what it was at the time but every time the Lakers played, I had to watch to see what Kobe was going to do.

On any given night he could drop 40 points, hell 50. I mean that isn’t too absurd considering in 2005-2006 he averaged 35.4 points a game and scored 27 40-point games that season. But still, the Lakers endured early exits in the playoffs as it was Kobe and a cast of average to subpar role players. The scoring was amazing; the entertainment factor was there; but I still couldn’t put my finger on why I was fascinated with a basketball player that I loathed just years ago.

And then he changed his jersey number from 8 to 24 at the start of the 2006-2007 season and it all made sense. Yes Kobe initially wore 24 in high school and yes he said he was “dedicating himself to basketball 24/7” which is a cute cover-up but no.

He changed his number to 24 to one-up Michael Jordan who wore 23. He was making a national declaration that he would be better than Jordan; he wasn’t afraid.

It was rumored that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson sat Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant down to have a meeting during the mid-2000’s when the Lakers were underachieving in the playoffs. Jackson thought Jordan would be able to give Kobe some pointers to help his team get over the hump. Kobe looked Jordan in the eye and said: “You know I can kick your ass one-on-one.”

Excuse me? You have half as many rings as Jordan (at the time) and here you are telling the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball that you’d kick his ass one-on-one? Remember that statement about having chops?

Michael and Kobe are the two most competitive players to ever play the game of basketball. And Kobe was coming for Michael.

That was it. That’s why I liked him. Kobe looked the best basketball player to ever play the game in the eye and essentially said: “You don’t scare me, I’m coming for you.”

Yes Kobe was elite. Yes Kobe was great. But on top of all that, he had a work ethic that put him in a different stratosphere from other players. In a recent interview on Good Morning America, Kobe said that he makes 500 jump shots before and 500 jump shot after every single practice. He doesn’t simply take 500 jumpers before and after, he must MAKE them.

On top of that, there’s the infamous story of Kobe waking up his trainer at 4 in the morning during the Olympic practices to get some extra cardio in. When his trainer got to the gym, he said Kobe was so drenched in sweat that it looked like he just got out of a pool. After the workout, his trainer went back to bed. Kobe? He kept practicing until the official team practice started later that morning. Umm what?

Kobe epitomized greatness. He was extremely talented but his work ethic was that of a different breed. He took no short cuts and carried some of the weakest supporting casts deep into the playoffs. He took a team with one borderline All-Star and a bunch of role players to the finals three straight years where they repeated in the last two.

He’s won five championships, Olympic Gold medals, MVPs, scoring titles, you name it. But when you mix a once in a lifetime talent with a sickening work ethic, you get greatness.

That’s how I’ll remember Kobe Bryant: Greatness.

Wizards vs. Lakers final score: Kobe torches Wizards in final game at Verizon Center, Lakers win 108-104.

Kobe Bryant took a sip from the fountain on youth scoring 31 points as the Lakers beat the Wizards 108-104. John Wall was equally impressive coming oh so close to a triple double with 34 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds but it wouldn’t be enough as the Black Mamba stole the show. Hey… It’s his farewell tour right?

The Wizards burst out of the gate tonight connecting on five of their first seven shots giving the Wizards an early 13-6 lead cause this was going to be an easy win right?

In the second official game of his farewell tour, as expected, every time Kobe touched the ball; the crowd was Ooooh-ing and Ahhhh-ing begging him to shoot. Kobe did not disappoint. The Black Mamba hit 2-3 shots to begin and scored seven points in the first quarter.

About midway through the first quarter, the Wizards started playing like a team on the second half of a back to back. The Wizards were loose with the rock (12 first half turnovers), showed little energy on defense, and got crushed on the defensive glass (Lakers had 10 first half offensive rebounds). The Lakers ended the quarter on a 27-6 run and enjoyed a 34-22 lead.

Kobe shook Garrett Temple and knocked down a fadeaway jumper to open up the second quarter. Bryant backed that up with a vintage fadeaway falling out of bounds which Temple could do nothing about defensively.

With the Lakers lead at 19, it started looking like last night in Cleveland was just a mirage. But the Wizards fought back strong. John Wall and Marcin Gortat continued executing on the pick and roll for easy buckets. Kris Humphries who we all thought was buried on the bench came in and knocked down the Wizards’ first three of the game, getting the Wiz within striking distance down 6, 57-51 at halftime.

