Ish Smith

Wizards Notes: Centers, Wall, Draft, I. Smith

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Sunday afternoon, and while not all of his answers were especially juicy, he shared a handful of interesting tidbits with fans over the course of that Q&A.

As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington passes along, one of Sheppard’s most noteworthy responses came when he was asked about the Wizards’ center position and how much of the team’s cap flexibility this summer might be put toward addressing it. Sheppard’s answer suggested it won’t be a top priority, according to Hughes.

“If you look at the way the game is played, it’s harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position,” Sheppard wrote. “We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We’re pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Within that Reddit AMA, Sheppard also addressed the progress John Wall is making as he rehabs his Achilles injury, noting that the point guard has scrimmaged with Washington’s G League affiliate. “We’re extremely pleased with John’s condition right now, his participation throughout the rehab process has been fantastic,” Sheppard wrote, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. “I’ve never seen him this motivated to make a full recovery. We see John scrimmage with the Go-Go, we see him at practice with the Wizards. And while the rust is still there, there’s plenty of signs that point to a full recovery.”
  • Jackson Filyo of WashingtonWizards.com passes along a few more of the highlights from Sheppard’s AMA, including the GM’s comments on drafting Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown‘s position, and the Wizards’ plans for the 2020 draft. Sheppard described this year’s draft class as “deeper this year than people realize.”
  • Wizards point guard Ish Smith will be re-evaluated later this week, as his left hamstring injury has gone from a day-to-day issue to a week-to-week ailment. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the details.

Wizards Notes: Culture, Bryant, Smith, Mathews

The culture in Washington has changed dramatically from last season and Ish Smith believes the team the Wizards could be on a similar path to the one the Nets are on, as he told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance after the team’s recent win over the Celtics.

“Brooklyn, I thought, did a great job of it last year. They’ve been doing a great job over the last two years – they haven’t had any true superstars, but now they do,” Smith said. “They’ve just been playing hard and guys have emerged out of nowhere.

“You look at Joe Harris; Joe Harris wasn’t a household name, now he is one. Spencer Dinwiddie, I can go down the line, all of those guys who played really, really well and held down the fort – and they made it to the playoffs last year. Obviously, D’Angelo [Russell] was a household name and everybody knew who he was, but I thought Brooklyn had laid that [foundation] down. We’re just trying to play hard, try to play smarter. We’re embodying who Coach [Scott] Brooks is. Coach Brooks is a fighter and that’s who he was his whole career. I think we’re doing a great job of doing that these last few games.”

The Wizards have had a stockpile of injuries and players without much brand recognition have stepped up. Here’s more on the unique squad out of Washington:

  • The front office would like to promote Anzejs Pasecniks, who is on a two-way deal, to the 15-man roster, though good luck guessing which player would be waived if that happens. Gary Payton II‘s contract for the season became fully guaranteed on Tuesday, which makes the Wizards roster 15-for-15 in guaranteed contracts.
  • Thomas Bryant could make his return to the court this weekend. The Wizards play the Hawks on Friday and the Jazz on Sunday.
  • Wizards guard Jordan McRae spoke about how Smith, has impacted the club “Ish [Smith] is doing what Ish does. We’ve been going through droughts where we can’t score. Him being the point guard, him being the leader that he is, he’s taken it upon himself,” McRae said. We recently detailed how Smith is channeling his inner Steve Nash for the Wizards.
  • Brook said there is no update on Garrison Mathews, who is dealing with an ankle sprain, Fred Katz of The Athletic relays on Twitter.

Ish Smith Channels His Inner Steve Nash For The Wizards

MVP chants broke out during the Wizards‘ upset victory over the Celtics, drowning out the thousands of Boston fans that, at times, made the Capital One Arena feel like the TD Garden. Ish Smith, who had 59 points off the bench over his past two games, had again taken control of the contest.

“If it were a two-game season, I would have to agree with the crowd: MVP,” coach Scott Brooks said to the media in attendance, including Hoops Rumors. “And he’s bringing back the mid-range. He plays. Man, that guy, he’s hard to stay in front of. He changes direction, his pace, speed, it’s hard—it’s hard to stay in front of him.”

