Bradley Beal

Wizards Notes: Rivers, Howard, Green, Bryant

It was already common knowledge that the NBA’s Western Conference has long been stronger than the Eastern Conference. Critics continue to call for a conference realignment even when the odds of it happening are slim to none.

But now that the game’s best player has moved from the East to the West, the gap has widened even more, leaving many Eastern Conference players, including newly acquired Wizards’ guard Austin Rivers, more confident in their team’s chances to make a run at the NBA Finals, reports Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“This training camp, this season is just gonna be a different type of mindset,” Rivers said. “[Before] you would play and you know you’re going to run into Golden State. Here, in the East, it’s really like everybody can get there. You can go to the Finals or the conference finals if you’re a playoff-caliber team, which this team is. 

I think that puts a different confidence, focus and energy on a team. I think that will probably be a focal point in training camp, I’m sure the coaches and everyone will say this is something we need to take advantage of.” 

Per Hughes, Rivers did acknowledge that the Celtics are probably the favorites now, having been Eastern Conference runners-up the last two seasons despite missing two of their best players during the 2017/18 playoffs. But, Rivers is excited to see what he and his new teammates are capable of after falling short in the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.

There’s more out of the D.C. area tonight:

  • Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated takes a look at the Wizards’ reported free agent signings of veterans Jeff Green and Dwight Howard. Woo gives both signings a “B” grade, calling both moves thrifty and low-risk due in large part to the one-year length of both deals.
  • In another piece for NBC Sports Washington, Hughes gives his own analysis of the Howard signing, agreeing that the move is low-risk, high-reward. Hughes writes that Howard gives Washington an upgrade from last season at center and that he should be at his best surrounded by three-point shooters like Otto Porter and Bradley Beal.
  • In another, albeit more under-the-radar move we relayed earlier this week, the Wizards claimed promising young big man Thomas Bryant off waivers from the Lakers after he was cut to increase L.A.’s cap room.

Wizards Notes: Gortat, Porter, Oubre, Meeks, More

Bradley Beal and John Wall expressed a belief near the start of the 2017/18 season that the Wizards were the team to beat in the East, but the club ultimately finished eighth in the conference, and lasted just six games in the postseason. After their early exit from the playoffs, the Wizards are left searching for answers about what went wrong over the course of the season, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details. Hughes spoke to Beal, Markieff Morris, and Ian Mahinmi about the club’s shortcomings, with Mahinmi noting that roster continuity didn’t really pay off for Washington in ’17/18.

“When you’re talking about continuity, it’s supposed to be better. You expect better. I feel like we didn’t do better than last year,” Mahinmi said. “It’s hard. I love those guys, but we have our issues. Unless we work those issues out, we’re gonna continue to struggle at times. We’re gonna continue to not be consistent. We definitely have to have good communication this summer. Before looking elsewhere we have look at each other and be honest.

“I feel like we might not have identified the real issues,” Mahinmi added.

As the Wizards look to identify their “real issues,” here are a few more notes out of D.C….

  • Wizards center Marcin Gortat, never shy about sharing what’s on his mind, implored teammates Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. to spend the offseason bulking up, per Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “Skill-set wise, [Porter]’s unbelievable. He’s got everything. He can rebound. He can shoot the ball. He can post up. He can pass. He can definitely defend, if he’s healthy,” Gortat said. “As I told him and I told Kelly, they’ve both got to improve in the weight room. They’ve got to get into the weight room.”
  • Asked if he’d work on improving his shooting range in the offseason, Gortat dismissed the idea that he needs to modernize his game by shooting three-pointers, as Buckner relays. “I truly believe I’m a solid, good shooter up to 15, 17 feet. But I’m not going to shoot threes,” Gortat said. “No, I’m not going to do that. I want to go into the paint. Body people. Be physical. Get scratches. Bleed. That’s how I made a living in for 11 years, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to pop on the three-point line and shoot threes. I’m not going to do that. I’ve got one more year left. I’m going to try to play as best as I can.”
  • The Wizards’ front office will have its work cut out for it this offseason as it looks to improve the roster, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes in an Insider-only piece. Marks wonders if Washington has enough confidence in Oubre to consider the possibility of trading Porter, and notes that Gortat and Morris will be entering the last year of their respective contracts.
  • In a pair of tweets, Marks breaks down how Jodie Meekssuspension will affect his earnings and the Wizards’ tax bill. As Marks observes, Washington will be on the hook for approximately $7MM in tax payments for 2017/18.
  • Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com takes a closer look at Ty Lawson‘s unexpected return to an NBA rotation role for the playoffs. Lawson spent the season in China before signing with the Wizards on the last day of the NBA regular season.

