Wizards Valentines Day
Photo: Courtesy of Getty images

From the Court to Courtship: Wizards Talk Romance

It’s here again, folks: the most romantic day of the year according to your girlfriend and card companies. Feeling a little rusty when it comes to love? We’ve got your back, so you can get some back. We polled some of our Wizards fellas for some insight on how to do Valentine’s Day right. With some single-and-ready-to-mingle ideas, and some feedback from our taken bros that’s tried and true, you have everything you need.

Kelly Oubre – On the market

On Tap: What is your idea of a perfect date night in DC?
Kelly Oubre: I think a perfect date would be two people going around the city seeing the attractions. Maybe have a little picnic in front of a memorial or something like that – that would be pretty smooth. They’ve got some nice restaurants out here, go to a restaurant. Have a good time with somebody just one-on-one, and pretty much just go see the sites. I think in DC that’d be something cute to do.

OT: What are three things you look for in a partner?
KO: Personality, I got to be able to vibe with them; cares about others; and is just a positive person.

OT: Where do you buy your Valentine’s Day gifts in the area?
KO: Tiffany & Co. That’s pretty solid.

OT: Where is the most romantic place to take your date in DC?
KO: RPM or Ocean Prime

OT: What’s the best piece of dating advice you’ve ever received?
KO: Invest a lot of time in your significant other. Don’t worry about other people, just worry about you two. Things will go smoother that way.

OT: What is your favorite place in the area to meet people?
KO: Georgetown


Ian Mahinmi – Married

On Tap: What is your idea of a perfect date night in DC?
Ian Mahinmi: I already had it; it was really awesome. I’d say leaving the house by 6:30, nice suit on. My lady in a nice dress, heels, makeup done right. Taking selfies in the car, driving to the spot. Fig & Olive is actually my favorite spot. Playing a little Bruno Mars in the car – that’s what my lady likes to hear. Get a little wine to start, a couple appetizers, a good dinner, good dessert. Go home, watch a movie or one of our shows, and call it a night.

OT: Do you like to go all out for Valentine’s Day?
IM: I do like to do something special, maybe not all out every year, but I feel like it’s Valentine’s Day, so step up your game a little bit. Make a reservation [at] one of the best spots in town, wherever we’re at. Always dressing nice – got to look good, and flowers. I do flowers. This is like a must. Any Valentine’s Day, my lady gets flowers, my mom gets flowers, everybody gets flowers.

OT: Where do you buy your Valentine’s Day gifts in the area?
IM: That’s a good question, I haven’t really thought about that yet. Her birthday is February 9, so Valentine’s Day is a week after that. She already gets a good gift for her birthday, so she usually doesn’t really get anything crazy.

OT: Where did you meet your wife?
IM: The first time I saw her was at a lounge in San Antonio, and then I liked her so much. I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends know her best friend, and somehow they connected us.

OT: What is your favorite place to take your wife in DC?
IM: Fig & Olive and RPM. We actually spent New Year’s Eve at Fig & Olive, and I think the night before we were at RPM, so it’s back-to-back between those two places.


Jason Smith – Married

On Tap: What is your idea of a perfect date night in DC?
Jason Smith: I’m a very simple individual, so a perfect date night for me [would be with] my wife. And I have a baby daughter. She’s two years old and my wife is now pregnant with our second child, so she would definitely want to have a lowkey meal. Might spice it up – we’ll get a babysitter for our daughter, we’ll go out to a nice steakhouse, she’ll get a nice meal, we’ll have a nice dinner conversation, come back, relieve the babysitter and probably call it a night after that.

OT: Do you like to go all out for Valentine’s Day?
JS: I will get her flowers and maybe some chocolates. The typical, but nothing super crazy.

OT: Where do you buy your Valentine’s Day gifts in the area?
JS: It’s going to be new for me. I haven’t been in this area, so I’m going to have to find a spot to go to for Valentine’s Day. Being in Bethesda, I think it won’t be too hard. They have a lot of good places out there. I might hit up Georgetown Cupcake now that I think about that. You’re welcome, Georgetown Cupcake.