The Wizards started the third quarter on an 11-4 run. Threes from Beal, Wall, and a dunk in transition from Porter had the game tied at 59 in the blink of an eye. After hitting just one three-pointer in the first half, the Wizards knocked down five three pointers in the third Let’s just skip to the fourth quarter shall we?

Early in the fourth, Ramon Sessions curled off a screen and spun to the hole with a finger roll, putting the Wizards up four with 8:14 to play. Fans thought this would be the run the Wizards would use to run away from the lowly Lakers.

Kobe wouldn’t let that happen. Not in front of a pro-Laker crowd at Verizon Center. Kobe knocked home back-to-back shots including a long three-pointer to give the Lakers a 90-87 lead.

That’s when things got crazy. This game turned into a scoring matchup between John Wall and Kobe Bryant. John Wall scored 12 straight points for the Wizards down the stretch. Kobe had an answer. With the ball on the left side of the court, Kobe rose up and knocked home a huge three pointer giving the Lakers a two-point lead with under two minutes to play. Next time down, Kobe picked on Bradley Beal hitting a fadeaway over him with just 30 seconds to play.

The Wizards had one final opportunity to tie this game, but John Wall turned the ball over. Wizards lose a game they had no business being in 108-104.

For all NBA fans out there, this is a game we can all appreciate. It very likely could end up being Kobe’s best game of the season.

John Wall: John Wall logged back-to-back 30+ point/10+ assist games in as many nights for the first time in his career and just barely missed a triple double.

Pick and Roll Game: John Wall and Marcin Gortat are in midseason form with the pick and roll game.  Wall and Gortat ran the oldest play in basketball resulting in five easy layups or dunks for the Polish Hammer. Bradley Beal? Not so much. Beal committed three of his five turnovers running the pick and roll with Gortat.

Turnovers: The Wizards committed 23 turnovers resulting in 33 Laker points. Let’s be honest, If the Wizards weren’t playing the Lakers, this would have been a 25+ point blowout.

Recap: Wizards at Lakers

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Wizards down 18 at one point in the second quarter, complete a furious comeback and beat the short-handed Lakers 98-92. John Wall came thiiiiiiiis close to a triple-double finishing with a final stat line of 21 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds. The Wizards dynamic backcourt of Wall and Beal combined for 40 points as the team improves to 31-15 on the season.

This was ugly to begin. It looked as if the Wizards thought they could just show up to this game and the rest would take care of itself. Wayne Ellington was on fire, starting the game 6-6 from the field and 2-2 from 3 point land as the Lakers took an early 10 point lead.

Sloppy passes and missed free throws were on display from the wizards as they committed 16 turnovers for the game and shot 18-27 from the charity stripe; including a surprising 5-12 from John Wall.

The Lakers used a 13-2 run to start the second quarter and were able to stretch the lead out to 18. Randy Wittman brought the starters back in earlier than usual as the reserves couldn’t get anything going to start the second quarter. John Wall does what leaders do and took it upon himself to dig this team out of a hole. John deflected a pass on defense, spun around but was able to keep his balance and threw down an open dunk in transition. Then, Robert Sacre of the Lakers threw a lazy inbounds pass and John intercepted it and scored an easy layup. The Wiz were able to chisel into the lead and were only down 11 at halftime.

John continued his aggressiveness by pushing the ball and getting to the hole to start the third quarter. Bradley Beal who has been criticized some as of late continued to take the ball to the hole and not settle for jumpers. Late in the quarter at the 3:22 mark, Otto took a lazy Lakers pass the length of the court to lay the ball in and get fouled, that would tie the game at 68. The Wizards 14-0 run ended on a dunk from Ed Davis. The Wiz entered the 4th quarter down one but you could feel the momentum was shifting.

Rasual Butler hit a 3 pointer at the 10:30 mark as the Wizards regained the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

Kris Humphries provided some very good play off the bench chipping in with eight points and 11 rebounds including a vicious put back dunk in the 4th.

Kevin Seraphin converted on back to back trips down the court as the Wiz were able to stretch the lead to six. The Lakers went on a run of their own and were able to cut the lead back to one but never regain the lead.

With the starters reinserted back into the line up, John Wall raised up on back to back possessions for two smooth jump shots stretching the Wizards lead to five. The Wiz wouldn’t look back.

Washington has one final game on this road trip, tomorrow at Phoenix. Let’s see if we can finish this on a positive note.