Poll: Breaking Up The Wizards’ Backcourt

After winning their division and taking the Celtics to the brink in a second-round series last year, the Wizards entered this season among the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they settled for an eighth seed and a first-round elimination.

It appeared Washington might miss the playoffs altogether when John Wall underwent knee surgery at the end of January. However, the Wizards managed a 15-12 record in his absence, sparking whispers that the team was better without him because of better ball movement.

Backcourt mate Bradley Beal, who has been beset by injury problems in the past, played all 82 games for the first time. He emerged as a team leader in Wall’s absence, averaging 22.6 points per game and posting career-best marks in rebounds (4.4 per game) and assists (4.5).

Washington has its All-Star backcourt locked up for the foreseeable future, but at a very expensive price. Wall will make nearly $19.2MM next season, then will start enjoying the benefits of a supermax extension that pays him $170MM over four years. Beal is owed nearly $81.3MM over the next three seasons.

With Otto Porter also getting a rich new extension last summer, the Wizards have extreme cap concerns over the next three years. They are already nearly $15MM over next season’s cap without counting possible player options for Jason Smith ($5.45MM) and Jodie Meeks ($3.45MM).

Operating so close to the luxury tax, the Wizards are limited in their ability to shake up the roster without a major trade. We’re asking our readers if they think it’s time to consider moving Wall or Beal as a potential cap solution. Please vote in our poll and give us your opinion on how Washington should handle the offseason.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Southeast Rumors: Hezonja, Schroder, Walker, Beal

Swingman Mario Hezonja hasn’t been helping his cause lately as he approaches free agency, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel notes. The Magic declined to pick up his option for the 2018/19 season last summer, which ensured Hezonja would be an unrestricted free agent in July. He is shooting 38.2% from the field and 22.4% from long range this month, in part because he’s impatient and attempts too many low-percentage shots, Robbins continues. The No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft admits he’s not sure what to expect this summer. “It’s almost impossible to know what’s going to happen,” Hezonja told Robbins. “It’s a weird situation that is great for me.”

In other developments from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks guard Dennis Schroder’s legal issues have grown, as his misdemeanor case stemming from an incident last September could be prosecuted as a felony, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to court records, the case has been transferred to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office under a recommendation of prosecuting it as felony aggravated battery. The DA says the case remains under investigation and no decision has been made on charges, Cunningham tweets. The incident involved a scuffle at a shopping center parking lot.
  • Kemba Walker will enter unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019 and playing for a winner will be a prime consideration, as he revealed to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. The Hornets point guard says he’s tired of missing the playoffs so often after winning a national championship in 2011 with Connecticut. “I’ve always felt like I’m a winning player. Like I deserved it to be in the playoffs – to be battling,” Walker said. “That’s what it will be all about in the future.”
  • The Wizards have slumped this month and they’re destined for an early playoff exit if they don’t pick up their play, guard Bradley Beal warned Chase Hughes of NBC Sports and other media members. Beal feels like the team isn’t trying hard enough as the regular season winds down. “It’s just the same thing over and over,” he said. “Until we do it individually and together collectively, we’re going to get our [butts] kicked in the playoffs. This isn’t even remotely acceptable, how we are playing right now.”

Eastern Notes: Van Gundy, Bullock, Nets, Wizards, Brown

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy won’t coach anywhere next season if he’s fired at the end of the season. Van Gundy said he’s set financially and would simply take time off, enjoying the summer at his Michigan home and winter at his Florida home. “I have all the security I need,” he said during a press conference. “If I’m not here next year, I’m not chasing jobs anywhere else.” Van Gundy is on the hot seat with the Pistons on the verge of falling out of the playoff chase.

