Bryant’s career night not enough to stop the Nets

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photo

WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant had a career night Sunday delivering a 30-point, 13 rebound double-double followed up by Troy Brown’s stat-stuffing performance of 22 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

However, it wasn’t enough as the Washington Wizards fell late to the Brooklyn Nets, 118-110.

The Wizards played more engaged and disciplined on defense in their second contest in the bubble. The most positive developments came from Bryant, who scored in a plethora of ways aside from his usual inside scoring. He showed his outside touch by knocking down four 3-pointers and used a little bit of creativity with a mid-range step-back jumper.

“I just took what the defense gave me,” Bryant said. “My teammates had the confidence in me to knock down those shots. They kept telling me to take them, so I took them.”

One sequence from Bryant highlighted just how much he grew in his budding career. After tying the game up at 54-all and celebrating what would be his final 3-pointer of the night, Bryant narrowly missed Nets guard Caris LeVert (game-high 34 points, seven rebounds).

Bryant continued to push the ball up the court in an attempt to beat everyone down the floor for a late score and the lead going into the second half.

Generally, it would’ve been easy for a big man like Bryant to foul a faster guard like LeVert to prevent being exposed in transition. Instead, Bryant recovered just above the 3-point line. He sacrificed his body, drawing a charge as LeVert bulldozed through his body, celebrating a momentum-shifting defensive stop just moments before the halftime buzzer rang.

“I knew (LeVert) wasn’t really paying attention, he wanted to get the shot off quick,” Bryant said. “So I just tried to get my feet set, take a charge as best as I can because I knew he was going to keep moving. I got right in front of him and just took it right then and there.”

The moment encapsulated the type of effort the Wizards intended to play within the bubble, where they’ve prioritized development just as much winning.

On Sunday, the Wizards provided improved play. It wasn’t always perfect, but they executed when provided the chance.

For example, Brown showcased his playmaking chops in pick and rolls, being able to flip in floaters or fit in a bounce pass deep in the paint to Bryant for a dunk at the end of an 11-0 run early in the first quarter.

“(Bryant) brought the juice,” Washington Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “He gave us some offense. He committed on both ends. We need him to do that consistently. That’s how he has to play. I thought he was outstanding.”

The imperfect moments came late in the contest when the Wizards were struggling to score. Brown gave up back-to-back 3-pointers after Joe Harris (27 points, seven rebounds) found some room to tie the game up at 98-all with more than seven minutes remaining in the contest.

In the final five minutes, Washington turned to isolation play with Bryant forcing up a contested turnaround shot that earned him a tongue lashing from Brooks.

On the other end of the spectrum, LeVert scored back-to-back on a layup and floater. Bryant responded with a layup to make it a one-possession game. That was the closest the Wizards cut the deficit; however, Garrett Temple came right back at the Wizards with a floater of his own.

Jerome Robinson (12 points, five rebounds) fouled LeVert on a 3-point attempt that helped Brooklyn ice the win just moments later. LeVert knocked down two of three free throws, scored two more times with a floater, and sank another pair of free throws.

Jarrett Allen (22 points, 115 rebounds) hit free throws, while Brown and Rui Hachimura padded their stats with garbage time buckets.

The Wizards are now 0-2 (24-42) in bubble play with the Indiana Pacers on the horizon today. Meanwhile, the Nets have essentially punched their playoff ticket now that they’re up seven games to the Wizards and face the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday.

“The odds are against us, but we’ve got to keep fighting. “Brooks said. “We come in here, and we don’t want moral victories. We want to keep fighting. We’ve got some tough games coming up. These next six games are against some of the best teams in basketball.”

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WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

Wizards Notebook: Washington releases TV, radio schedule

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor
File Photo

WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards’ games during the resumption of 2019-2020 regular season will be broadcast through their regional television and radio partners.

Coverage of the three exhibition games followed by the eight seeding games will be broadcasted live on television through NBC Sports Washington (NBCSW). WGL Washington Wizards Radio Network will provide live audio of every game as well, with WFED 1500 AM distributing the Washington, D.C broadcast.

Both broadcasted the Wizards’ first two exhibitions against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. Washington will take on the Los Angeles Lakers in their final exhibition game before its first seeding game on Friday against the Phoenix Suns.

NBCSW will also broadcast a live one-hour show before and after each of the seeding games. The station’s live coverage, including pregame and postgame content, will be available to stream on the MyTeams app and

Dates and times are posted online on the team’s website.

Wizards release social justice t-shirt

In another step to their calls for social justice, the Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation announced the release of a line of limited edition social justice t-shirts in partnership with When We All Vote.

The shirt, featuring the team’s D.C. logo with a raised fist, was first seen during s joint protest with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics on June 19 or “Juneteenth.” According to the press release, the t-shirts represent the need to spread knowledge to the ongoing battle against police brutality and encourage voter turnout for future elections. 

During the march, Wizards’ leading scorer Bradley Beal said the closed fist symbol represents the team’s solidarity in fighting for issues citizens care about together. 

“Whenever we get selfish, and out of our ways, coach always puts up five fingers to show as individuals, there’s no power. The same applies for us in the everyday world,” Beal said. “There is power in unity. There is power in strength.”

Monumental said proceeds from shirt sales during July will be donated to When We All Vote programs in the metropolitan area. When We All Vote, created by former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing voter participation in elections through strategic partnerships to reach Americans. 

Shirts can be purchase in adult sizes small through double extra-large for $28 on the team’s website. 

