Ivanka Trump has confirmed that she’s been disposed in a lawsuit filed by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine that alleges the Trump International Hotel and the president’s inaugural committee coordinated together to abuse over $1 million by over-charging for event space. In a nutshell, it’s illegal to misuse inaugural funds for personal gain, and the Trump Hotel seems to have done just that during the 2017 event, according to the lawsuit. As a top executive for the family company, Ivanka has been roped into testifying in a deposition, and she is not happy about it. The president’s daughter fired off a tweet accusing the lawsuit of being “vindicative” while offering “proof” that the inaugural committee wasn’t overcharged.
“This week I spent 5+ hours in a deposition with the Democrat D.C. AG’s office where they questioned the rates charged by the Trump Hotel at the inauguration,” Ivanka wrote. “I shared with them an email from 4 years ago where I sent instructions to the hotel to charge ‘a fair market rate’ which the hotel then did. This ‘inquiry’ is another politically motivated demonstration of vindictiveness & waste of taxpayer dollars.”
In the screencapped email, it shows a response from Ivanka that simply reads, “Just seeing this. why don’t you call and negotiate. It should be a fair market rate.”
As CNN notes, emails cited in the lawsuit show that there were concerns from the inaugural committee deputy chairman Rick Gates about the optics of the Trump Hotel charging $175,000 per day, which was at least “twice the market rate” if not more. However, the committee ultimately accepted the contract, resulting in the current litigation.
The L.A. Clippers, at one point, found themselves in a precarious position in free agency. With Montrezl Harrell departing for their in-arena rival and signing a deal with the Lakers, the Clippers were suddenly very thin in the frontcourt and were in desperate need of finding a high-level replacement for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Enter Serge Ibaka, who is coming off of one of his best seasons of his career and an excellent playoff run with the Toronto Raptors, who agreed to a mid-level deal to become the Clippers super-sub in the frontcourt — and likely will finish many games on the floor. In joining the Clippers, Ibaka reunites with his buddy Kawhi Leonard, as they won a championship in Toronto together in 2019. It was with Serge that Leonard always seemed to offer the greatest glimpse into his personality, whether on Ibaka’s “How Hungry Are You?” YouTube show or in the infamous celebratory, “What it do babyyyyy” video.
The famously stoic Leonard was part of the recruiting pitch for Ibaka, but rather than courting him to join the Clippers with a long-winded pitch, he went with a more direct approach that Ibaka found pretty funny.
It’s pretty great that Kawhi just so happened to hit Serge with a “What’s up?” text and then the follow up later was simply, “Bro, are you coming or no?” It’s not an approach that can work for many, but it’s extremely on brand for Leonard and clearly succeeded in getting the big fella to L.A. to salvage the Clippers offseason and keep them among the favorites behind the Lakers for next season.
Today turned out to be early Christmas for rapper-hunting federal authorities. After Casanova surrendered on racketeering charges in New York, TMZ reports that Chicago rapper G Herbo turned himself over in Los Angeles. The two rappers were both pivotal figures in their cities’ respective drill movements, but they allegedly also shared a penchant for organized crime. Along with his associates, Herbo is accused of large-scale fraud, using stolen IDs to charter private planes, rent vacation homes, and even buy designer puppies, to the tune of around $1 million of illegally-obtained merchandise and services. Charges were filed in Massachusetts, with 14 counts handed out to Herbo and his allies.
Although Herbo maintained his innocence through a rep who said he “looks forward to establishing his innocence in court,” the charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft carry some pretty heavy penalties. The wire fraud can get him up to 20 years in prison with fines up to a quarter of a million dollars. The identity theft charges can cost him up to two years in prison.
Holiday shopping for the weed smoker in your life can be tough. Sure, you can put absolutely zero through into your gift and grab your favorite stoner a gram, an eighth, or a few joints and they will most definitely be grateful. Everyone loves free cannabis, especially people who smoke all the time. But giving people gifts that they may potentially burn through in a single sitting offers similarly fleeting satisfaction for the giver.
Which begs the question: What kind of gift do you get a stoner that’s weed-related, has some staying power, and isn’t corny?