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons shooting guard Reggie Bullock deserves consideration for the Most Improved Player award, Van Gundy told Hoops Rumors and other media outlets Sunday. In 41 starts this season, he’s averaged 12.6 points on 49.6 percent shooting overall and 45.4 percent from long range. Bullock, who was involved in a minor traffic accident Sunday, started just seven games in his first four seasons and never averaged more than 4.5 points per game. “You’re talking about a guy who never played over 500 minutes,” Van Gundy said. “Now he’s developed into a solid and efficient starter. That’s a hell of a big jump in a year and he should definitely be in the mix for that [award].”
  • The Nets have won just three of their last 19 games but most of them have been competitive. Coach Kenny Atkinson says his players haven’t quit on the season, mainly because many of them lack long-term security. “For the most part with our guys there’s no relax in those type of guys,” he told Tom Dowd of NBA.com. “None of us have done anything in this league, except for [Timofey Mozgov] won a championship, DeMarre [Carroll] has been to a conference final, then the rest of us, me included, we’re trying to make it.”
  • The Wizards, who have lost four of their last six, need to finish strong in their last 15 games to gain home-court advantage in the opening playoff round. They could finish anywhere from third to eighth and shooting guard Bradley Beal told the Washington’s Post Candace Buckner that they can’t afford to take nights off. “It’s not a situation where we can just sit here and say, ‘Oh okay, we can just coast into the playoffs.’ That’s not it,” he said. “We’re not even playing our best basketball either. So that’s definitely not how we want to approach going into the playoffs.”
  • Celtics forward Jaylen Brown will miss Sunday’s game against the Pacers after entering the league’s concussion protocol and could miss several more, according to ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. Brown was injured during a fall against the Timberwolves on Thursday. “I guess at some point, he becomes day-to-day, but I don’t see that happening anytime in the next couple days or week even,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters.

Wizards Notes: Wall, Gortat, Beal, Satoransky

While it has been overshadowed by the drama in Cleveland, there has seemed to be some uneasiness in Washington this season. After a team meeting earlier in the year, multiple Wizards players admitted that the meeting might have had a negative impact on the locker room, which is something we almost never hear.

Now, with John Wall sidelined for several weeks as he recovers from knee surgery, the star point guard appears to have felt slighted by the notion that his team might be moving the ball better without him in the lineup. Last week after a win in which the Wizards racked up 30 assists, Marcin Gortat tweeted that it was a great “team” victory. Wall addressed that comment during an appearance this week on SportsCenter, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post details.

“I know I’m a team player. I average almost 10 assists a game,” Wall said. “I’m very prideful in finding my teammates and getting guys easy shots. Even more just shocking hearing it from him and understand he gets the most assists from me and gets the most spoon-fed baskets ever.”

As we attempt to determine how real the apparent tension in the Wizards’ locker room is, here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Responding to Wall’s appearances on SportsCenter and NBC Sports Washington – during which Wall said that “any guys [who] have a problem with me can talk to me face-to-face as a man” – Gortat insisted that neither his comment nor one made by Bradley Beal last week were intended to attack or frustrate the All-Star point guard. “I talked to him a few days ago,” Gortat said, per Buckner. “I thought we verified that. I told him that it was nothing personal and I definitely didn’t think about him when I was writing that or whatever I was saying. We never thought about attacking him and I thought we had this verified.”
  • Beal offered another defense of his his “everybody eats” comment from last week too, as Buckner details. “I keep telling everybody it’s not a shot at John,” Beal said. “I’m sure Gortat didn’t mean anything by his [tweet]. We understand — nobody is sitting here saying we’re a better team without John. That’s just nonsense. I’ll say it a thousand times if I have to. I’ll go on every media outlet if I have to to get that point across: we’re not a better team without John. I want to nip that in the bud ASAP. He’s a tremendous player. He’s our leader. We need him back but we want him to be 110% before that happens.”
  • Despite the Wizards’ impressive ball-movement numbers over the last few games, the idea that the team might be better without Wall is ridiculous, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.
  • Tomas Satoransky‘s play in Wall’s absence may have an impact on the Wizards’ trade deadline plans, says Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Hughes’ piece was published when Satoransky was averaging 11.0 PPG and 5.8 APG in place of Wall — in the two games since, those averages have dipped to a more pedestrian 5.5 PPG and 4.5 APG.
  • On Tuesday, we learned that the Wizards have engaged in some trade talks involving Gortat. That story is right here.

NBA Fines Beal, Green, Oubre; Suspends Two Wizards Players

The NBA announced on Sunday that Wizards players Carrick Felix and Markieff Morris have each been suspended one game without pay for leaving the bench during Friday’s on-court confrontation between Warriors forward Draymond Green and guard Bradley Beal.

Felix and Morris will serve their suspensions the next game each player is active and physically able to play.

Green ($25,000) and Beal ($50,000) were issued hefty fines for their roles in the skirmish. Beal’s fine is higher than Green’s because he initiated the fight. Green was issued a fine for failing to disengage from Beal, the league noted in the press release.

Wizards’ forward Kelly Oubre Jr. was also fined $15,000 for aggressively entering the confrontation.

