Deni Avdija

Wizards Notes: Avdija, Porzingis, Kuzma, Dinwiddie

The Wizards‘ decision to trade Rui Hachimura this week was partly motivated by a desire to create a larger role for Deni Avdija, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Avdija was a lottery pick in 2020, and Hughes notes that his importance to the team is greater than ever now that Hachimura is gone.

“When we really looked at what we needed was to get Deni more responsibility, more opportunity to play,” general manager Tommy Sheppard explained in an interview with NBC (Twitter link).

Avdija has started 30 of the 45 games he has played this season, but his numbers aren’t spectacular at 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per night. Hughes suggests that Avdija may handle the ball more often with Hachimura gone, and he might see more time at power forward than small forward, which could be beneficial given his 27.5% shooting percentage from three-point range. Hughes notes that Avdija attempted just one three-pointer in Tuesday’s win at Dallas, but attacked the basket more frequently and shot a career-high 11 free throws.

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • The ankle injury that has Kristaps Porzingis out of action for at least the next two weeks comes at a crucial point of the season for the Wizards, Hughes states in a separate story. Porzingis is unlikely to play again before the February 9 trade deadline, and the team is running out of time to determine whether the current roster is good enough to earn a spot in the play-in tournament.
  • With free agency and the trade deadline both looming, Kyle Kuzma‘s future in Washington is uncertain, but he says in an interview with Josh Robbins of The Athletic that he’d gladly re-sign with the team this summer if he gets the right offer. “They showed me love,” Kuzma said of the Wizards. “They have allowed me to have a platform to show my game and show the league I’m not just a role player. I’m someone that’s arriving right now. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
  • Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who was notably unhappy with the locker room chemistry during his time with the Wizards, took a shot at his former team after Wednesday’s game. “For them, it’s a showcase,” Dinwiddie told Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “They’re over there trying to get paid, not trying to play winning basketball. For a team that has real aspirations and has an MVP, went to the conference finals last year, we have to be better to a man.” Kuzma took to social media to answer Dinwiddie’s claim after the Wizards narrowly beat the Mavs, tweeting, “The funny thing is they don’t play winning basketball.”

Wizards Notes: Avdija, Wright, Goodwin, Hachimura

Wizards forward Deni Avdija practiced on a limited basis on Monday after missing the last two games with lower back soreness, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Avdija is the only player on the injury report and he’s listed as questionable, the team tweets. Will Barton, who has also battled back soreness, practiced on a limited basis as well.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • With Rui Hachimura and guard Delon Wright back in the rotation after missing significant time due to injuries, the team’s defense should be on the improve, Ava Wallace of The Washington Post notes. Wright could be the team’s best perimeter defender. “We’ve talked about at length his ability to contain one-on-one,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Hopefully, that helps minimize some of the points in the paint. He’s got great size, hand activity.”
  • Two-way player Jordan Goodwin is expected to remain with the team for the time being despite the return of Wright, Wallace reports in the same story. The Wizards want to avoid overloading Wright, starter Monte Morris and the other guards. Goodwin has a solid grip on the third-string point guard spot over No. 10 pick Johnny Davis, who has appeared in 14 games with the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.
  • Hachimura has been indispensable to the Wizards’ second unit this season because of his ability to provide instant offense, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Despite missing 16 games, Hachimura leads the Wizards in double-digit scoring games off the bench with 14. It’s a pivotal season for Hachimura, who’s headed for restricted free agency next summer with a current qualifying offer of $8,486,620.