Put down those weed leaf socks and get away from that pot leaf-shaped ashtray. We’re going to guide you through a list of useful products that stoners of all stripes and tolerance levels will absolutely love. These are carefully curated items that we’ve personally sampled, ensuring that each pick is 100% weed-lover approved. Let’s dive into this year’s ultimate cannabis gift guide.
PART I — Herb & Stocking Stuffers
High 90’s 1,200mg Flavored Pre-Roll
A High 90’s flavored pre-roll isn’t just your average pre-roll. Each one packs a powerful punch, delivering 30%-40% THC per joint. That’s enough to get even your hardcore daily smokers stoned out of their minds.
This is no single-use joint — it’s a decadent treat. Each pre-roll is dipped in wax and subtly flavored with tropical notes that will make anyone feel like they’re getting high on a beach in California. Our favorites are the Gelato, Double Cup, and Tropical Punch, but honestly, each is tasty and strong enough to put you on your *ss.
If you can, try to get your hands on the full sample pack for an extra sweet gift.
A single Cavi Cone by Caviar Gold offers an almost psychedelic experience, no matter how experienced the smoker. Each Cavi Cone joint features Caviar Gold’s premium infused kush dipped in 92% pure liquid THC and then dusted in kief, offering an intense experience that’s not for your novice smoker.
Lowell Farms produces some of the highest quality herb in California and their products are always beautifully packaged, like the Lowell Smokes Eighths, which have everything you need to get your smoke on. Six high quality filtered joints, thick high-quality match sticks, and a strip to light them on all packed in a convenient carrying case that fits in your pocket, purse, bag — hell, you can roll them up in your sleeve like you’re James Dean.
The THC in these joints is top shelf, hovering just above and below 20% THC and offered in a variety of strains geared toward sleep, creativity, chilling out, and any other type of marijuana enhanced hang you can think of. This is the perfect gift for the smoker who loves joints and is way classier than gifting an eighth in a plastic vile.
Okay, so this isn’t the kind of gift you just buy anyone. This one is particularly geared towards stoner couples. Throw this baby in the bath and prepare to enjoy a relaxing foamy time as the fresh rose petal scent combines with 100mg of broad-spectrum CBD to chill you out into the ultimate state of relaxation. Pass a joint between you and your partner and see where the night goes from there. It’s sensual, relaxing, and soothing, so you know, don’t buy it for a casual acquaintance. (Or do, we don’t judge.)
Like the pre-rolled joints, Lowell Farms’ Rechargeable Vape Pens are beautifully packaged, in magnetic carrying cases that house sleek matte finish vape pens loaded up with half a gram of Lowell’s high quality liquid Live Rosin, with THC levels hovering around the high 50% level.
Once the gram is smoked, you get a pretty high-quality rechargeable vape so this is really two gifts in one.
Great pipes are truly a luxury. At the end of the day, stoners just want to get high — it’s why people make bongs out of apples and water bottles. Nobody wants to do that, but when you have nothing to get the job done you improvise! This is why buying someone a quality pipe, like this black walnut… let me repeat myself. Black. Fucking. Walnut bubbler makes such a dope gift.
Who wouldn’t want to smoke out of this thing?
It’s got a big base, allowing for a larger volume of water to be filtered through the percolator smoothing out each hit to deliver maximum flavor and a clean smoking experience, and most importantly, it’s easy to clean.
It’s not as big and imposing as a bong, but it’s a leap up from your average glass pipe both in experience and design.
The Dipper, by Dip Devices, isn’t just an alliteration-phile’s dream. It’s also great for stoners that like to get really, really high. The Dipper is a concentrate vaporizer (meaning it doesn’t use dry herb) that also functions as a portable dabbing device, allowing you to get a legit dab hit on the go without a complicated rig or torch.
My preferred smoking device for almost any occasion is the Pax 3 Vaporizer. It’s versatile, allowing you to vape both concentrates and loose-leaf marijuana, it’s portable, with a USB charger that you can bring anywhere from the car to… literally any destination, and it’s simple. No buttons (besides the one to turn it on, hidden in the mouthpiece) no digital temperature readouts, no nerdy stuff that ceases to matter once you’re high.
Just a sleek design in a metallic matte finish. It’s very much the Apple of vapes.