Smith, who signed a two-year, $12MM contract with the Wizards this past offseason, attributes many parts of his game to NBA legend Steve Nash.

“You know what’s funny, I was watching some tape of [Nash] last night,” the point guard said after the team’s win over the Celtics. “I’m always trying to get better. The game of basketball, I love to play the game and Steve did such a great job, as you know, and we know watching him. Probing, keeping his dribble, he was unbelievable in the mid-range game. I sometimes thought he didn’t shoot enough. I used to watch tons of him.

“The late, great Skip Prosser, my coach, he passed away. He used to sit me down my freshman year and show me tons of Tony Parker and Steve Nash clips. When you watch me play, you see a lot of that. Coaches used to tell me [to keep my dribble]. I’m glad I’m continuing that on and I’m still trying to learn from him, just watching his tapes. I watched the playoffs when he played against Dallas and he had 39 and he just kept making shots and they went to the conference finals. I’m constantly learning and getting better.”

Smith’s has elevated his game at a time when his team needed him the most, as Washington has been decimated by injuries this season. No one expected John Wall to come back, but the list of players sidelined is getting ridiculous. C.J. Miles has been out since November. Thomas Bryant hasn’t played in over a month. Davis Bertans, Moritz Wagner, and Rui Hachimura all remain out with three very different injuries.

NBA Ironman Bradley Beal has missed the past three games and five out of the past six, including the Wizards’ pair of upset victories over the Nuggets and Celtics. Garrison Mathews, who was turning into a key contributor for the team, went down during the first half of the Boston game. The team had to utilize a pair of hardship exceptions in recent weeks on Gary Payton II and Johnathan Williams, starting both in a handful of contests before being forced to trim down the roster again. Charles Barkley could play ‘Who he play for’ Wizards edition and go 0-for-6.

Despite the various ailments, Brooks has opted to stack the bench unit, led by Smith, and the strategy has paid dividends. The Wizards scored 92 points off the bench against the Nuggets, causing coach Mike Malone to give a brash rant, telling reporters that he was “embarrassed” for his squad.

“The reality is this is the NBA, man, I don’t care who plays,” Malone said. “They’re professional players, all their players are playing for something. They don’t get an opportunity to play a lot now they have an opportunity. They are grabbing it. So, you know, kudos to them. That’s what you want to see.”

After the Wizards’ win on Saturday, the locker room had a champagne-like celebration (it was all water). After the win over the Celtics, it was all praise to Smith, who has led this ever-changing group, mentoring the younger players and playing the role of both scorer and facilitator on the floor.

“There’s certain stuff he does where I’m like, ‘I can’t do that.’ Just the pace he plays at and how calm he stays, how collected he is and his composure,” Troy Brown Jr. said of Smith. “He’s definitely a great player and somebody definitely to look up to that’s been in the league for a long time.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Bertans, Smith, Payton, Chiozza

General manager Tommy Sheppard said this week that the Wizards plan to re-sign Davis Bertans, but Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington believes they may rethink their position before the trade deadline. Bertans has emerged as one of the league’s top 3-point shooters, hitting a career-best 44.7% through the season’s first 27 games. But his eventual price tag could be a concern to a franchise that has already made expensive long-term commitments to Bradley Beal and John Wall.

A league executive predicts Bertans will command a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $51MM over three seasons. Hughes states that the Wizards can easily afford to give Bertans around $15MM per season, especially with Ian Mahinmi‘s $15.5MM salary coming off the books after this season. However, if the price gets closer to $20MM annually, Washington might have to reconsider to avoid a repeat of the salary cap crunch it escaped at last year’s deadline.

Hughes hears that the Sixers, Hawks and Lakers would be the most interested teams if the Wizards opt to shop Bertans. Washington will want at least a first-round pick in return, but any contender would be offering a choice very late in the draft. Unless someone comes through with a sweeter offer, Washington may opt to keep Bertans and take its chances in free agency.

