We can only imagine what #KD2DC would’ve looked like


If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;   

     If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 

     And treat those two impostors just the same”

Including the one-word title, “if” appears 14 times in the classic 1895 poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling. The piece is a favorite among organizations that administer mentoring programs, rites-of-passage, etc., attempting to instill values like composure, perseverance and humility.

But “if” has a different purpose in sports, where’s it’s a highway for could’ve-would’ve-should’ve. That usage gives us endless opportunities to talk about teams and players at sports bars, on sports radio and in sports columns.

There’s no way to prove or disprove the arguments and their speculative suppositions. No one knows for sure the outcome of something that didn’t happen. Yet, some of our favorite discussions are based on conjecture when the topic is sports. Maybe you’ve heard this one from time to time:

“If Kevin Durant had signed with the Wizards …”

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Cavs-Warriors entree well worth the wait through playoff appetizers


Do you know what’s been more entertaining than the NBA playoffs this season?

Folks complaining that the NBA playoffs have lacked entertainment this season.

There are too many blowouts, they gripe. The series have been boring, they whine. No one can beat Cleveland or Golden State, they moan.

The last grievance has tremendous comedic value. A third consecutive NBA Finals matchup between the Cavaliers and Warriors was practically preordained entering the season. Virtually everyone predicted that those teams would represent their respective conferences again, giving us an unprecedented Finals trilogy.

We knew this was coming, knew the teams arguably have six Top 20-players, knew LeBron James and Kevin Durant are on missions.

So why all the carping?

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Nationals not close to having championship-caliber closer


Nationals fans are forgiven if they have experienced recurring nightmares since 2012, bad dreams that start the same way every time, when the outfield door swings open.

The ghastly visions started after the National League Division Series against St. Louis. They were resurrected in the 2014 NLDS against the Giants and reinforced in the NLDS last year against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite all the success Washington has enjoyed while winning three of the last five NL East titles – usually with sold relief pitching along the way – postseason failure always has been a call (to the bullpen) away.

First it was Drew Storen imploding with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 5, as the Cardinals went from two runs behind to two runs ahead. He coughed up another ninth-inning lead a couple years later and the Nats headed to San Francisco trailing 2-0 in the series. Multiple sets of goat horns were distributed in the 2016 playoff finale; the bullpen inherited a 1-1 game that ended as a 4-3 loss.

So, excuse anyone who’s on edge about the Nats’ current situation when starters depart and relievers enter. Those worries typically don’t surface until October rolls around!

Reaching the playoffs is a pretty good proposition right now. The Nats entered Wednesday with baseball’s best record, playing in a dreadful division where the nearest contenders are nine games behind.

Washington’s offense has absorbed the loss of center fielder Adam Eaton and leads the majors in hitting, runs, RBI, slugging, on-base percentage and a slew of other categories. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman and right fielder Bryce Harper are battling one another for the Triple Crown. Even Michael Taylor, the lineup’s weak link, has heated up, batting .381 with two homers and six RBI in his last six games.

Determining the batting order isn’t the problem for manager Dusty Baker. It’s finding the pitcher(s) capable of taking the ball in late innings and preserving that evening’s handiwork.

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No boundaries, no restraints and no shame to NCAA money game


I suppose there’s no limit, no amount that might make the NCAA pause and reconsider its depravity. Everything concerning adults’ salaries, merchandising deals and TV revenue is based on free-market forces, a bedrock American principle that works great for schools, conferences, coaches and administrators.

Even better for those entities, player expenses are fixed at artificial rates, held firm by a diabolical scheme that makes Good Fellas seem like choirboys. With the racket’s continued ability to hide in plain sight, under the heartless veil of “amateurism,” there’s more loot for the bosses to take, make and keep.

It’s an offer they can’t refuse.

That’s why there was no objection from the status quo Friday when USA Today reported Big 10 Conference commissioner Jim Delaney is due a $20 million bonus. The news undoubtedly sparked visions among other conference commissioners and their deputies, who imagined what they’ll buy when the trickle-down reaches their direct deposits.

The same hidden grins surely occurred earlier this month, when Alabama football coach Nick Saban signed an extension that pays him $11 million this season. Coaches across the nation secretly broke into high-fives and backflips, knowing that a rising Tide lifts all foes. Assistants on Saban’s staff didn’t have to wait for the undulation.

They felt the ripples immediately.

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‘House’ rules in effect as John Wall, Bradley Beal force a Game 7


Heavy is the head that wears the superstar crown. Trying to put on one isn’t easy, either.

One night after MVP-candidate James Harden was a no-show at home in a Game 6 that ended Houston’s season, John Wall took his star turn on the national stage. It didn’t start well, as the Wizards’ point guard missed eight of his nine shots in the first half.

But that didn’t matter.

“If I go 1-for-30, that’s the way I have to go out,” he said after nailing the game’s biggest shot. His three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left gave Washington a thrilling 92-91 victory over the Celtics to force a Game 7 in Boston.

Wall refused to let the Wizards end another playoff series at home. The team’s heart, soul and emotional leader jumped atop the scorer’s table at the final buzzer and let the Verizon Center crowd know exactly where they were:

The House of Guards.

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Caps’ unwelcome visitors make themselves at home, again


Hello, doubts.

Hello questions, worries and fears.

We would say “Welcome.” But it wouldn’t be heartfelt.

No one in the DMV wanted to see you again. You’ve become all too familiar around here.