I know what you’re thinking, why would anyone need an auto-dispensing grinder? I was in that same boat too, and then COVID-19 happened and suddenly I didn’t want my housemates’ fingers anywhere near my weed grinders and the idea of passing around a piece officially became a thing of the past.
The Saucey Tectonic9 is big enough to house over a full gram of weed, making it perfect for social situations, and its auto-dispensing technology makes it so that you can disperse bowls without ever having to actually touch the weed.
It might’ve been a luxury in a pre-pandemic world but in a post-pandemic world? This is a necessity.
In the event you’re reading the above words and feeling completely lost, let us break this down in the simplest way possible: The Ardent FX Decarboxylator is an Easy-Bake oven for making weed-infused edibles. Don’t know how to cook or don’t have a kitchen? Not a problem, the Ardent FX is incredibly easy to use and allows you to decarboxylate, infuse, and bake your flower, kief, or concentrate, all in a single device.
This is perfect for the stoner who loves edibles and puts the power of flexibility and customization in their hands, as they will be able to receive full infusions of the cannabinoid family from their favorite herb into whatever they want. You can use the Ardent to infuse butter, oils, make tinctures, and you can bake a cake inside of it! Or you can take your infused butter or oil, and cook something in your own kitchen, like cookies, or a pasta dinner, or whatever the hell else you want to infuse with weed.
Seriously. Stoners f*cking love jars, especially nice ones. The best way to store your weed is in a glass container, but your average stoner just can’t be bothered to remember to pick up a glass jar so they will definitely appreciate this gift and know exactly what to do with it.
You don’t even need to tell them it’s for weed. When a stoner sees a jar, they automatically think, “I’d like to put weed in that.” If you want to spice up the present, throw some pre-rolls in there, or some herb, but really, we think just the jar is a solid gift. Make it a nice one!
EDITOR’S PICK: Dad Grass
I have to admit, Dad Grass isn’t quite what I thought it was. My initial impression was that it’s a low-THC joint that you can smoke straight to the filter and not be off your ass. I’ve now realized that it’s all CBD. My bad.
This brings me to my new thesis about Dad Grass: Finally, a company proves — once and for all — that CBD isn’t bullshit. Because I smoked through a whole pack of these (one per session, over the course of a month) and felt gooooood. In fact, I felt THC-body-high-level good, hence my original misconception about the very nature of the product.
I’ve tested a lot of CBD suff over the years. This is the first time I’ve ever mistakenly thought something had THC in it. Enough said. Get it for the person who wants to smoke but not be left thinking through cotton for hours on end.
The NBA starting its 2020-21 season in late December means that the league has the ability to go all-in on Christmas Day, as it does every season. This year will, obviously, be quite different from past campaigns, but the fact that the NBA put together a monster Christmas Day card serves as a constant amid all of the weirdness that we have come to expect this year.
The league announced it’s Christmas Day schedule earlier this week, featuring some of the familiar faces we’ve come to expect seeing on the league’s marquee day of games. There are some newcomers as well and with the five game slate set for Day 4 of the regular season, we decided to rank the five games we expect to see on Christmas, ranging from “you can have this on in the background while unwrapping presents” to “LeBron James and Luka Doncic are playing why are you not dropping everything to watch?”
On one hand, yes, this game has the Golden State Warriors and Giannis Antetokounmpo in it, and it is hard for that to not be exciting. But for me, it’s just really hard to get up for a game that includes a team like Golden State that is: 1) Rusty, 2) Breaking in new players and, 3) Nowhere near a finished product due to Points 1 and 2. The Warriors are going to get better as the season goes along and their newer guys (Kelly Oubre, James Wiseman, even Andrew Wiggins) get used to playing with Steph Curry (who played in five games last year) and Draymond Green (who has not played in an NBA game since February).
This is not to say the game won’t be fun to watch — the Warriors in a big game is always exciting, even with all the previous caveats, while the Bucks have the back-to-back MVP, an All-Star in Khris Middleton, and a ton of new pieces headlined by Jrue Holiday. Oh, and if Giannis doesn’t sign an extension, this is the biggest year in franchise history. It’s worth your time no matter what.
4. Nets vs. Celtics
Kind of similar to the last game: Yes, it should be good and fun, but I am trying to temper my expectations at the start about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both have not played in a minute, while both suffered major injuries (particularly Durant) that required surgery. Seeing them on the court again, at the very least, will be wonderful, but it’s hard to not think they’ll need a little time to get back to being two of the best players in the world, which is perfectly fine.