Eastern Notes: Avdija, Westbrook, Koloko, Taylor, Knicks

Wizards forward Deni Avdija credits former teammate Russell Westbrook for mentoring him during his rookie season, as he told Josh Robbins and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

The current Lakers guard continues to have an impact on Avdija, who is averaging 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Wizards this season. “He really took care of me,” Avdija said. “He really cared about my success, and he wanted me to be mentally tough. When he sees me now, every time he sees me, he gives me advice after the game or something that I need to do better, and I love it. He always has a lot of effect (on me) because he was my first veteran that I met when I came to the league.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Rookie Christian Koloko leads the Raptors in games played this season due to rash of injuries throughout the roster but he’s not yet the answer at center, Josh Lewenberg of TSN writes. Koloko’s growing pains are showing during the team’s current slide and he may need more seasoning in the G League. “He’s got to play through those mistakes,” Fred VanVleet said. “It’s not necessarily his fault that we need him at his mature self right this second.”
  • Pacers forward Terry Taylor will play with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in their two games this week at the G League Showcase, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Taylor will get some much-needed playing time. The second-year player hasn’t appeared at all in the past five games for Indiana and has only seen seven total minutes of action in December.
  • The Knicks open a four-game homestand this week but they’ve been better on the road, Peter Botte of the New York Post notes. They’ve won seven consecutive games overall and six straight outside of Madison Square Garden. “How do I say this? I don’t know what the word I’m supposed to use is, but on the road we’re locked in. At home we’re comfortable,” Jalen Brunson said. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at and continue to do that. I just like the way we’re playing.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, Wizards, Hornets, Oubre

Heat guard Victor Oladipo made his season debut on Tuesday night, taking the court for the first time since May and scoring nine points in 19 minutes off the bench. However, it will take more than Oladipo’s return to fix Miami’s second unit, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

As Winderman outlines, with Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin promoted to the starting lineup, injuries affecting a handful of players, and the club unwilling to fill its 15th roster spot due to luxury tax ramifications, depth no longer seems to be one of the Heat’s strengths. Miami ranks 29th in the NBA in both bench scoring (26.6 PPG) and bench shooting (.420 FG%) so far this season.

Here are a few more notes from around the Southeast:

  • While Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma have thrived as the Wizards‘ “Big Three,” the team needs more offensive production from its role players, especially with Beal out due to a hamstring injury, says Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Wallace singles out Monte Morris, Will Barton, and Deni Avdija as a few rotation players who “haven’t been operating at their full potential.”
  • Injuries have prevented the Hornets from getting a clear sense of what works and what doesn’t, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “We haven’t played enough lineups together,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “We have individual goals for the guys. But in terms of our group, we’ve had no continuity. So, it’s been hard to figure out. Usually by 15 games, you can say, ‘When we defensive rebound, we win.’ ‘When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re good.’ And we’ve been all over the place. So that’s a good question, but we are not there yet.”
  • In a mailbag for The Charlotte Observer (subscriber link), Boone says Hornets forward Kelly Oubre is a player worth keeping an eye on this season. As Boone outlines, Oubre would be a movable asset if the team decides to sell, but he appears to have interest in remaining in Charlotte if the club is interested in keeping him.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Porzingis, Gafford, Hachimura

Appearing on the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast, Wizards star Bradley Beal was asked by Arenas’ co-host Josiah Johnson about why he decided to sign a long-term contract to remain in D.C. this past summer. Beal responded by explaining that he appreciates the influence he has earned within the organization and believes in the talent on the roster.

“Not everybody gives you a voice in the organization. I have a voice here,” Beal said (hat tip to Paul Terrazzano Jr. of TalkBasket). “I never had a chance to fully play a year with (Kristaps Porzingis). That enticed me. He’s probably the best big I’ve played with. I like (Kyle Kuzma)’s ability to be able to spread his wings a little bit more, develop into the player that we think he can be. And then I think I like the young core that we were developing. Rui (Hachimura) is really good, had an awesome summer. Deni (Avdija)‘s just gonna continue to get better. And then Corey (Kispert)‘s a knockdown shooter, who is a pro’s pro.

“We still need to get better. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘We’re gonna hold up the Larry (O’Brien trophy). We’re going to beat Milwaukee (in the playoffs) tomorrow.’ No. But to have the pieces we have, we have enough to know that we can compete on a nightly basis with no BS. We know that we got a job, everybody’s able to be a star in their role, and we can go do that.”