There’s more from D.C.:

  • Ish Smith is excelling off the bench and making a strong case for a full-time starting job, observes Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. Last night in Toronto, Smith became the first reserve in franchise history with a perfect shooting night on at least nine shot attempts since the stat started being kept in 1971.
  • Gary Payton II, who is reportedly close to re-signing with the Wizards, got a strong endorsement from his coach this week at the G League Showcase, relays Sam Gordon of The Las Vegas Review-Journal“It’s dependent on fit and timing. He has the skills. He has the talent. He has the mentality,” said Coby Karl of the South Bay Lakers. “He’s an elite athlete at the NBA level. He can do so many different things on the court.”
  • Chris Chiozza, who was released earlier this week, has joined Washington’s G League affiliate in Capital City after clearing waivers, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Wizards Notes: Chemistry, Wagner, Thomas

The atmosphere in Washington is much more upbeat than it was last season, as Troy Haliburton and I recently discussed on the Wizards’ Locked On podcast. Team chemistry is something that’s hard to measure (I’m no body language doctor as Bill Simmons would say), though this year’s edition of the Wizards are noticeably having fun playing basketball and they are outperforming their low expectations that many gave them entering the season.

The Wizards are second in the league on offense entering the night and while the team only has five wins on the season (5-9), many of the losses have been close with three of those by four points or less and a total of six losses by eight points or less.

As the team begins its four-game road trip, let’s take a look at more notes from Washington:

  • Former University of Florida star Chris Chiozza is with the Wizards on the first leg of their road trip, the team announces. Chiozza is on a two-way deal with Washington.
  • Moritz Wagner, who is helping the Wizards own one of the better bench units in the NBA, recently admitted to Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance that he has a ways to go on the defensive end. “I’m still learning too. It’s my second year and my first opportunity to actually play,” said Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-way trade this offseason.
  • Coach Scott Brooks left Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith on the floor together in the Wizards’ recent contest against the Kings and Thomas feels the two point guards (both of whom came to the franchise this past offseason) can play together in the future. “I’ve played off the ball in my career a lot, it’s not that different,” Thomas told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance after Sunday’s game. “It’s a different dynamic. I like playing off the ball, switching it up…Ish is a hell of a guard who changes the pace of the game and definitely finds everybody that is open. Hopefully, we can make that lineup happen a little more because I think it’s dynamic if we get used to playing together.”
  • Thomas offered advice for 2018 No. 15 overall pick Troy Brown Jr., who has struggled with his shot recently. “Continue to work, it’s 82 games. You’re going to have good ones, bad ones, going to have a lot of them,” the veteran said. “You’ve got to continue, no matter how good your games are. I always say the best players have the shortest memories, whether good or bad.”

Wizards Notes: Anderson, Schofield, Smith

Justin Anderson is hoping to make the Wizards‘ roster and knows the role he has to play to get there, as I wrote on SLAM Newswire.

“I’m not a guy that’s going to iso and score buckets. That’s not my game. My game is to play a role, fill a void, play defense, play hard, play passionately,” Anderson said.

Washington has 13 players under guaranteed deals, but Anderson is not one of them, meaning he’ll likely compete with a handful of players for the last two spots on the roster, as our own Luke Adams detailed earlier today. Anderson, who is from Virginia and played his collegiate ball at the University of Virginia, would love the opportunity to play for the Wizards, with his family close by.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “We see Kawhi and Paul George, they get to go back home. You see it happen on all levels. Everyone is excited to go back home.

Here’s more from training camp in Washington:

  • Second-round pick Admiral Schofield was forced out of a scrimmage today with what appeared to be a leg injury. There’s no word yet on the severity of the injury.
  • Earlier in the week, Ish Smith compared playing alongside Bradley Beal to his time playing alongside Blake Griffin. “Shooting the basketball when I’m open, cutting sometimes, mixing it up and playing it off the catch,” Smith said of the style he expects to play while on the court next to Beal. With Isaiah Thomas and John Wall sidelined, Smith is the favorite to open the season as the team’s starting point guard.
  • The two starting forward positions are also up for grabs during camp. Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans could end up with those spots, though that would leave one of the two players playing out of his best position. Thomas Bryant and Beal are the only two starters that are essentially set in stone.
  • As we passed along earlier today, Ian Mahinmi will miss at least six weeks with a strained Achilles. Of the Wizards’ 13 players with guaranteed deals, five are currently injured.

