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NBA season continues as games resume and Wizards seek to rise

 

By DERON SNYDER

The NBA season is upon us.

Feels like it never left. Instead, the action picked up as superstars packed up after the games ended.

Two of the biggest movers-and-shakers will model their new uniforms Tuesday in a doubleheader featuring conference finals favorites. Kyrie Irving leads the Celtics against his former team, the Cavaliers. LeBron James is questionable with an ankle injury, though he’d probably hop around on one leg for a chance to beat Irving.

The nightcap features Houston’s Chris Paul, the former longtime Los Angeles Clippers point guard, joining forces with James Harden to take on Golden State. While Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are gunning for their title in the Western Conference, the Warriors are low-key threats to approach their NBA-record 73 victories.

In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards look around and notice several missing faces. Indiana no longer has Paul George, who’s running with Russell Westbrook in OKC. The same goes for Carmelo Anthony, who finally made his escape from New York and makes the Thunder a legitimate threat.

Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap are two more All-Stars who moved from east to west, respectively, Chicago to Minnesota and Atlanta to Denver. The offseason talent drain only increased the intraconference disparity. If the NBA threw all 16 playoff teams into a single bracket, chances are the East wouldn’t have a squad that reaches the Final Four.

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Washington avoids catastrophe in unexpected ‘big game’ vs. 49ers

By DERON SNYDER

Everyone knows appearances can be deceiving. We look at the NFL schedule when it’s released and we circle dates that figure to have the most significance.

We note the appointments with division foes, the match-ups against high-profile teams and the contests slated for prime-time broadcasts. Adjustments can and will be made when some teams perform worse than expected as the season progresses, but at least a handful of matchups always remain in the low-anticipation, high-yawn category as kickoff draws near.

The San Francisco 49ers, Sunday’s visitors at FedEx Field, were the perfect example. Arguably the least-attractive home date before the season began, the Niners’ 0-5 record only added to the blasé feelings they generated. With Washington coming off a bye, feeling good about being 2-2 and looking forward to Monday night’s tilt against Philadelphia, San Francisco should’ve been a gimme.

But in actuality, this was a big game, as big as they come. It would’ve been even bigger if Washington didn’t hold on for a 26-24 victory.

It’s hard to fathom the damage that would’ve resulted from falling to a winless team, at home, while trying to establish playoff bona fides, with back-to-back division opponents up next. A defeat under those circumstances would’ve been a devastating blow to all the progress Washington has exhibited thus far.

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Nationals, fans must accept unpleasant reality: ‘This’ might be it

By DERON SNYDER

In a funny 1997 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, the former, speaking to a group of depressed psychiatric patients, asks a sobering question:

“What if this is as good as it gets?”

Washington sports fans must wonder the same thing about the Nationals (not to mention the Capitals, Wizards and local NFL team).

Since 2012, the Nats have won four division titles and compiled the second-best record in the majors. That plus some tickets would get them to the National League Championship Series.

Another trip to the playoffs has ended with another short-lived run, despite fielding arguably their best overall team. 

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Checking off items on my TIDU List™ – Trump, Jerry Jones, ESPN …

By DERON SNYDER

Once again, it’s time to check off some items on my “TIDU List™” – Things I Don’t Understand:

*How the U.S. men whiffed on World Cup bid

All things considered, reaching the World Cup should’ve been the least of our concerns. Soccer has exploded in popularity in the U.S. We hadn’t failed to qualify since the 1986 cycle. The opponent on Tuesday, Trinidad & Tobago, had nothing to play for. According to FiveThirtyEight, the American men hadn’t lost a match with such a high probability of winning since 1885.

No wonder our soccer is clowned around the globe.

*Why President Trump needled the local hockey team

The Pittsburgh Penguins brought the Stanley Cup Tuesday as they visited the White House. Trump rubbed it for D.C. fans. “Are they tough, the Washington Capitals?” he jovially asked the Penguins. “Are they tough? What do you think, huh?” Pittsburgh defeated Washington in the playoffs the last two seasons. Overall, the Pens have won nine of 10 postseason series against the Caps.

The only thing tough when they meet is the Caps’ luck.

*How forced adherence equals unity

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Consuming less NFL could be beneficial for our nation’s health

By DERON SNYDER

The reality is, plenty of folks could use less football in their lives.

The same energy, passion, and devotion they generate for the NFL could be used elsewhere, for more meaningful matters like family and community. If real-life issues rose to the same level of importance as football for some people, the world would be a much better place.

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game Sunday.

Good for him!

I’m sure he had more pressing business that required his attention. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place, considering he flew from Nevada to Indianapolis for the game, only to fly back west to California. That was a waste in more ways than one; he knew he was exiting after the national anthem and the Los Angeles Rams played at home the same day. He could’ve saved a lot of time and money.