It would have been hard for Beal to turn down the Wizards’ five-year, $251MM+ offer, which included a no-trade clause, in any scenario. But the star guard admitted that he didn’t actually have a ton of viable alternatives on the free agent market, alluding to the fact that many contending teams were in the tax, or at least well over the cap. The teams operating with cap space this summer were virtually all retooling or rebuilding clubs.

“On the flip side of it, the business side of it. There were no teams in the market, free agency-wise. I’m just being frank,” Beal said. “There was nowhere else for me to go where I can be like, ‘Oh, I can go win.’ It was teams that strategically wasn’t what I wanted. So realistically, I won’t say my hand was forced, but this was my best decision and best option on the table at the time.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • While you could gripe about some of his poorly timed late-game turnovers, Beal is otherwise off to a strong start in the first season of his mega-deal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes observes, Beal’s current streak of 11 consecutive 20-point games is already better than any run he had last season, and his shooting percentages (.520 FG%, .352 3PT%) have rebounded in a major way after a down year in 2021/22 (.451 FG%, .300 3PT%).
  • As Hughes notes in another story for NBC Sports Washington, Unseld used centers Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford together in the frontcourt on Friday for the first time all season. The move, an attempt to counter the impact that Charlotte’s duo of Mason Plumlee and Nick Richards was having on the boards and in the paint, was a success, with the Wizards outscoring the Hornets by 18 points during Porzingis’ and Gafford’s 12 minutes together. According to Hughes, the combination looks like an “in case of emergency” option for Unseld, but it could be worth trying more, given its effectiveness on Friday.
  • Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Friday that there’s no real timeline for Rui Hachimura‘s return from a bone bruise in his right ankle, referring to the fourth-year forward as “week-to-week,” according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura has missed the Wizards’ last seven games.

Wizards Among Potential Suitors For Jae Crowder

The Wizards appear to be among the trade suitors for Suns forward Jae Crowder, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast. Crowder has sat out the entire 2022/23 season as Phoenix has looked to move him, and Washington is in the market for a three-and-D type player.

“There’s been some chatter about them looking at a guy like Jae Crowder,” Windhorst said of the Wizards (hat tip to RealGM). “I’m pretty confident there’s been some discussions between the Wizards and Suns. We’ve been talking about Jae Crowder now for about two months. It’s obvious it’s a hard trade to pull off. The Wizards have a bunch of guys who make decent salaries on their roster that they can use in trades.”

A number of Eastern Conference playoff contenders have already been linked to Crowder, with the Heat, Hawks, and Bucks among the teams said to have interest. There was a sense a couple weeks ago that Phoenix might be on the verge of completing a deal involving the 32-year-old, but nothing has come of those rumors to date.

The Suns are one of the NBA’s best teams and will be looking for win-now pieces – rather than draft picks or prospects – in any Crowder trade, which has made it challenging for them to make a straight-up trade with another contending club. They’ve reportedly explored multi-team scenarios in an effort to get the sort of player(s) they’re targeting.

According to Windhorst, Phoenix would like to acquire a power forward in a Crowder trade. A previous report indicated the Suns have interest in Kyle Kuzma, but the Wizards are presumably looking to supplement Kuzma in their frontcourt rather than give him up, given the year he’s having. Former lottery picks Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija could be trade candidates, as Windhorst observes.

“What Phoenix has been looking for in return for Jae Crowder is a power forward,” Windhorst said. “So you can look at the (Wizards’) roster and you can identify that maybe Hachimura would be a guy. But they haven’t made the deal yet, so there hasn’t been a connection there.

“… To be honest with you, if I was Phoenix – now again, this is me speaking, this is not what I’ve heard, to be clear – I’d be interested in Avdija. I am interested in what he can do defensively. But I haven’t heard that. I’ve just heard that those two sides have talked.”