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Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal will not play in the NBA restart. Courtesy photo

Bradley Beal will not play in Orlando

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy Photo/Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON – The speculation on whether or not Bradley Beal will play in Orlando is over after the Washington Wizards announced the All-NBA candidate would not play due to a shoulder injury.

The team departed for Orlando on Tuesday. Beal and sharpshooter Davis Bertans are the only Wizards who are not playing or joining the team for the rest of the 2020 campaign.

Beal was working day-to-day with the team to manage an injury (right rotator cuff) he’s been dealing with since the early stages of the season.

Even though the suspended season gave him some time to recover, it was not enough as his symptoms worsened during the long layoff, but he still rehabilitated intending to play.

After consultation from Wizards Chief of Athlete Care & Performance Daniel Medina, Wizards Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Beal, and his representation, the decision was made.

“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” Beal said. “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term. I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”

The announcement comes a week after Beal said on a Zoom call with media last week that he was still dealing with nagging ailments from before the season was suspended but was still working out every day at the facility with the coaching staff. Beal also said that he was not swayed one way or another during the call on whether he would play or not.

“Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts, we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard.

“Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision.”

The All-NBA candidate was averaging 30.5 points per game and trailed only James Harden (36.7 points per game) for the league scoring title. Beal also showed off his playmaking ability as a facilitator, contributing a career-high 6.1 assists per contest.

Beal tallied back-to-back 50-point outings in February with 53 points at Chicago and 55 vs. Milwaukee, joining an elite group of six to score back-to-back 50-point games and was the first to achieve the feat since the late Kobe Bryant did it in 2007.

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Beal, Cloud, lead march against police brutality and social injustice

Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics stand up for equality

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards basketball teams banded together for a march that spanned two-miles in protest of racial injustice and police brutality and to celebrate Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth commemorated the emancipation of the remaining enslaved Americans 155 years ago.

The march, organized by the Wizards guard Bradley Beal and the Mystics star Natasha Cloud, joined the group of protesters following the highly publicized deaths of multiple Black Americans, notably George Floyd, at the hands of police officers.

“Juneteenth is a day of celebration,” Cloud said. “It’s a day of liberation. It’s a day that we were finally freed from our bondage. We couldn’t think of a better day than today to come out here and come together, collectively, and unified in solidarity with one another for a greater cause.”

The march also followed up on sparked interest by Americans to learn about the history of Juneteenth. 

On June 19, 1865, the last American slaves living in Texas were given their independence and freedom two years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation. 

For Beal, not only is Juneteenth a day of celebration, but it’s a day to reflect on one’s actual freedoms.

“By definition, it is the ability to act and speak whenever you want, (about) whatever you want without any restraint,” Beal said. “Prejudices are normalized and condoned, where these things are taught and passed down generation to generation, encouraged and oftentimes celebrated? How does the black community grow when lives are taken from them without justice and without any consequences?”

Cloud said it’s vital for players on both teams to embrace the city during this moment. While Beal has been the face for the Wizards during the protests, leading his teammates posted a collective statement following Floyd’s death, Friday’s match was Cloud and the Mystics’ idea. 

“She actually hit me up a couple of weeks ago, wanting to march, and I was all in,” Beal said. “We pitched it to the rest of our teams, and we all agreed that it was something that was going to be powerful and meaningful to us.” 

Using her platform to speak up as an activist, Cloud recently penned an essay to The Players Tribune addressing systemic racism and calling for an end of the silence from all individuals, especially professional athletes. Cloud announced that she would not compete in the upcoming WNBA season to dedicate more time for social reform

“We can’t ignore this anymore,” Cloud said to the crowd of protesters. “That’s been our message to everyone in America. You can’t ignore this anymore. Your silence is a knee on our neck.” 

Before the march started, Cloud and Beal, wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts, spoke about the movement and how meaningful and recent emotional protests made them feel. When asked about any past run-ins with police, both players flashed pained grins before speaking on past experiences. 

Beal, the Wizards leading scorer, first recounted being profiled by police while driving with four basketball players in a predominantly white neighborhood. He then recalled being stopped on Interstate 495, the main highway that circles across the metropolitan region, with his fiance and a friend. 

“It happened here, two years ago,” Beal said, “The officer asked me to step out of the vehicle, I’m literally on the side of the highway-the median of the highway on the side, and he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f*** you up Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?’”

The experience did not lead to an arrest but still affects Beal to this day, causing him to hang his hat below his eyes and change his voice tone. The star guard said he is aware that his tale is not an outlier and that it is time for Americans not to be ignorant about racism. 

Following more than two weeks of protests, which included looting and peaceful gatherings in downtown Washington, D.C., it was their turn as athletes to join the cause. Some players spoke about their experiences dealing with police, while others said it was time to hold everybody accountable, including those who had yet to talk about the topic. 

“Your neutrality is taking the side of the oppressor,” Cloud said. “With Black Lives Matter Plaza, you have to see it. You have to wake up to it every single day. You have to go by it every day. It’s a subtle reminder that we’re here, and we still matter. Our lives have always mattered, and until black lives matter, not all lives matter.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the ownership group who controls the Wizards and Mystics, said it would continue building momentum from the march with several initiatives. It includes selecting two nonprofits each season, one dedicated to addressing police brutality and the other to voting, and organizing specialized programming with players and fans.

As he listened to his peers, read off a list of names who dealt with police brutality at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Beal said he felt that with the support of the people and his teammates, meaningful change is coming in the future. 

“This march was just a stepping stone,” Beal said. “Now our real action and our real trials begin. Together we stand.”