This game is still going to be a ton of fun. The scrappy Nets are largely running it back from last season’s team, only with a first-time head coach in Steve Nash, the aforementioned two superstars, and a potentially really fun role player in Landry Shamet. Boston is fresh off of barely missing the NBA Finals, so it’s hard to know if they’ll have the legs, but they’re still an excellent basketball team, even as they try to manage Kemba Walker’s knee and fold Tristan Thompson into the rotation. Both of these teams legitimately think they can win the Eastern Conference this year, and this will be an excellent early test for both, even if it stands to reason that neither of them are finished products right now.
3. Pelicans vs. Heat
The Miami Heat might not end up being the best team in the Eastern Conference this year, but they surely are among the most interesting. Making the NBA Finals is an impossibly hard task, but you don’t have to look far to find people who wonder if the Heat were that good or if they just had a mental toughness about them that led to them navigating a tricky situation better than anyone else. That, alone, is going to make them must-watch for the entirety of this season, and that’s before we even get to the intrigue of “how do the young players who were thrust into bigger roles in Orlando respond to a full season?”
They also have an absolutely fascinating matchup in the Pelicans, a team of high-flying youngsters that are going to be hungry after missing out on a playoff spot last year. Zion Williamson in year two and Brandon Ingram after cashing in on his outstanding 2019-20 campaign are two of the most interesting young players in basketball, and on a much more macro level, New Orleans has the potential to be a destination for superstars who want to move due to the team’s treasure trove of Draft picks and two young standouts. Also: Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe are here now! This game will be fun. I am excited to watch it.
2. Clippers vs. Nuggets
All of these games have a few reasons why you should watch them. This one does, too — Did Jamal Murray take a leap in the Bubble? Is Michael Porter Jr. ready to become a major contributor? Can the Clippers bounce back from [gestures at last year and every bit of ink spilled about it]? Nikola Jokic is playing basketball! — but there is no reason to beat around the bush here. This game features a team that got embarrassed in the postseason last year against the team that embarrassed them. I don’t care about anything else, because for that reason alone, this is a nightcap worth enjoying in full.
1. Mavericks vs. Lakers
There is certainly some concern around the Lakers as to whether Anthony Davis and especially LeBron James sit out some early due to the weirdness of this schedule, especially on the heels of last year ending so recently. However, this is the Christmas Day game and it’d be pretty stunning if they weren’t both out there in a full capacity (even if there’s some significant resting that happens after that). But the thought of watching Luka Doncic in what is, for all intents and purposes, the first big regular season game of his career is so much fun. Doncic has never had this sort of spotlight in the regular season — Christmas Day against the defending champs — and whenever he has played in a big game, he’s delivered. His flare for the dramatic makes him must-watch, even if the Mavericks will have to navigate life without Kristaps Porzingis for some time.
Also, if the Lakers’ two stars do indeed play, and they bring their A games to whatever extent their bodies let them this early, that battle would be otherworldly. Both Davis and James are really good to rising to a standard set by an opponent’s best player, and the back-and-forth of those two and Doncic trying to one-up one another could be a joy — remember, we saw James and Doncic specifically throw haymakers last regular season in an absolutely wonderful basketball game. Here’s to hoping we get this gift again on Dec. 25.
New York power pop band Charly Bliss is planning to help out one of their most loyal fans with a new music release. The band announced that it would release “Marble,” a B-side they’ve played at concerts over the past three years, to Bandcamp, with proceeds going to help Marcy, who runs the fan account @CBpotatoes on Twitter. The account is cheekily named for an odd 2019 incident in which a fan brought a potato to one of their shows with the band name scrawled on it in marker.
Weeks later, the @CBpotatoes account had popped up to repost tweets from the band and its members, as well as posts about the band from other users on Twitter, all with that signature off-kilter humor unique to Stan Twitter and its growing fraternity of adherents. Marcy is the co-founder of the account, as well as their official fan club, aptly called the “Potatoes,” according to the band’s publicist. Marcy recently decided to undergo gender confirmation surgery, so to help her pay for it, the band will donate all the proceeds from “Marble” on Bandcamp directly to her.
