Deni Avdija

Davis Bertans Expected To Miss Two Weeks

Wizards forward Davis Bertans is expected to miss two weeks after suffering a right calf strain, according to a team press release.

An MRI on Friday revealed the extent of the injury, which he suffered against Utah on Thursday.

Bertans was one of the biggest free agent signings during the offseason, as Washington lavished the stretch four with a five-year, $80MM contract to retain his services.

Bertans picked a good time to have a career year last season, averaging a career-high 15.4 PPG and 4.5 RPG while shooting 42.4% from 3-point range. In 35 games this season, he’s averaging 10.8 PPG and 2.9 RPG while making 38.2% of his threes.

Bertans had a 35-point game in mid-February but he’s struggled lately, scoring in single digits the last four games. Rookie Deni Avdija and Isaac Bonga should see an uptick in minutes with Bertans sidelined.

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Bertans, Winston, Hachimura, Avdija

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks doesn’t think the All-Star Game should be played this season, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. The league and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to hold it in Atlanta next month.

“I saw (LeBron James‘) thoughts on it. I agree. I’m upset,” Brooks said. “I love Atlanta, but I don’t want to go. I’ve been to two All-Star Games…and I don’t want to go. I agree with him.”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Davis Bertans re-signed with the club for five years and $80MM in November, but his 3-point stroke has been off this season. Katz breaks down Bertans’ struggles in an in-depth Athletic story. Bertans is shooting 33.1% from long range after making 42% of his attempts the past two seasons and it appears he still doesn’t have his legs under him, according to Katz.
  • Rookie guard Cassius Winston has been transferred to the Erie BayHawks to play in the G League season in Orlando, the team tweets. Washington’s G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, is not participating in the event. The second-round pick out of Michigan State has appeared in six NBA games and will receive much-needed playing time in Orlando.
  • Prior to Washington’s 27-point loss to Miami on Friday, second-year forward Rui Hachimura and rookie forward Deni Avdija appeared to be trending in the right direction after the team’s COVID-19 pause, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes.

Beal Acknowledges Frustration As Wizards’ Slide Continues

Wizards star Bradley Beal scored 47 points on Wednesday, but it wasn’t nearly enough to topple the Pelicans, who won by a score of 124-106. The Wizards’ record dropped to an NBA-worst 3-11, and the outcome made Beal the first player in NBA history to lose 10 consecutive games in which he scored 40 or more points (Twitter link).

Asked after the game if he’s frustrated by how things are going for the team as of late, Beal replied rhetorically, “Is the sky blue?” (link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com).

When trade speculation about Beal was beginning to heat up in 2019, the All-Star guard quieted it by signing a two-year, $72MM contract extension to remain in Washington through at least 2021/22. However, the team has a 28-58 (.326) record across parts of two seasons since then, which aren’t exactly the results Beal was hoping for.

“It’s tough,” Beal said, per Youngmisuk. “I am not going to sit here and be naive. … We want to win, and I want to win. This is why I stayed. I want to win. I figured this is the place I can get it done. It’s tough. Last year was what it was. We had a lot of guys out. John (Wall) was out. It was just a rotten year. COVID hit.

“This year it’s the same thing. Like in a mini-bubble outside the bubble. No fans, no nothing, no practice time. It’s been tough.”

The Wizards have had some bad injury luck this year. Starting center Thomas Bryant suffered a season-ending ACL tear, while newly-acquired point guard Russell Westbrook – who sat out the second half of a back-to-back set on Wednesday – has also been limited by health issues, including a quad injury.

Additionally, Washington has been hit harder this year by the coronavirus pandemic than perhaps any other NBA team. Seven of the Wizards’ players have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 since the 2020/21 season began.

While Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner all remained sidelined due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said last night that he thinks there’s a “great chance” the club will get a few of those players back soon, perhaps as early as Friday (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic).

Those reinforcements could help stabilize the Wizards’ rotation, and with 58 of 72 games still to play, there’s plenty of time to turn things around. Beal said on Wednesday that the group’s confidence level remains high (link via Katz), while Brooks expressed hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and stressed that Beal’s desire to win is “critical to our future success” (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).

Still, it’s safe to assume teams around the league will continue to monitor the situation in Washington in the coming weeks or months. For now, Beal’s frustration hasn’t risen to the point where he’s seeking a change of scenery, but he’d instantly become the NBA’s most sought-after trade target if he’s made available at any point this season.