Crowder ($10.18MM) and Hachimura ($6.26MM) are on expiring contracts, while Avdija ($4.92MM) has one more year left on his rookie deal after this one.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Clifford, Irving, NBPA, Durant

Ben Simmons missed the Nets‘ last four games with a knee problem, but the mental health issues that contributed to his 16-month absence appear to be under control. In an interview with Konrad Marshall of The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, Simmons said being traded to Brooklyn in February gave him a much-needed fresh start.

“I had a terrible year,” he said, “so I know how to handle my emotions and what I need to be doing to get on track. If I’m worried or sad or frustrated or angry, I feel like I’m better able to deal with that now. It took time, but I’m at peace with who I am and what’s going on around me. I know what my priorities are, and what I need to do every day. Besides that, I just want to be me.”

Simmons admits a degree of responsibility for everything that went wrong when he was with the Sixers, but he feels like he didn’t have the support of team leaders. He refers to coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid and their failure to defend him after losing a series to the Hawks in 2021.

“I definitely didn’t handle it the right way after the season, but there’s two sides,” Simmons said. “Your teammates are supposed to have your back. Your coaches are supposed to have your back. And I didn’t have that at all.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, who spent last season as a consultant with the Nets, defended Steve Nash‘s performance in the face of difficult circumstances, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Clifford pointed to the high number of missed games by key players last season and said he hopes Nash will visit Charlotte later this season to offer advice. “There’s always things you can do better as a coach, but the problem there was not coaching,” Clifford said. “Nor receptiveness to the way we did things. I totally disagree with any of that and sometimes it’s just health.” (Twitter link)
  • The players’ union plans to meet with Kyrie Irving to address his latest controversy, the Celtics’ Grant Williams, an NBPA vice president like Irving, told Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis also talked to Wizards forward Deni Avdija, who’s believed to be the league’s only Jewish player, about Irving’s decision to promote an antisemitic film. “I think he [made] a mistake. But you need to understand that he gives [an] example to people. People look up to him,” Avdija said. “You can think whatever you want, you can do whatever you want. I don’t think it’s right to go out in public and publish it, and let little kids that follow you see it, and the generation to come after to think like that.”
  • The Nets have back-to-back road wins since Irving’s suspension was announced, and Kevin Durant suggested that sometimes the games can be a relief from other distractions, Lewis tweets. “Everybody was just waiting to get back to playing,” Durant said. “We also lost three or four games before that, so we just felt some pride and wanted to come out here and get some W’s. So it’s good for our character.”

Southeast Notes: Anthony, Bridges, Oladipo, Butler, Avdija

Magic guard Cole Anthony, who suffered a right internal oblique injury on October 26, will likely return to the court for individual work within the next few days, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. However, Anthony is expected to remain sidelined for a few more weeks. Price’s source indicated that the former first-round pick will probably be out until after Thanksgiving, with a late November or early December return possible depending on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment.

Here are a few more notes from around the Southeast:

  • In the wake of news that restricted free agent Miles Bridges has agreed to a plea deal and will be sentenced to three years of probation, the Hornets released the following statement on Thursday (via Twitter): “We are aware of today’s developments regarding Miles Bridges’ legal situation. We will continue to gather information before determining any potential next steps. Until then, we will have no additional comments.”
  • With Bridges’ case settled, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report considers whether or not the Hornets will move forward with a deal for the RFA forward. As Pincus observes, the NBA’s history suggests that it’s probably only a matter of time before Bridges returns to the court, despite the horrific allegations against him. If and when he officially signs a contract, the league would have the option of suspending him based on its findings in his domestic violence case.
  • In a Hoop Collective segment earlier this week (video link), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said he doesn’t get the sense that Heat guard Victor Oladipo (left knee tendinosis) is “anywhere close” to returning to action. “They haven’t put a timetable on it, but I was kind of led to believe it ain’t happening in the near future,” Windhorst said. Jimmy Butler also missed a second consecutive game on Friday for the Heat due to left hip tightness.
  • Wizards forward Deni Avdija has been out of the starting lineup for the team’s last three games and admits the demotion is “not easy,” writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. However, he’s determined to maintain a positive attitude. “I learned that I need to be patient,” Avdija said of the experience. “I learned that I need to stay ready. I learned that I’m strong mentally, and I’ll figure it out in any situation.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wright, Gill, Avdija

Delon Wright‘s hamstring injury has forced Bradley Beal to initiate the Wizards’ offense more often, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. There isn’t another traditional point guard on the roster outside of starter Monte Morris.