You swoop in every spring, like a bunch of tourists gawking at the monuments. But instead of clogging the roads, sidewalks and Metro, your congestion attacks our hopes, dreams and aspirations.

We thought you might  be a no-show this year when the Capitals rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to tie their series with the hated Pittsburgh Penguins. We thought the Caps finally dissuaded you from coming after they outclassed the defending Stanley Cup champs in back-to-back playoff games.

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Wizards leave fight at home, hope for return flight to Boston


The Wizards’ loss Wednesday in Boston wasn’t as devastating as the Capitals’ loss that night at Verizon Center. But the Wizards’ defeat in Game 5 felt just as bad as their co-tenants’ season-ender in Game 7.

Just in case a particular slice of NBA history was unbeknown, every media outlet has blasted it ever since Washington evened matters with the Celtics: The winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series proceeds to win the series 83 percent of the time.

First things first, though. The Game 7 that the Wizards wanted no part of when they headed to Boston, has vaulted to the top of their wish list. They just need the series to hold form once more – Friday – in order to break it Monday by winning on the road. Neither team this season has accomplished that feat.

The Wizards seemed poised to do so, arriving at TD Garden after back-to-back blowouts in D.C. Surely sleeping in their own beds, driving their own cars and being in their own environment couldn’t make that much of a difference. They were so much better than Boston in winning Games 3 and 4, and almost prevailing in Games 1 and 2.

Wrong, wronger and wrongest.

They were supposed to be beyond what transpired Wednesday, a 123-101 walloping in which their final lead was 4-2. Washington trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and never drew closer. The deficit ballooned to 26 points in the second half. Thoughts of an inspired comeback departed quicker than the Celtics on leakouts.

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LaVar Ball has questionable approach but admirable goal


The term “crazy” is thrown around a lot these days.

A plethora of armchair psychologists offer instant diagnoses on criminals and celebrities, pitchers and presidents. I’m as guilty as anyone, too easily applying the label to individuals who demonstrate egregious behavior that’s far from the norm.

In rare and extraordinary cases with serious consequences at stake, real doctors might offer public opinions on, say, a certain newsmaker they believe is psychotic and suffering from malignant narcissism. But sharing such analyses are frowned upon in the medical community and happen infrequently, leaving us laymen to reach our own conclusions.

Such as: “LaVar Ball must be crazy.”

What other explanation is there? The father of likely top-three NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball has launched the Big Baller Brand ZO2 sneakers and priced them at $495. That’s just nuts, right?

“I figure that’s what the shoe is worth,” he said Friday on ESPN Radio. “When you are your own owner you can come up with any price you want.”

The shoes might not be the most outrageous product in the Triple B catalog. A pair of shower sandals will set you back $220. Ball has a reason for that, too: “Prada and Gucci is selling theirs for what they want,” he said. “Ours is better than that.”

A quick Web search revealed Gucci sandals priced from $190 to $495. (I think that’s insane, too, but different strokes, etc.)

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Difference between the Wizards and Celtics is clear and stark


There are numerous ways to impact a basketball game. You can score. Set screens. Rebound. Make passes. Defend.

Washington coach Scott Brooks notes that many players are overly fascinated with putting the ball in the basket. Conversely, most coaches – with Houston’s Mike D’Antoni the notable exception – strongly prefer stops as difference makers.

Sometimes, both factions can have their way. Coaches get the extra-effort, in-your-face defense they crave, and players fly up down the court torching the scoreboard. When that happens, the result can be ugly for the opposition. Boston found out the hard way, 121-102, as it was routed for the second consecutive game in the second-round series.

Observers who went to Verizon Center only for the last couple of games are wondering how brooms weren’t passed out on Sunday. They find it hard to fathom that this Celtics team opened the series by beating this Wizards team twice in Boston.

Nothing that transpired in downtown D.C. suggests these squads are remotely close. The visitors were manhandled on the boards and in the paint, overwhelmed by the Wizards’ size and length. There were glimpses of the mismatch in Boston, too, just not long enough or convincingly enough for a win.

But if you look at the totality of Washington’s play in this series, there’s little doubt which team is superior.

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Wizards, Celtics engage in Throwback Thursday for Game 3


Prior to Game 3 of the Wizards-Celtics playoff series, Boston coach Brad Stevens offered his assessment of the proceedings to that point. He said his team had been “pounded” in five of the eight quarters, even though Washington lost each game.

Make it nine out of 12. And a 2-1 series.

The Wizards battered the Celtics from wire-to-wire in a rounding 116-89 victory. If Boston stole Washington’s heart in the first two games, the Wizards snatched it back, punched the Celtics in the nose and kicked them in the rear.

The fight was over early but there’d be no standing-eight and Boston couldn’t throw in the towel. So Washington kept wailing away, leading by 22 points after the first quarter and 30 points late in the third.

Kelly Oubre Jr. had been ejected early in the second quarter for charging Kelly Olynyk like a corner blitz. Oubre took exception to a hard screen that included an elbow to the jaw. He eventually was joined by teammate Brandon Jennings and Boston’s Terry Rozier, who seemed on the verge of blows during a 60-second span in the fourth quarter when they received a pair of double technicals for excessive yapping and menacing behavior.

The night sparked memories of playoff basketball in the 1980s, when the term “flagrant foul” was redundant. The physical nature of the first two games was ratcheted up several notches, except this time the Wizards were the aggressors. Bad blood was on full display for two teams that … well, let the superstar point guards explain.

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