NBA Postpones Friday’s Wizards/Bucks Game

The game between the Wizards and Bucks that was scheduled to be played on Friday in Milwaukee has been postponed, the NBA announced tonight (Twitter link).

It’s the sixth consecutive postponement for the Wizards, who haven’t played since January 11. The team was cleared to return to the court to practice on Wednesday, but remains significantly shorthanded.

Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner are out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad) are sidelined due to injuries, leaving just eight available players on the roster (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the game is being postponed due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing affecting players on the roster, and the club’s lengthy layoff from practicing.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote earlier tonight, Bradley Beal and the Wizards had been planning to lobby for a postponement of Friday’s game, since they felt that potentially playing with the league-mandated minimum of eight players after not practicing for the last week would result in a high risk of injury for the active players.

The next game on Washington’s schedule is Sunday in San Antonio. The hope is that the Wizards will have enough available players – and enough practice time between now and then – to be ready to play that game.

The NBA has now postponed 17 contests this season. The full list is here.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Hornets, Borrego, Avdija

Now that Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer going to be a 2021 free agent candidate for the Heat, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if Miami might pivot to eventually adding Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who holds a $37.26MM player option for the 2022/23 season. After swapping out point guard John Wall for All-Star Russell Westbrook in the offseason, the Wizards are off to a 1-5 start.

The 6’3″ Beal, 27, is a two-time All-Star and could be a great fit on the Heat as both a secondary ball-handler and an off-ball cutter. He is currently averaging a career-best 31.2 PPG on 47.8% shooting from the field and 87.7% shooting from the charity stripe. Though his three-point shooting through the first six games of the season is a low 27.3%, he is a career 37.9% three-point shooter, averaging 6.0 triples per contest over the course of his career.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Hornets have had to adjust their rotation given the absence of starting center Cody Zeller, and their transition to a faster small-ball lineup has proven effective thus far, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
  • In a separate piece, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wonders how long Hornets head coach James Borrego will ride his current starting lineup. Starting point guard Devonte’ Graham is struggling mighty with his offense, shooting 25% from the floor, while rookie draft selection LaMelo Ball could be a candidate for a promotion.
  • Wizards rookie wing Deni Avdija showcased his offensive skill set in his best game of the young season, a 130-109 Washington victory over the Timberwolves on Friday, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Avdija, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft, scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor, and recorded seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Hughes contends that it Avdija appears to have made progress in his ability to read the floor. “I love playmaking,” Avidja said. “I like making my teammates involved. I’m looking for them at every opportunity.”

Southeast Notes: Heat Free Agency, LaMelo, Collins, Avdija

With Giannis Antetokounmpo now signed to the Bucks on a record $228MM five-year extension, the Heat could pivot their 2021 free agency focus to alternative options, such as star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Blake Griffin, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Leonard can opt out of the contract he signed with the Clippers in the summer of 2019, and has sounded non-committal to L.A. beyond this season in recent interviews, in Winderman’s view. Meanwhile, though injuries limited Griffin to just 20 games last season, the 6’9″ power forward made the All-Star team for the Pistons in 2019.

The 2020 Eastern Conference champions should have significant cap space next summer to add a high-level player, though they will need to address the restricted free agency of sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Though rookie Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball has struggled through some growing pains in this early season, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer suggests that the No. 3 overall pick should see more playing time from coach James Borrego. Ball is averaging just 15.5 minutes so far. “It’s tough. There are a number of guys that are capable of handling minutes,” Borrego said. “LaMelo’s got to do his part. It’s my job to do what’s best for this club.
  • Hawks power forward John Collins may have rejected an extension offer in excess of $90MM prior to the season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast. The high-scoring big man will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021, and could command a similar number – or a higher one – on the open market.
  • Rookie Wizards swingman Deni Avdija is getting the first-year treatment from league referees, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Head coach Scott Brooks contends that Avdija is receiving quick whistles from league officials. Early foul trouble limited Avdija to just 15 minutes of action in a loss to the Magic yesterday. “It’s just part of the rookie initiation,” Brooks commented. “I [reviewed the plays] at halftime… I didn’t think two of them were fouls.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, LaMelo, Magic, Avdija

John Hollinger of the Athletic reviewed the 2020 offseason for the Heat and previewed the 2020/21 season for the club, which opened tonight against the Magic in Orlando. Hollinger notes that the team’s 2020 offseason seemed to prioritize future assets over building for the immediate present, despite the fact that Miami made the Finals this season.