OT: Where did you meet your wife?
JS: I met my wife when I was in Philly. We were up there, and then I got traded down to New Orleans and she came down to New Orleans with me. We decided to hitch up and had a blast down there. We got married in the Philadelphia area. She’s from New Jersey, about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. It was a good wedding. My family came out from Colorado. Her family was close, so we had a nice, good get together, and it has been great ever since.

OT: What is your favorite place to take your wife in DC?
JS: The restaurant we really want to try is the Mexican restaurant, Uncle Julio’s. I keep on hearing great things about it, so I think we’re going to try that place for sure.


Otto Porter – On the market

On Tap: What is your idea of a perfect date night in DC?
Otto Porter: You definitely have to go out to dinner somewhere nice. My spot is Ruth’s Chris in Crystal City. [It’s] next to the airport; it has an amazing view. It’s a nice spot. Then maybe [go] to the movies or something like that. Keep it traditional.

OT: What are three things you look for in a partner?
OP: She has to have a great sense of humor. She has to be beautiful, kind and caring. She’s got to like basketball.

OT: What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on, and how did you recover?
OP: I’ve never really had a worst date. I make sure all my dates go according to plan.

OT: Where do you buy your Valentine’s Day gifts in the area?
OP: Depends on the gift. I go Neiman Marcus or Tysons Corner. They have a lot of different shops that you can go to. Oh, and Victoria’s Secret.

OT: Where is the most romantic place to take your date in DC?
OP: I would say the CityCenter. That’s a real nice spot. A lot of lights, [and] some camera action for great pictures.

OT: What’s the best piece of dating advice you’ve ever received?
OP: Don’t set your standards [too] high, always be open.

OT: Is dating in DC easy, or do you find it to be more of a challenge?
OP: The great thing about DC is that it is like a melting pot. There’s a variety of people that live here. That kind of makes it easy, but at the same time it’s tough to find out where everybody is at.

OT: What is your favorite place in the area to meet people?
OP: [The] Georgetown area.

Learn more about the Wizards at www.nba.com/wizards.

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Military Bowl Tailgate 2016

Fans at the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman enjoyed the Official Military Bowl Tailgate before the showdown between Temple and Wake Forest. The tailgate featured military displays, games and music, food and beverages, traditional tailgate foods and plenty of Budweiser beer. Photos: Alanna Sheppard

Santa Bowl

Santa Bowl

Fans cheered on locals as they competed in the 2016 Santa Bowl tournament. USS hosted a Flag Football tournament at Long Bridge Park while competitors enjoyed a visit from Santa, swag bags, earning bragging rights and more. Photos: Cristina O’Connell

Nationals Winterfest

Nationals Winterfest

Fans enjoyed Nationals Winterfest at the Washington Convention Center and participated in activities like clinics with Nationals players and coaches, made snow forts, listened to, stories read by a Nationals players, rode down the giant slider and much more. Photos: John Gervasi

Washington Redskins

Redskins vs. Packers at FedEx Field

The Washington Redskins trounced the Green Bay Packers in a decisive 42 – 24 win at FedEx Field. Photos: Mark Raker

Washington Capitals
Photos: Courtesy of the Washington Capitals

Caps Give Back to the Community

As hockey season nears the midseason mark and the holidays approach, it’s a great time for the NHL and Washingtonians alike to focus not only on points and team standings, but also on the charitable endeavors undertaken by its players. Year-round, the Washington Capitals are involved in foundations and youth-based programs structured to benefit those who may be less fortunate.

“As Minnesota residents and an active duty family in the Army for the last 10-plus years, we are so thankful to be supported by such an organization! Kindergarten-aged Connor is discovering his love and devotion to hockey and we cannot get him off the ice.”

