Chain Reactions: Washington Nationals Rolling, Washington Wizards Prepare For 2011 NBA Draft

This week's Chain Reactions hits on the Nationals giving fans a reason to stay tuned, why Michael Morse is an all-star, the Wizards with lots of options on draft night and Donovan McNabb's final shot at the Shanahans.

In this week's edition of Chain Reactions: the Nationals are giving fans a reason to come to the yard; the team's first baseman should be all-star bound; the Washington Wizards have endless options in Thursday's 2011 NBA Draft; and Donovan McNabb direct messages the Shanahans via YouTube.

Nationals' Walk Off Winner

When it comes to baseball, I usually don't like to get too excited until a team is at .500 (Nats 36-37). The division (the Phillies are not losing sleep with that lead) and wild card races (Washington is five games back) are not won in the pre all-star schedule. But they can be lost. Keeping that in mind, it is great to see the Nationals' season is not a lost cause before the break.The Nats have won nine of the last 10 and are 13-6 in June.

On Tuesday night, the Nats won in walk-off fashion thanks to Wilson Ramos' ninth inning home run.  

"I think that was my best hit in my career," said Ramos, whose blast sealed the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Nationals history.

While it may still be too early to buy playoff tickets, it is also too early to dismiss this year's edition of the Nats.

Nationals' First Baseman All-Star Worthy

The Nationals never got a chance to see if Adam LaRoche was the right call at first base after letting Adam Dunn walk via free agency. They also have played without a true lead-off hitter all season, and for much of the season, they have been without Ryan Zimmerman or the type of production they hoped to get from Jayson Werth. So how are they just a game below .500 going into Wednesday night's action? Pitching, for one, but also, the emergence of Michael Morse, who the Nationals acquired for outfielder Ryan Langerhans on June 28, 2009. Morse is making Mike Rizzo and his staff look real smart, batting .308 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs.

"It felt good to get that opportunity again, to come out and play every day and knowing you are going to be in the lineup," Morse said. "I just keep telling myself, 'I'm going to out there and I'm going to get three hits. I'm going to drive in runs. I'm better than this pitcher. There is no reason that this guy should get me out.' I think having that mentality is helping me a lot."

Morse has been the Nats' best offensive player and should be rewarded with an All-Star appearance, which may be more likely now that Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is sidelined for 4-6 weeks.

Wizards Have Endless Draft Options

Who will the Wizards pick on Thursday night's NBA Draft? Will they get another building block on the rebuilding road?  They better. This is not a draft the Wizards can afford to mess up. There may be no franchise changing players, but there will be plenty of players that can help John Wall and the Wizards on the road back to respectability. Choosing that player is will be the tough part for Ernie Grunfeld and his staff.

The options are endless as Bullets Forever points out. The Wizards could trade up get Enes Kanter, or stand pat hope he slips to them. They could also end up with a choice of San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard, Jan Vesley from the Czech Republic, or Lithuanian Center Jonas Valanciunas if they stand pat at the No. 6 spot. Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, who does not say much this time of year, did admit size will matter.

"We’re probably looking for a bigger player if possible," Grunfeld said after the team conducted two workouts on Tuesday morning. "But you never know. If somebody slips to us — and it could be a guard that we have ranked a lot higher — it could be somebody that we take a close look at. But in all likelihood, we’ll be looking for a front-court player if possible."

It would be great to have Kanter fall into the Wizards lap, but if he doesn't, Kawhi Leonard would be a solid choice with his Ron Artest-type skill set without the craziness. With the 18th pick, here's hoping Morehead State's Kenneth Faried the nation's best rebounder, is available.

Is Slimmed-Down Jordan Williams A First-Rounder?

I still think Maryland's Jordan Williams should have stayed in school for another year. However, he is in the draft. The question is, has he done enough to be a first rounder? If nothing else, Williams has showed a hunger to be great by  dropping some serious weight in preparation for the draft.

"The first thing he did was get in great shape and essentially transform his body, losing roughly 18 pounds [from his original 261]," said Andrew Moore, the program coordinator and director of player development for Impact Basketball. "And he really lost a lot of body fat and put on strength."

For what it is worth, Williams still appears to be more like a second-rounder than a first-rounder at this point, if you buy into what the Mock Drafts are saying. Williams might be worthwhile for the Wizards at 34 if they can not find a post players in the first round.

Donovan McNabb Sends Message To Redskins

It appears we are getting closer to the end to the owner-imposed NFL lockout, and the first or second (depending on Albert Haynesworth) order of business for the Redskins will be their divorce with Donovan McNabb. Everyone knows he is history, and that includes General Manager Bruce Allen, who essentially accused the media of making stuff up. Really? Anyway, Bruce has a job too do, I get it, but Sonny Jurgenson has a better chance playing QB for the Redskins this year. McNabb, meanwhile has a message for his critics.

"For my Facetime: 2011 is different than 2010," he said. "For those who wanna sit back and dwell on what happened last year, so be it. But 2011's gonna be a special season. A season in which I feel that I've prepared myself well - not just conditioning and strengthwise, but most importantly getting back to the fundamentals. And I look to display that in the 2011 season. And for those who feel like it can't be possible: I'll prove you wrong."

Meanwhile, for Redskin fans, it is a catch 22 kind of situation ahead. Sure you want football, but do you want Rex Grossman or John Beck at quarterback ? I thought there wouldn't be scab players? Anyone have Ed Ruppert's phone number? 

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