In the last two games, Beal only scored a combined 32 points. He also made a season-high four turnovers against Philadelphia on Monday.

“I’m going to try to do something that reads the flow of the game. It’s been a challenge, but at the same time, it’s where we are,” Beal said. “They’re depending on me. I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and making crisper and smarter decisions.”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • While Wright’s absence affects the entire rotation, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins notes that the starting five was outplayed by its counterparts in losses to Indiana and Boston over the weekend.
  • Anthony Gill was inserted into the lineup against the Sixers and his off-the-ball movement had a positive impact, according to Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. But outside of Kristaps Porzingis‘ 32 points, the Wizards continued to struggle at both ends while losing their third straight. Gill felt the team’s offensive issues spilled over to the defensive end. “We have a bunch of guys on our team who are capable of scoring 20 points a night, so when they aren’t scoring 20 points, it affects the defense,” Gill said. “They’re scorers, so when they’re not scoring, they’re not in the rhythm of the game.”
  • Deni Avdija was the odd man out with Gill taking his spot in the lineup. Avdija went scoreless in 17 minutes off the bench but the Wizards are hopeful he’ll feel more comfortable with an expanded offensive role in the second unit, according to Hughes. “I trust the coaching staff and I trust myself to figure it out. I’ll be fine,” Avdija said.

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Avdija, Defense, Chemistry

Wizards power forward Kyle Kuzma recently discussed his new role as Washington’s leading scorer (for now), per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“Never did it (with the Lakers),” Kuzma said of serving as a primary offensive option. “Obviously, we had great players so that wasn’t my calling. But I have that ability. I can get a rebound and push, I can orchestrate things. I have a high enough IQ to understand who needs the ball in situations and what we kind of need.”

Through his first three games this year, Kuzma is averaging a career-high 19.7 PPG, on .465/.400/.688 shooting splits. He is also pulling down 7.0 RPG, 2.3 APG and 1.3 BPG.

There’s more out of D.C.:

  • Newly-anointed Wizards starting small forward Deni Avdija is reveling in his fresh opportunity among the club’s first five, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “It just shows coach and the organization trust in me,” Avidja said. “They chose that they believe in me and they think that I deserve to be a starter and create and get some of the pressure off the other guys in the starting five. I feel like I’m kind of the glue guy in the starting five,” Avdija said. “I’m trying to make the right play. I’m playing defense, I’m rebounding. I’m trying to do everything I can to help the team and get pressure off from a couple of players that you could say are ball dominant more.”
  • Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. anticipates Washington will continually honor the best defensive player of each individual game throughout the regular season, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Unseld and his assistant coaches are hoping that incentivizing solid defense in this manner will help improve the club’s overall performance on that end of the hardwood. “I think a lot of times players in any sport are kind of assigned accolades with your offensive performances,” Unseld said. “In football, certain colleges do it. We just thought of it as a gimmick in nature but (also) something our guys can kind of buy into. They can lean into it, because it’s a real belt.”
  • The 2022/23 Wizards are getting along swimmingly, which was not the case last season, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “I mean, we’re all just playing the right way,” Kuzma said of the team’s improved chemistry this year. “We have a veteran team, we have a team where we all like each other, and I mean that’s the biggest thing. We can tell we all like each other.” Center Daniel Gafford feels similarly. “The key point is the relationships and stuff are wanted more,” Gafford said. “Everybody’s not seeking individual goals; it’s a full-out team goal. We all want to win. We all want to play in the postseason, and that takes being together and playing as a unit. Being there for each other and taking constructive criticism. If somebody gets on your tail, you take that and use it to be able to progress in the game.”