This testimonial was posted on the Facebook page of the organization formerly known as Defending the Blue Line, a nonprofit started in 2008 by professional hockey player Brent Burns and Shane Hudella, a former full-time member of the military. The Caps are very involved in the foundation, particularly defensemen Karl Alzner, Brooks Orpik and Nate Schmidt.

The mission of the United Heroes League, which Defending the Blue Line is now called, is to ensure that children of members of the military are afforded every opportunity possible to participate in the sport of his or her dreams. This is accomplished by providing free equipment, instructional camps and financial assistance for hockey and other sports. The Caps have provided families with tickets to 20 home games a season, and take time afterward to meet and greet with them.

In addition, Alzner, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby have their own player program, So Kids Can, in tandem with Elliot Segal of the Elliot in the Morning show, which is broadcast on DC101. The players donate $50 per win during the regular season and $100 during the playoffs to a local youth-focused nonprofit. Together, they select the nonprofit at the beginning of the season and pay a visit with the monetary donation at the end, where they also spend time with the children.

Coach Barry Trotz was very involved in the Nashville community when he coached the Predators, and he’s brought that philanthropic attitude to DC as well. The coach is a huge supporter of the Best Buddies Capital Region chapter, which offers one-to-one friendship, integrated employment and leadership development programs. Nearly 29,000 youths with disabilities are assisted by the programs through organized events like walks, dances and golf tournaments.

Team captain Alex Ovechkin is also very active in the community through his Ovi’s Crazy 8s program, which he founded in 2006 to give underserved children, recuperating injured soldiers, and active military and their families the chance to attend a Caps home game at the Verizon Center.

With the Caps again looking like one of the best teams in hockey, the families that get to see the games are bound to have an enjoyable evening. And the players’ charitable involvements away from the rink only magnify this team’s likability.


Learn more about the Caps’ philanthropic endeavors and how to get involved:

Best Buddies Capital Region
www.bestbuddies.org/find-programs/capital-region/events/

Ovi’s Crazy 8s
www.prosgiveback.com/tag/ovis-crazy-8s/

So Kids Can
www.monumentalfoundation.org/videos/so-kids-can-psa

United Heroes League
www.unitedheroesleague.org

Washington Wizards
Photos: Courtesy of the Washington Wizards

New-Look Wizards Excited for Season

Since new head coach Scott Brooks arrived in DC in the off-season, the Washington Wizards have rediscovered a word that went missing from their vocabulary last season: fun.

The team’s practices – while hard-charging and intense – are often punctuated by laughter and playful jibes between players and coaches. The scowls and groans of frustration often evident last season, when the team amassed a middling 41-41 record and missed the playoffs, are out. Chest bumps and big grins are in.

Most players credit the change in atmosphere at the Verizon Center to the team’s new head coach. Brooks, a former NBA point guard who coached the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008 to 2015 and won NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2010, replaced Randy Wittman in May.

“Coach Brooks makes the game of basketball fun again,” said Kelly Oubre Jr., one of the Wizards’ most charismatic youngsters and a player expected to make a big contribution as small forward this season.

Fifth-year shooting guard Bradley Beal, who inked a five-year, $127 million contract in the off-season and is gunning for his first NBA All-Star berth, also notices a marked improvement in the team’s mood.

“It’s definitely a different vibe,” Beal told On Tap, while offering assurances that the team will reach the playoffs. “It’s more upbeat and I’m happy about that. Guys are actually going harder and they’re more focused. It’s exciting. It’s a new year with new faces. We feel like we have a great opportunity.”

Coach Brooks is also optimistic and upbeat – to a point. The team’s slow start in November didn’t give the Wizards’ new coach much to celebrate, but the team picked up the pace and started winning more games in the latter half of the month.

“They should be having fun,” Brooks told On Tap in an interview after a practice session that saw a loose and happy John Wall, the Wizards’ typically serious all-star point guard, clowning with forward Otto Porter during free throw drills. “This is a fun game that we all love. But there’s a balance between having fun and being too happy. We’re having fun, but we’re also serious about our jobs.”