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Ovechkin needs to keep reminding us he’s not done yet

By DERON SNYDER

Most prognosticators have the Capitals returning to the pack after back-to-back Metropolitan Division titles and President’s Trophies. The forecast is based on the numerous veterans from last year who now wear different sweaters, including Marcus Johannsson, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner.

Additionally, Alex Ovechkin apparently showed his age in scoring just 33 goals last season, his second-lowest total in a full campaign. The 32-year-old “Great Eight,” entering his 13th season, is supposed to be a shell of his former self. Adjusting his style of play and making a new commitment training would be his only hope of remaining an elite scorer.

All those things might be true.

But for at least two games, Ovi reminded everyone of his generational greatness. He just became the first NHL player in 100 years to open a season with back-to-back hat tricks.

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For these Nationals and Capitals, postseason is all that matters

By DERON SNYDER

Thursday and Friday bring a tale of two seasons to the DMV, one getting underway and one possibly ending next week.

The Washington Capitals, coming off back-to-back division titles, open the regular season 900 miles away in Ottawa. In Southeast DC, the Washington Nationals begin the postseason after winning their second consecutive division crown.

The two franchises share more than a city and jittery fan base. Each has a recent history of being uncommonly good … except when it matters the most.

For the Nats, winning the NL East four times in six years is overshadowed by the Division Series-eliminations in each instance. Their failure to advance hangs over Nationals Park and will fly with them to Wrigley Field, where the 2016 World Series banner waves.

Considering how the Cubs’ went 108 years between championships, Chicago knows a little about quests for postseason success.

“I definitely think there’s probably a little bit more pressure on them,” Chicago utilityman Ben Zobrist told reporters Tuesday. “They haven’t been out of this first series yet. Obviously, they’re very motivated to try to do that. But they know it’s a very, very big moment for them and their organization.”

For the Caps, beginning their fourth season under coach Barry Trotz, Thursday feels like the exact opposite.

Their anxiety and tension is six months away, when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. Washington’s performance between now and then is figuratively meaningless, just like the seven first-place finishes in the last 10 years. None of those seasons reached even the conference finals.

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Don’t know about Red Bull but can confirm the RedZone is addictive

By DERON SNYDER

Growing up as a young football fan in Brooklyn, I didn’t realize what I was missing. The revelation came upon leaving for Washington to attend Howard University.

There was more to NFL Sundays than Giants and Jets games.

Who knew?

Unfortunately, some children in Los Angeles might grow up believing that the league revolves around the Rams and Chargers. Their parents will long for the days when L.A. didn’t have franchises of its own, meaning the two or three most-appealing NFL contests were beamed into their homes every Sunday.

That’s not what I enjoyed when I arrived on campus, as Washington games were a constant. But this new, one-team market left room for the marquee matchups I previously only read about. And when the Colts moved to Indianapolis shortly thereafter, proximity to Baltimore became a bonus.

Between the TV stations there and in D.C., I had the opportunity to watch as many as five different games on a given Sunday!

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Wizards’ ‘House of Guards’ has work to do as super duo

By DERON SNYDER

So-called NBA “Big 3’s” have been the rage since LeBron James and Chris Bosh relocated to South Beach to team with Dwyane Wade. That union resulted in four consecutive trips to the Finals and a pair of titles.

The concept is hardly new. Bird-McHale-Parrish and Magic-Kareem-Worthy played virtual ping-pong with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the ‘80s. The difference nowadays is superstars’ power to join forces with select other superstars.

Oklahoma City is the best example this season, where reigning MVP Russell Westbrook gets new running mates in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But not every team has three players on that level and no one besides Golden State has four (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green).

Here in the District, the Wizards can boast of a super duo in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Otto Porter’s game isn’t quite to the level for a “Big 3,” but the other two could make up the difference.

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Hard to grasp how sneaker money for players is a federal crime

By DERON SNYDER

Shock and outrage lurk every day, ready to erupt over the next update, sound bite, or tweet. The newsflashes are like chicken wings and we’re the hot oil, bubbling and popping and splattering when they’re dropped in our pan.

Federal authorities have given us a family pack, indicting four NCAA assistant basketball coaches and six other people in a fraud and corruption scheme.

Maybe I’m cynical and jaded. Or maybe my oil isn’t hot enough anymore. Whatever the reason, this isn’t worth the contempt and consternation that regularly flares up nowadays.

According to Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a three-year investigation that included wire taps and undercover agents revealed “the dark underbelly of college athletics.”

The allegations are neither shocking nor outrageous.

College athletics’ dark underbelly has long been exposed, like a backside lying on the beach. Some schools get burnt; most get tanned. We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes and soothe our conscience, but we feel the heat and become acclimated.

Pass me a cold drink.

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