Our beloved CB Potato, Marcy, has decided to undergo gender confirmation surgery. In an effort to help her afford the surgery, we’ll be releasing a favorite b-side of our’s, “Marble”, on Bandcamp tomorrow with all proceeds going directly to Marcy. Please consider pitching in !!! pic.twitter.com/4cXjO0Xvf7
Throughout the year, Bandcamp itself has done its part to help artists, waiving fees and helping them to pocket $4.3 million in sales to help bolster their income while touring is blocked by COVID-19 precautions, so it’s nice to see one of those bands paying it forward. In other Charly Bliss news, the band has a live stream, It’s A Blissful Life, coming December 12. The holiday stream will include covers of classic Christmas songs, special guests, and a live discussion. You can buy tickets on their website.
You can purchase “Marble” on Friday, December 4 for $1 on Charly Bliss’s Bandcamp.
Euphoria Part 1: Rue (HBO Max early sneak peek) — Need a little Zendaya to tide you over before the show returns (at an undetermined date) for Season 2? The Emmy award winner returns for the first of two special episodes. This one officially lands on HBO on Sunday, but you can catch it early on Thursday night, only on HBO Max. Rue’s relapsing and ends up in a diner whilst contemplating life after Jules leaves her along at the train station following their winter formal.
Heaven’s Gate: The Cult Of Cults (HBO Max documentary series) — Way back in 1997, the Heaven’s Gate cult made headlines with a comet-chasing mass suicide that echoed Jonestown. However, this incident turned out to be the most voluminous suicide on U.S. soil and also involved 20 people’s disappearances. An alien-conspiracy theory and applesauce and disturbing infomercials soon surfaced, and this documentary series surfaces never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to fill in blanks and add some UFO weirdness to the mix.
The Unicorn (CBS, 9:30pm EST) — Walton Goggins keeps on doing the Widower Wade thing while attempting to celebrate Shannon’s birthday in an appropriate manner. Meanwhile, his friend group confronts racial injustice.
Station 19 (ABC, 8:00pm EST) — The firefighter drama’s dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Seattle with Sullivan’s disciplinary hearing bringing high drama when Emmett Dixon and former Fire Chief Dixon must testify, all while an electrical fire breaks out elsewhere.
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 9:00pm EST) — The new COVID-19 reality continues for the Grey Sloan crew as Owen’s medical diagnosis complicates matters, and lockdown is rough for Koracick.
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS, 10:00pm EST) — The U.S.S. Discovery heads to planet Pahvo, where the Klingon’s cloaking technology becomes a most intriguing exploration.
Jimmy Kimmel Live — Zendaya, Diego Luna, Paris Jackson
The Late Late Show With James Corden — Bryan Cranston, Rufus Wainwright
In case you missed these picks from last Thursday:
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max series) — Kaley Cuoco busts away from the The Big Bang Theory with a fun flight of (darkly comedic) fancy. She plays portrays an airline stewardess whose international jet-setting lifestyle includes falling into bed in various countries with various handsome men. During the course of one particularly fateful encounter, Cassie wakes up next to the dead body of a one-night stand. She spends the rest of the series attempting to clean sh*t up. Surrender to this madcap ride.
Saved By The Bell (Peacock series) — Here comes the official reimagining of the original series with a lot of the O.G. crowd on board for more neon-tinged adventures. Zack Morris is now (a terrible) California governor, Kelly Kapowski’s his first lady, and Elizabeth Berkley and Mario Lopez are back as Jessie Spano and A.C. Slater, respectively. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the return of Zack Attack. Screech is sitting this one out, but prepare for some (still lighthearted) social commentary.
Dan Le Batard’s tenure at ESPN has always been an interesting one, as the legendary Miami radio and TV host has clashed with management at times but also lent a unique and fresh voice to their airwaves that’s been of great benefit to the network. In January, their partnership will come to an end, with ESPN announcing on Thursday that January 4 will be the last day for The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio and Dan’s final day hosting Highly Questionable.
Highly Questionable will remain on the ESPN afternoon show lineup with a rotating cast of hosts, one would think led by Bomani Jones and the numerous other co-hosts that have joined Dan on a regular basis over the last few years. As for Le Batard’s radio show, that will be headed to a new home as the release cites Dan looking to “pursue a new opportunity.” Le Batard also thanked ESPN for his time there and the numerous people that helped create and bring his shows to life.