The Wizards’ General Manager Ernie Grunfeld was dead serious about improving the squad’s anemic defense when he lured an in-demand Brooks to the nation’s capital with a five-year, $35 million contract in the off-season. The fact that the Wizards missed the playoffs in the 2015-2016 season after nearly making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2015 was due at least in part to the fact that the team couldn’t stop opponents.

A retooled lineup that has versatile power forward Markieff Morris – acquired at the end of last season – in a starting role should give the team some much-needed muscle down low, while the signing of talented, veteran center Ian Mahinmi as a backup to starting center Marcin Gortat provides another good defender in the paint. Brooks doesn’t shy away from his reputation as a defensive-minded coach, but he stressed that he has the Wizards working hard on their offensive schemes, too.

“We want to have a consistent approach on how we play,” Brooks explained. “We don’t want to be just a defensive team or an offensive team. We want to be a two-way basketball team, and I think we can be a very good two-way basketball team.”

While off-season additions and roster changes give Washington a somewhat different look, Wall remains the heart and soul of the franchise. Brooks told On Tap he likes what he’s seen from Wall, who underwent surgeries on both knees in May. The Wizards will go as far as the explosive ball handler and his rehabbed knees can take them this season. Brooks said he expects Wall to regularly log 30-35 minutes per game – a full load for many starters.

“He’s been diligent in his rehab, and he’s been consistent with the work he’s put in,” Brooks said. “He’s continued to build up his conditioning, and he’ll keep developing. He’s still a young player in this league.”

As for Beal, the talented other half of Washington’s backcourt, Brooks said he’s impressed.

“He has a great shot,” Brooks said. “He can shoot from deep range, he has a pull-up game, he has a pin-down game, and his pick and roll game is improving but…I also think he can be close to 4-5 assists a game every night. [Beal] has definitely improved his passing, and he has to – everybody has to keep on working on passing the basketball.”

Asked what he brings to the franchise, especially when it comes to coaching the younger players that populate the Wizards’ youthful roster, Brooks cited consistency.

“The players will always see consistency out of me,” he vowed. “Whether we win by an incredible buzzer beater of a shot or we lose a very difficult game, the next day I’m always consistent. I’ve had some good coaches along the way that had the same approach. My staff and organization will come to work every day and find ways to improve and focus on getting better.”

For more information on the 2016-2017 season, go to www.nba.com/wizards

Photo courtesy Washington Wizards
Photo courtesy Washington Wizards

A Media Day stroll with Wizard Otto Porter Jr.

Otto Porter Jr. emerges from one of the various rooms buried deep within the Verizon Center, and he looks spooked. “I just talked to you about the scary stuff.” The 6’8” 23-year old says this not in a “ghost is haunting my house” sort of way, but more like a kid visiting their first haunted house way. He’s just experienced a virtual reality media day station and he’s excited.

“It was a virtual reality thing, and I was in this living room and it was dark, but a light was flashing,” Porter explains. “The TV screen was, oh-my-god. I was looking in front, and a ghost just appeared on my shoulder, and I jumped. Movies I can handle, but not when I’m in it.”

For twenty-five minutes, actually double that if you count the various breaks, I talked to Porter Jr. in between media day stops. The conversation wasn’t structured like a movie or novel, start to finish: there were long periods of absence between questions, answers and topics. Though the back and forth was fragmented, his responses were complete. And through the process I learned two things: NBA media day is like the first day of school, and Otto Porter Jr. is a very laid back guy.

The Jr. is because he’s the second Otto Porter in his family. He’s also not the first basketball standout in the family, as both mom, a sweet jump shooter, and dad, a ferocious dunker, starred on the hardwood at various levels long before our Otto, the Wizards’ Otto faced off with either of them, or his cousins, on the blacktops of Haywood City, Vanduser and Morley, Missouri.