Kemba Walker Signs Four-Year Deal With Celtics

JULY 6: Walker’s new deal with the Celtics is official, according to a tweet from the team. Walker was among the first free agents to commit to his new team when free agency began last Sunday.

JUNE 30, 5:24pm: Walker and the Celtics are formally in agreement on a four-year max deal, tweets Wojnarowski. As we detailed in our story of the Hornets’ agreement with Rozier, Boston is working on adding Kemba via sign-and-trade.

JUNE 30, 2:14pm: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that while talks remain exploratory in nature, the Celtics have shown interest in a three-team sign-and-trade with Irving, Walker, and Rozier (to the Hornets). Per Woj, the Celtics are interested in having the MLE at their disposal as opposed to the room exception. Woj also adds that the Nets would likely command a first-round pick from Boston for agreeing to a S&T.

JUNE 29, 3:39pm: Free agent point guard Kemba Walker has conveyed to the Hornets that he intends to sign with the Celtics when the NBA’s new league year begins, multiple sources tell Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Boston has been viewed as Walker’s likely landing spot in recent days, having emerged as the frontrunner for the All-NBA point guard earlier in the week.

Kemba intends to sign a four-year, maximum-salary contract (worth a projected $141MM), tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. He’ll be in Boston on Sunday night to finalize an agreement with the C’s, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A three-time All-Star, Walker had perhaps the best year of his NBA carer in 2018/19, establishing a new career-high in PPG (25.6) while also contributing 5.9 APG and 4.4 RPG with a shooting line of .434/.356/.844.

Despite receiving little offensive help in Charlotte, Walker managed to keep the team in the playoff hunt for most of the season, though the Hornets ultimately fell short and finished in the lottery. If Walker had returned to Charlotte, the team would have been up against the luxury tax and would have had a hard time improving its roster around him, so the former UConn star will move on to a potential contender despite the fact that the Hornets could have offered him more money over more years.

Walker will join a Celtics roster that is set to feature Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart, so it will be fascinating to see what he can do in Boston without receiving quite as much attention from opposing defenses. The opportunity to play alongside those Celtics veterans and potentially go deep in the playoffs was a key factor in Walker’s decision, a source tells Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link).

The C’s are expecting to lose Al Horford and, of course, Kyrie Irving, who has been rumored to be focused on Brooklyn. With Walker heading to Boston to replace Irving, the Hornets are scouring the free agent market for possible point guard targets of their own, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that Elfrid Payton, T.J. McConnell, Ish Smith, and Emmanuel Mudiay are among the options being considered by Charlotte.

Terry Rozier‘s name has also been linked to the Hornets, though it’s unlikely that he’d be a viable option unless Charlotte and Boston can work out some sort of sign-and-trade arrangement, which is a long shot. By withdrawing Rozier’s qualifying offer and renouncing his cap hold, the Celtics will have enough room to sign Walker outright to a max deal, even with Daniel Theis‘ QO still on their books.

In addition to Boston and Charlotte, the Mavericks and Knicks had also been considered potential contenders for Walker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Sign Ish Smith To Two-Year Deal

JULY 9: The Wizards have officially signed Smith, per NBA.com’s transactions log.

JULY 1: The Wizards have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with free agent point guard Ish Smith, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the deal will be worth $12MM.

[RELATED: Wizards to re-sign Thomas Bryant]

Smith, who will turn 31 on Friday, will join the 11th team of his NBA career. He spent the last three seasons in Detroit, having averaged 8.9 PPG and 3.6 APG on .419/.326/.758 shooting in 2018/19 for the Pistons.

With Detroit turning to Derrick Rose early in free agency to fill its point guard hole, Smith was destined for a new NBA home, and the Wizards had long been interested, tweets David Aldridge of The Athletic.

With John Wall expected to miss most of the 2019/20 season due to his torn Achilles and Tomas Satoransky facing restricted free agency, the Wizards needed to address the point guard position this summer.