The Heat will be able to carve out about $30MM in available cap room for the 2021 offseason, Hollinger projects. Hollinger also expects the team to use its roster, loaded with expiring contracts and intriguing players on cheap contracts, to improve ahead of the playoffs.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have long been waiting to add a new young player capable of generating the kind of buzz a high-upside prospect at the level of rookie point guard LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, according to Andrew Carter of The Charlotte Observer. Hornets head coach James Borrego was skeptical that Ball, the youngest son in a famous family, could enthusiastically buy in to the team concept he was hoping to build before a workout convinced him otherwise. “Just a genuine spirit, an authentic spirit,” Borrego said. “He would ask as many questions as we would ask.”
  • The Magic are hoping to take the next step in their evolution as a playoff club with the chemistry developed through years of continuity, despite the absence of recently-extended forward Jonathan Isaac, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.
  • The Wizards were apparently so set on drafting rookie forward Deni Avdija that they at one point almost made a deal with the Bulls to move up to the No. 4 pick, but determined the cost was too high, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards did not anticipate that Avdija would last long enough to be available at No. 9.

Wizards Notes: Westbrook, Avdija, Neto, International Players

The Wizards enjoyed their first look at Russell Westbrook, who made his preseason debut Saturday night, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. He contributed eight points, seven rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes and helped Washington outscore the Pistons by 11 points while he was in the game.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks was encouraged after watching Westbrook and Bradley Beal on the court together for the first time in a game situation.

“I like the fact that they were looking for other players, not just playing back and forth,” Brooks said. “Russell’s going to find whoever’s open; he’s going to make the right play. And Brad’s the same way.”

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • First-round pick Deni Avdija is making a strong bid to be the team’s starting small forward on opening night, Wallace adds in the same piece. The 19-year-old got his second preseason start Saturday and played 32 minutes. “He’s definitely working his way to being a starter one day,” Brooks said. “Don’t know when that will be; it might be Wednesday night. He’s playing hard, he’s tough, he has great size, and he’s going to make us a better team. … He’s making a good case (to start) — there’s no question.”
  • Point guard Raul Neto has been a surprising standout during the preseason, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 28-year-old was brought in to improve the defense, but he scored 34 points in three preseason games. With Ish Smith as the primary backup to Westbrook, the Wizards may consider using Neto at shooting guard, Hughes adds. He played there for a while Saturday, taking minutes that normally would go to Jerome Robinson and Garrison Mathews.
  • With seven international players on their roster, the Wizards are tied with the Mavericks for the most in the league, Hughes writes in a separate story. In addition to Avdija, who is from Israel, and Neto, who hails from Brazil, Washington has Rui Hachimura of Japan, Davis Bertans and Anzejs Pasecniks of Latvia and Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga of Germany. “Those seven guys have the attributes we look for, not the passports we look for. It doesn’t really matter to me where you’re from,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “If there’s talent all over the world, it’s your job to go find it. It’s never intentional.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Bertans, Lopez, Westbrook, More

Ensuring that Bradley Beal wants to remain in Washington was a top priority for the Wizards as they made their offseason moves, including the blockbuster trade that brought Russell Westbrook to D.C. So did the acquisition of Westbrook have an impact on Beal’s desire to stick with the team?

“Honestly, I haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t,” Beal said, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. “My biggest thing is win now, you know? I wanna win.

“I’m here under contract for this year, next year and a player option, too. So, it’s just a matter of, we gotta win. And the organization knows that. It’s up to me, too, so I can’t just sit here and … look at (general manager Tommy Sheppard) like he’s crazy. I have to go out and lead the team, put in the work and get better every day and bring the results.”

As Katz writes, the Wizards have a tricky tightrope to walk, as they focus not only on building a roster capable of long-term success, but also on winning enough in the next year or two to convince Beal that he doesn’t need to move to a new team to contend.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Davis Bertans and Robin Lopez haven’t yet been able to join the Wizards for practice, tweets Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Bertans was held up by visa issues, according to Wallace, who notes that the team also had one of its new players test positive for the coronavirus. There hasn’t been confirmation that the affected player was Lopez, but it sounds like that’s very possible.
  • The Wizards are counting on point guard Russell Westbrook, who is known for his competitiveness and tenacity, to help set the culture for their young roster, Wallace writes for The Washington Post.
  • Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said today that the starting small forward position will be “fluid,” with Troy Brown, Isaac Bonga, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, and Jerome Robinson all among the options there, per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Brooks also said today that the Wizards are close to a decision on whether or not to participate in the NBA G League’s proposed Atlanta bubble. He believes there’s a good chance the Wizards will opt in, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).