“Gracias to ESPN for unleashing Papi and Stugotz upon an unsuspecting America, and for lending its substantive credibility to our careening clown car,” Le Batard said in a release. “Can’t believe Stugotz finally achieved his dream of becoming a high-priced free agent. I’m forever indebted to Erik Rydholm, Matt Kelliher and their vibrant team for providing a creative oasis across a decade, and for expanding the Le Batard family to include so many brilliant colleagues who have become forever friends, bonded eternally by laughter and love. Want to also extend my gratitude to Chuck Salituro, Jimmy Pitaro, Traug Keller, Marcia Keegan, Connor Schell, Juan Diaz, Mike Foss, Amanda Gifford, Liam Chapman, Megan Judge, Elizabeth Fierman, the Hialeah-soaked crew at Imagina …and when did this become a droning acceptance speech instead of a quick goodbye? In short, thank you, Disney and ESPN, for a quarter century of absurd blessings. To our loyal army of concerned fans, and to everyone who walked along and played an instrument in our Marching Band to Nowhere, know that it is a very exciting time for us, not a sad one. And that you’ll be hearing our laughter again soon enough.”
Wherever Le Batard goes next, he’ll surely bring his extremely large and loyal following with him, and for ESPN it’s an interesting choice to let him walk given the popularity of his show and the podcasts that came from his network.
Warner Bros.‘ game-changing decision to release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max is causing all kinds of mixed emotions over the troubled future of movie theaters and the excitement of being able to see blockbusters from the safety of your couch during the pandemic. However, there’s one group of movie fans that’s feeling left out in the cold: Roku users. While HBO Max recently struck a deal to stream on Amazon Fire TV devices, it has yet to come to an agreement with Roku, which means the app is currently unavailable for millions of users. (Well, technically, there is a workaround to stream HBO Max on a Roku device, but it won’t work for everybody.)
So with the Warner Bros. news out in the open, Roku users took to Twitter to voice their feelings on missing out on the party:
While some Roku users are feeling left out, there are others who feel this latest news will be the final catalyst for HBO and Roku to come to an agreement. And while some feel that having Warner Bros. entire 2021 film slate gives HBO an advantage, Roku is still holding access to millions of streaming users that HBO Max is going to need with this new release strategy. So, it’ll be very interesting to see how the situation unfolds, and whether it can be done before Wonder Woman 1984 hits HBO Max on December 25.
While most reactions centered on a (hopefully) pending HBO Max/Roku deal in light of Warner shifting its release strategy to streaming, The Atlantic‘s David Sims tweeted this dark, philosophical musing: “What if theaters are murdered just because Warners forgot to make a deal with Roku and Amazon before launching HBO Max?” Granted, the pandemic is a major factor here, but wow, that’s something to chew on while we all wait to stream The Suicide Squad in our pajama pants.
There was a period not long ago in which the Wizards were the NBA’s annual “better-in-the-playoffs” squad. In the postseason, Washington developed a formula reliant upon defense plus the playmaking of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and rode that to three second-round trips from 2014-17.
That backcourt existed as a permanent blur. They turned defense into offense like it was an open gym, and learned to play off one another brilliantly in the halfcourt. As Beal developed and Wall got better as a shooter, either player could drive the car and the offense would still run nicely. A more modern version of the team developed around them as time went on, which culminated in a seven-game series against the Celtics in 2017 with Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter starring alongside the two guards and playmakers like Bojan Bogdanovic and Tomas Satoransky coming off the bench. They lost that series but the next era of Wizards basketball was in sight.
Wall signed a supermax extension a few weeks after the Boston series that quickly became beset with bad luck. He hasn’t played more than half a season since due to various injuries, and in the process the rest of the young core from that 2017 squad has departed aside from Beal. Heading into the 2020-21 season, his rehab is finally over after separate knee, heel, and Achilles’ surgeries over the past three years, but instead of reuniting Wall and Beal on the court in Washington, the Wizards made a deal this week to flip Wall — along with a 2023 first-round pick — to Houston for Russell Westbrook.
