Speaking to reporters this week, Wizards president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard and head coach Wes Unseld Jr. both expressed enthusiasm about the chemistry of the new-look roster, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. As Robbins notes, chemistry was an issue for much of last season, when there was some in-fighting and a few players who disliked their roles. The Wizards’ leaders believe this year’s group will be a more cohesive one.
“I think the biggest thing for me is the fit,” Unseld said. “The talent is one thing, and I think there’s a better fit, and that does help that competitive spirit, the connectivity that we talk about. When it fits and guys get ‘big picture,’ what is the most important thing? That’s winning. That mindset seems to be more of a collective within the group than I think we’ve seen in the past.”
While Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma are viewed as probable starters, there could be some competition for the other spots in the starting five, as well as for rotation minutes. Unseld is encouraging that spirit of competition and doesn’t anticipate it will create the sort of animosity it did at times last season.
“We want it to be as competitive as possible and kind of that mindset of ‘compete with each other, not against each other.’ You want to push the guy next to you, but you want it to be in a healthy way,” Unseld said. “I think, with the group that we have, guys understand that mindset. They’re trying to push the guy next to them to be the best version of him.”
Here’s more on the Wizards:
- While the offseason signing of Taj Gibson was hardly a blockbuster move, Sheppard is excited about what the veteran big man can bring to the franchise. “One person not to sleep on that’s just been a fantastic veteran presence for us has been Taj Gibson and his ability to bring people together,” Sheppard said, per Robbins. “We’ve got a lot of good connectors. I think there’s bookends, and I just kind of bragged about these guys for a minute, but they’re really high-character people that love to be here, love to represent D.C., can’t wait to get in front of the fans and show that this is new, that this is a new team. And we’re excited.”
- Monte Morris may be ahead of Delon Wright on the depth chart at point guard, but Sheppard expects Wright to play a significant role for the Wizards in 2022/23, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. “I think Delon is going to help us out tremendously especially at the end of games,” the Wizards executive said. “He’s someone that could be contending for the All-Defensive team and he might not even start. There’s a huge opportunity for him to finish games.”
- After representing Japan in the Tokyo Olympics last summer, Wizards forward Rui Hachimura will return to his home country again this preseason when the Wizards play two exhibition games against Golden State. According to Hughes, the Wizards and Hachimura’s agents are taking some precautions to make sure the forward doesn’t get burnt out by his various obligations in Japan, completing several of his media interviews prior to the trip. It’s a big season for Hachimura, who will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a rookie scale extension before opening night.
- In a separate story for The Athletic, Robbins takes a look at what scouts around the league are saying about 2021 first-round pick Corey Kispert, who finished strong last season after a slow start. Three of the four scouts who spoke to Robbins think Kispert will be a long-term backup, rather than a starter.