It was a tumultuous week for the Warriors as Stephen Curry was fined $50,000 on Monday for throwing his mouthpiece at a referee in the fourth quarter of Golden State’s 111-101 loss to the Grizzlies last Saturday. Andre Iguodala was also fined $15,000 for abusive language toward a referee during the sequence.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Monk, Collins

A number of developments in Bradley Beal‘s game could help the Wizards two-guard earn his first career All-Star berth, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. Last year, for instance, the guard managed to stay healthy after missing considerable time the previous two seasons and looked to gain confidence attacking the basket as a result.

In 2017/18, with last year to reflect back on, Beal could ride that confidence to a new level. Another component that contributed to Beal’s success last season was his improved ball handling. If that continues, the swingman will be able to slash more competently and maybe even drive up his free-throw attempts as Wizards teammate John Wall has done.

Beal watched his average jump from 17.4 points per game to 23.1 last year and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t continue to thrive heading forward. Still just 24 years old, Beal represents a major part of the core that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is so eager to keep together.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The ankle injury that kept Hornets rookie Malik Monk out of summer league is still “significant” and could even limit his availability at the start of the season, Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports writes. In the article, Carbaugh cites two Steve Clifford quotes that Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported via Twitter. Monk, who was initially said to be out 2-4 weeks, is still regaining his conditioning and recently struggled with a relatively lightweight optional workout.
  • After ten consecutive playoff appearances, the Hawks have handed the reins of the team over to their young players, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. With little established competition on the team’s depth chart, rookie John Collins could find a way to produce in Year 1.
  • The Hornets have every intention of keeping Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the starting lineup, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The only tweak to Steve Clifford‘s starting five will be the addition of Dwight Howard in place of Cody Zeller.

 

Eastern Notes: Howard, Hawks, Wade, Wizards

Tuesday’s trade between Atlanta and Charlotte, which sent Dwight Howard to the Hornets for an underwhelming package that included Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli, signaled to many that Howard’s value is at a low point. While that may be the case, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford is confident that he can help Howard become an All-Star caliber player again, as Steve Reed of The Associated Press (via The Charlotte Observer) details.

“I know what he has to do to play well,” Clifford said of Howard, whom he coached as an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles. “He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do… There is no reason he can’t get back to playing at a really high level.”

While we wait to see if Clifford can help Howard rebound after his stint in Atlanta ended with the big man complaining about his role, here are a few more notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Howard trade between Atlanta and Charlotte will leave the Hawks with a modest trade exception. Atlanta’s new TPE will be worth $4,346,942, and will be the fourth – and largest – trade exception available to the team, as our list of TPEs shows.
  • Asked why he decided to exercise his player option to remain with the Bulls, a candid Dwyane Wade told David Aldridge of TNT that there were “24 million reasons” (Twitter link). Wade’s option will pay him $23.8MM next season.
  • The Wizards have reportedly expressed interest in Paul George, and John Wall is on board with the idea of acquiring the Pacers star. However, a trade for George is a long shot, since a sign-and-trade of Otto Porter would be tricky and the inclusion of Bradley Beal is, of course, a non-starter, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com.

Southeast Notes: Wall, Porter, Gortat, Waiters, Ball

During the Wizards‘ Game 7 loss to the Celtics, Washington’s bench was outscored 48 to 5. That glaring disparity was certainly not lost on John Wall, writes Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. In fact, Wall’s last words before leaving the court Monday night were, “Forty-eight to five,” which he then repeated before departing with, “Our bench had five points.”

Here’s more out of the Southeast:

  • Despite the immense disappointment Wizards players are feeling after their Game 7 defeat, players expressed confidence that the team can continue to compete at a high level if it can keep its best players together. Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this offseason, is considered by teammates Wall, Bradley Beal, and Markieff Morris to be a vital part of the team’s core, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Morris tells Buckner that Porter is worth a max contract and he hopes that he gets it.
  • As reported earlier today, Marcin Gortat feels underappreciated by the Wizards and may request a trade.  More details and quotes on Gortat’s feelings can be found via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Impeding Heat free agent Dion Waiters said that the Heat do not need Lonzo Ball because they are covered at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, and “other [players],”  reports Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Waiters also offered advice for Ball: “He’s got to go somewhere where he’s able to play his game. He’s got to go somewhere where he’s able to make mistakes. Because I think in this game today, he’s got to be able to make mistakes and have a coach who allows you to make mistakes, and you can learn from it.”
  • Luke Babbitt‘s future with the Heat is written about by Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Winderman concludes that, while Babbitt likely will not be an offseason priority for the Heat, the team will consider him because of his Bird Rights and skill set.