In some ways, the on-court fit should be similar to how Beal co-existed with Wall. But in the time since Wall went down, it became clear Beal was a star in his own right, perhaps even better than Wall was at his peak. As the days dwindle on Beal’s contract and the Wizards go into emergency mode to avoid trading their franchise cornerstone, they likely couldn’t afford to wait any longer to get Wall healthy and playing at a high level.
Of course, it’s not even a sure thing Wall will ever do that again. The game has also changed in a way that demands that Wall expand his offensive game more to be a bigger shooting threat, though he’s never shot better than 35 percent from deep in a full, healthy season. The guy replacing him is no marksman either, but Westbrook should be more available than Wall and should operate alongside Beal in much the same way Wall did.
During the time Wall was out, Beal developed into a strong playmaker in his own right, making it less important to have someone like Wall initiate every set. Likewise, as Westbrook has evolved, he’s turned into less of a traditional playmaker and more of a scorer/bowling ball/Tasmanian devil. If the offense was always going to be two stars taking turns isolating and running pick-and-roll, Westbrook is probably better equipped to do that than Wall.
Beal showed us last season that even with a guard rotation of role players like Isaiah Thomas, Shabazz Napier and Ish Smith, he could still perform (at least offensively) at an All-Star level. Most impressively, Beal posted a career high in assists as well as free-throw rate, meaning he created shots for teammates at a higher level in addition to easy points for himself. Washington’s surprisingly good offense was 7.9 points better per 100 possessions when Beal played, backing up a long trend of Beal boosting the scoring efficiency of his Wizards teams. If all those improvements are real, it means Beal and Westbrook could find a nice balance, plus Beal is far more comfortable and accepting of an off-ball roll than James Harden was in Houston.
There are still areas where Westbrook could help Beal more than Wall could. At times, even as he created more foul shots, Beal still got stuck when he met strong defense at the rim. Beal has always been small for a wing, and though he’s grown more elusive and built up a better handle since being drafted, he still is a liability to get stuffed at the basket.
As an isolation scorer in 2019-20, Beal, who didn’t play in the Bubble, was just in the 61st percentile in efficiency, per Synergy. Because of his growth as a passer and foul-drawer, he was a bit better in the pick-and-roll (75th percentile), but still not elite. Now that he’s 27, it may be unrealistic to expect him to become an elite individual shot creator, even if his improvements from last year hold.
Where Beal excelled in 2019-20, as always, was off the catch. Few combine shooting touch, quickness and athletic ability like Beal.
That’s great news when it comes to Westbrook. There should be some comfort between the two as Westbrook goes to work in the pick and roll or isolation while Beal moves around off the ball to get open threes and layups. Few have succeeded in that role next to Westbrook in the past, but he’s also never played with someone whose skills align so well with it the way Beal’s do.
Mostly this is about having a capable, good player in the lineup next to Beal on a consistent basis. Last season was effectively a lost one for Washington, and one such year is probably the limit that a franchise can stomach while their best player is in his prime. There was no certainty Wall would ever be effective or healthy again coming off of an injury as devastating as an Achilles, and while some of those questions exist for Westbrook too (their contracts are the same length), they aren’t as worrisome, and in theory his play style could be a good mix with Beal’s.
After re-signing stretch forward Davis Bertans and adding Deni Avdija and Robin Lopez to the team, the Wizards figure to be a contender for the playoffs once again. If things fall right for them, they could shoot for the sixth seed, even, and avoid a play-in game. That just wasn’t going to be true of a team crossing its fingers that its star point guard can regain his form after such significant time off. There is an obvious emotional side to the Wall trade that is impossible for anyone outside of the nation’s capital to fully understand given his deep connection with that city and its people, and for fans that’s a significant reason for their frustration with this deal and is wholly understandable. From a basketball perspective though, if the Wizards wanted to keep their other star around for his prime, it was a move that gave them more opportunity to do so.
Only Beal knows what has to be done to keep him happy and patient with Washington, but it feels like that limit is approaching. Trading for Westbrook should buy Washington some time and could make them pretty good, too. Barring catastrophe, they should be at least be able to put a competitive squad on the floor on a nightly basis, and hopefully will find themselves on the upswing and with a path forward to start building around the new-and-improved Beal.
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