“[Basketball] was part of my life growing up, and it was something I grew to love,” Porter says. “Growing up playing with my dad, and my family, it taught me a lot. The games instilled the will to win in me. Losing was never an option, and there was a lot of trash talking.”

Since the back-and-forths in the tiny towns with populations between about 200 and 600, Porter has made Washington, DC his home away from home. It started when he committed to Georgetown University in 2011, where he starred for the Hoyas wowing crowds with a versatile game, which saw him cut for baskets, defend with tremendous length and put his family groomed basketball IQ to the test.

“It was a culture shock, and it was a revelation that there is a world out there besides what you know,” Porter says. “A lot of Georgetown fans are really DC fans, they’re definitely hardcore fans, they can be a little funny, but being here at Georgetown, I’ve gotten to know them pretty well.”

Since he was drafted by the Wizards third overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, Porter is basically a local. Like a lot of people who live in an area for a solid chunk of time, Porter acknowledges the ups and downs of inhabiting the district. The place is alive with energy, but it’s crowded. The weather is cool in the fall and spring, but is unbearably hot in the summer and crudely cold in the winter. Even though he’s no longer a student, Porter still appreciates the walkability of his surroundings, specifically the waterfront of Georgetown.

“Well this is definitely my second home, between home-home and here,” Porter says. “I like the people and the environment I’m in. From the DC people to the tourists to the attractions, it’s always busy. It’s the nation’s capital. It’s definitely an interesting city. I don’t go downtown that much unless my family is here anymore. I used to be into the monuments when I first got here, I was basically a big tourist. Now I do a lot of walks in other areas; the Georgetown waterfront is nice.”

It’s hard to blame Porter for being uninterested in the downtown monuments scene, because at 6’8” he sort of sticks out among the masses, hovering over me like a circus performer on stilts. And in the social media age, it’s hard for an athlete to do anything without drawing attention. This morning, all that attention is on Otto and his teammates as they’re chauffeured to and from rooms in the Verizon Center tunnels for media day. In each Porter is asked to fulfill an obligation, and afterwards the Wizards will load onto a bus to Richmond for training camp, where the actual basketball preparation will begin.

Last season the Wizards underachieved according to most basketball analysts. The team was coming off an unexpected postseason run in 2014, where they fell 4-2 in a hard fought series in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Atlanta Hawks. A loss many felt could have been avoided if point guard John Wall wasn’t out with an injury.  With a complete roster in 2015, hopes were high for a victory.

But instead of thriving under the spotlight, the team sputtered, finishing with a 41-41 record, and instead of postseason redemption, they missed the playoffs. Former coach Randy Wittman was fired and replaced by newcomer Scott Brooks, who experienced success with the Oklahoma City Thunder and stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

“In the new system, my length is an advantage,” Porter says. “That’s a big thing along with angles and my knowledge of the game. I try to use all that to my advantage, and I think those bode well in the system.”

One could say the first few years of Porter’s professional career had some rough patches, as he struggled with recurring injuries to his right hip. Despite this, Porter has improved on his outside shot and defense since entering the league, finding a nice niche with the Wizards.

“A goal of mine this season is to win [the NBA Most Improved Award],” Porter says. “I can definitely win that award.”

After we cover basketball, I ask him about doing media. It felt like the right thing to ask after his numerous interviews and photo shoots, while doing another interview in between.

“It’s part of the process, it’s good,” Porter says. “It means the season is here. Everybody is excited.”

Even though I believe him, he seemed more excited about the haunting virtual reality session.
For 2016-2017 Wizards season schedules and tickets, visit www.nba.com/wizards.

Photos courtesy Washington Wizards

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Redskins vs. Eagles

Fans cheered on the Washington Redskins as the enjoyed a decisive victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in this longstanding division rivalry. Photos: Mark Raker

Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals Pep Rally 2016

Washington Nationals fans joined together at Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood to kick off the playoffs with games and live music on Friday, October 7, 2016!