Satoransky will be headed to Chicago in a sign-and-trade deal, so the Wizards will likely need to add at least one more point guard to join Smith while Wall recovers.

According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (via Twitter), Smith will receive a fully guaranteed deal and will be signed using the Wizards’ mid-level exception. Assuming the team plans on staying out tax territory and retaining its full, non-taxpayer’s MLE, it should still have more than $3MM available on that exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Durant, I. Smith, Diallo, Mavs, More

While rumors of Kevin Durant‘s possible departure continue to persist, the Warriors have recently expressed some private optimism about their chances of re-signing the former MVP, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. As Amick explains, that hope stems from the fact that Golden State is the only team with the ability to make Durant a five-year, $221MM offer. That extra year and money could be a more significant factor with KD recovering from an Achilles tear.

Earlier this week, Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers indicated that the team has formal plans to talk to both Durant and Klay Thompson about new deals, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays (via Twitter). Myers also said that Thompson is expected to undergo his ACL surgery later this week.

Here’s more from around the NBA on free agency:

  • Ish Smith is among the free agent point guards who are on the Timberwolves‘ radar, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North. Wolfson previously identified T.J. McConnell as a target of interest to Minnesota.
  • Cheick Diallo, who shares an agent with Mavericks star Luka Doncic and Mavs free agent target Patrick Beverley, is a potential fit for Dallas, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Diallo reportedly won’t receive a qualifying offer from New Orleans, so he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
  • Speaking of the Mavericks, team owner Mark Cuban downplayed the importance of face-to-face meetings for free agents, as Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. “There’s some players that want a presentation and they want the dog-and-pony show,” Cuban said. “And there’s some players, they don’t care. They have a feel and they just want to ask some questions and you don’t really have to have a meeting to do that. … It really depends on the players. I can give you a long list of players we didn’t have meetings with that we signed, and a lot of teams that didn’t have meetings and they signed people. There’s not a lot of secrets. It’s not like all of a sudden you’re going to say something they didn’t know.”
  • Although Willie Cauley-Stein‘s agent doesn’t want the Kings to give his client a qualifying offer, it wouldn’t make sense for the club to forgo that QO, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Sixers Notes: Horford, Brogdon, Butler

It’s not a given that the Sixers bring back their five starters this offseason.

Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will each have rival teams looking to offer them a max deal. J.J. Redick will likely see heavy interest on the market as well, with Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer hearing that shooting guard will yield offers in the range of $12MM annually.

“They have tough decisions to make and so do we,” GM Elton Brand said.

Bringing back those three players will put the Sixers over the salary cap and out of contention for a number of free agents. Should the team decide to make major changes, there’s a wide range of talent on the market.

“We definitely need hard-nose players, shooting,” Brand said. “We want to add shooting. If you watch the playoffs, these are playoff-tested players … I don’t want to say names … but [the Sixers want] veteran-tested players, playoff-tested players that can take us over the edge with our talent.”

Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon, and Danny Green are players the team could have interest in Pompey adds.

Here’s more on Philadelphia and the team’s pending free agents:

  • Don’t be surprised if the Clippers make a play to sign Harris, Pompey notes. The combo forward, who came to the Sixers via a midseason trade with the club, will be taking meetings on June 30 and July 1.
  • The Sixers may have to offer a five-year deal in order to keep Jimmy Butler, Pompey writes. Butler and his camp are meeting this week to go over free agent objectives.
  • Marcus Morris, Ed Davis, Ish Smith, Cory Joseph, and Patrick Beverley are among the free agents whom the Sixers could pursue, Pompey adds in the same piece. The team has confidence in its ability to lure one or two impactful free agents should it lose one of its max free agents.
  • Derek Bodner of the Athletic details how the Sixers are devaluing second-round picks. The team will have three more second-rounders next year after wheeling and dealing picks last week, as I recently detailed.
  • Furkan Korkmaz may join Turkish team Fenerbahce next season, according to Sportando. The former No. 26 overall pick is all but certain not to be back in Philadelphia next year.