Michael Winger

Southeast Notes: Winger, Hornets, Hawks’ Coaches, Bitadze

New Wizards president Michael Winger loves the idea of building a foundation and he’s eager to use the lessons he learned during his time with the Cavaliers, Thunder and Clippers, writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Winger is taking on one of the NBA’s biggest challenges in the Wizards, who haven’t posted a 50-win season in 44 years. He’s inheriting a team that’s desperately in need of a makeover after missing the play-in tournament, but he welcomes that opportunity.

“I wouldn’t want a ready-made organization,” he said. “That’s not very exciting. It’s going to be a matter of establishing a culture and creating an identity that we can latch onto and carry into the next half-decade. Sometimes, change for the sake of change accelerates progress.”

Winger had been with Los Angeles since 2017 and he helped team president Lawrence Frank oversee the transition from the Chris PaulBlake Griffin era to the new-look Clippers built around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Winger comes highly recommended as he looks to perform a similar roster remake in Washington.

“One thing that separates Michael from others is his ability to be a couple steps ahead,” Frank said. “It’s one thing to know what you’re trying to get accomplished. But Michael can show you how the pieces on the board need to move to get it done, and how one move can set up the next. That’s invaluable.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak has a talent for finding useful players late in the draft, and he’ll have an opportunity again this year as Charlotte holds five selections, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. They Hornets landed the second slot in the lottery, and they control picks No. 27, 34, 39 and 41 as well. Charlotte has been holding workouts with a lot of players projected to go in that range, including Saturday’s session with Serbian forward Nikola Djurisic. “So at the combine, I hit some shots. I was hitting shots — five in a row, six in a row, which I think the scouts from the clubs can see me shoot, differently from in the game or practice,” Djurisic said. They could see me shoot. But I’m not worried about the 3-point shot because it will come with hard work. But they could see I’m athletic.” 
  • Bryan Bailey, Antonio Lang, Mike Brey and Sanjay Lumpkin will be announced as members of Quin Snyder‘s coaching staff with the Hawks, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Jeff Watkinson and Steven Klei will be retained from the current staff, sources tell Carchia.
  • The Magic have a team option on Goga Bitadze for the 2023/24 season, and Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel suggests that the aggressive rebounding he displayed during his brief time in Orlando will make them consider picking it up. Bitadze averaged 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds after signing with the Magic in February, and he was the team’s primary backup center by the end of the season.

Wizards’ Michael Winger Talks New Role, Clippers Tenure, Beal, More

Having passed on the opportunity to interview for a general manager role with at least one other NBA team in the past, Michael Winger tells Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times that he had begun to wonder whether he’d get an opportunity to become the lead executive in a front office. That was the impetus for his decision to pursue the job as the Wizards‘ president, a position he officially secured on Thursday.

“Seldom, I think, in pro sports do those opportunities come along where almost all of your boxes, if not all of your boxes, are checked,” Winger said. “And this was I think the rare and supremely fortunate opportunity for somebody like me to check all the boxes: ownership, market, fan base, already a talented team.”

Winger has some familiarity with the Washington area already, as Greif notes. The former Clippers general manager lived in Baltimore during his final year of law school and often visited friends in D.C. during that time.

“I just felt like if I’m ever going to challenge myself, now’s the time and (Wizards owner) Ted (Leonsis) is the right person,” Winger said. “I think D.C. is the right fan base.”

Here’s more from the new Wizards executive on the challenges that await him in D.C. and the six years he spent in Los Angeles as the Clippers’ GM:

  • According to Winger, he achieved most of his goals with the Clippers over the last six years, having helped turn the franchise into a desirable destination for stars. Of course, there’s one notable goal that will go unresolved. “I would have liked to have won one or more championships in the four years that we’ve had Paul (George) and Kawhi (Leonard), but every team that tries to win a championship and doesn’t wishes that they would have won a championship,” Winger told Greif. “I mean, certainly winning at the highest level would have been awesome. What else? That’s really it.”
  • Winger added that he still has full confidence that George and Leonard are a “championship tandem” capable of leading the Clippers to a title: “I believe that to my core that those two guys when healthy can absolutely win a championship, so I’m a little sad that I’m not gonna be there when they finally do.”
  • Most of Winger’s conversations with Leonsis during the interview process focused on a “big-picture vision” for the Wizards rather than on specific roster moves, writes Greif. The plan is to dig deeper into specific plans for the roster once Winger brings in a second executive who will focus exclusively on the Wizards in a GM-type role.
  • Winger said he’s thrilled about the prospect of having Bradley Beal as the cornerstone of Washington’s roster: “His former coaches, his former teammates, they all have extraordinarily high regard for him, and he is unequivocally a superstar. The hardest thing to do in the NBA is acquire a superstar talent and it’s even harder to acquire superstar talent with his level of character. And so, I think it’s an extremely, extremely fortunate starting point. So to me, that’s really exciting to have somebody like Brad on the team.”
  • Winger is confident that Leonsis will “put forth both the resources and the patience” to build the Wizards into an organization with a winning culture, pointing to Leonsis’ work with the NHL’s Washington Capitals as proof of his ability to steward a successful franchise. “It’s just a matter of taking some of those principles, injecting the equivalent of the NBA’s nuances into those principles, and hopefully building something that is sturdy, sound, attracts good players, attracts good staff, keeps good players, keeps good staff, and ultimately wins basketball games,” Winger told Greif.

Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis Not Opposed To Rebuild

New Wizards president Michael Winger will have “carte blanche” to reshape the team’s roster, and owner Ted Leonsis isn’t opposed to a rebuild if that’s what Winger has in mind, a league source tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Leonsis has been rumored to be opposed to tearing down the roster and building through the draft in the past, so this could be a pivot point for the franchise. It will be interesting to see which direction Winger goes.

Winger’s decision-making power won’t be limited to just the Wizards’ roster, as he will have “wide latitude” to reshape the organization’s infrastructure, including the front office and coaching staff, according to Robbins. The 43-year-old had been the Clippers’ GM since 2017.

Both Robbins and David Aldridge of The Athletic have heard from sources who say Winger will submit a five-year plan to Leonsis that will be updated after every year. Washington’s owner “wanted someone who’d take big swings, in a big market,” according to Aldridge’s source. Leonsis has assured Winger he’s willing to pay the luxury tax if necessary in the future, Aldridge adds.

Winger, who is a lawyer and has an analytics background, is known as a “big-picture” thinker who has extensive experience handling contract and trade negotiations, as well as navigating the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and salary cap, per Robbins and Aldridge.

A source tells Aldridge that Winger isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, as he was one of the few Clippers executives who had reservations about the Paul George trade with the Thunder — which was tied to Kawhi Leonard signing with L.A. as a free agent — because Winger believed the Clippers were giving up too many first-round picks.

Leonsis also owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, WNBA’s Mystics, and the Wizards’ G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. Winger will oversee the Wizards, Mystics and Go-Go.

Although one report suggested Winger might not hire a No. 2 executive until after the draft and free agency, the team stated the search will be undertaken immediately, and Robbins’ sources inform him that Winger will look to hire someone within the next couple weeks. The new hire will likely have a “relatively traditional basketball background,” per Robbins.

Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) that Thunder vice president of basketball operations Will Dawkins is considered a “strong candidate” for the position. Dawkins worked with Winger for several years in Oklahoma City, Stein notes. Dawkins got his start as an intern with the Thunder in 2008 and has steadily worked his way up in the basketball operations department.

Aldridge believes hiring Winger is a step in the right direction, because it shows Leonsis isn’t satisfied with the status quo. The Wizards have posted five straight losing seasons and haven’t had a 50-win season since 1978/79.

Wizards Hire Michael Winger To Run Front Office

MAY 25: The Wizards have officially hired Winger, the team announced in a press release. Winger and owner Ted Leonsis will immediately undertake a search for a No. 2 basketball operations executive to oversee the Wizards and Go-Go and report directly to Winger.

Michael’s vast experience and broad range of executive-level skills will provide stability, accountability and leadership for all of our basketball franchises,” said Leonsis. “His influence on helping to restore and sustain excellence at three different teams aligns with our goal of building championship contenders while his collaborative approach supports our shared services structure.”

MAY 24: The Wizards intend to hire Clippers general manager Michael Winger to run their front office, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Wojnarowski, Winger’s title will be president of Monumental Basketball — Monumental Sports and Entertainment is the parent company that controls the Wizards. Winger will also be in charge of the WNBA’s Mystics and the Wizards’ G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.

Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, and Ava Wallace of The Washington Post have confirmed the news (all Twitter links) with their own sources.

As Greif notes (Twitter links), Winger was the No. 2 man in Los Angeles under Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank since 2017. According to Greif, since Winger’s responsibilities will also include two other teams, Washington’s organization is still looking for another front office member, presumably a GM, that only oversees the Wizards. That individual would report to Winger.

Winger has been an NBA executive for nearly two decades. He served as the Cavaliers’ director of basketball operations from 2005-10 and then was an assistant general manager with the Thunder under Sam Presti from 2010-17. Winger was atop the Wizards’ wish list for a new lead executive, per Wojnarowski.

Winger has drawn interest from rival teams since joining the Clippers, but he had consistently turned down those overtures until now. The Timberwolves, for instance, sought an interview with him when they were seeking a new head of basketball operations in 2019, but he opted to pass on that opportunity and remain in L.A.

Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon was the only other known candidate to interview for the Wizards’ front office vacancy, though they were linked to a few other names. A former first-round pick, Langdon started his front office career as a scout and assistant GM prior to claiming the Pelicans’ GM job in 2019.

Former Wizards president Tommy Sheppard was dismissed in April after the team went 35-47 and missed the play-in tournament and playoffs each of the past two seasons. The Wizards won a combined 59 games in Sheppard’s first two years in charge after he was promoted in 2019.

Determining what to do with Bradley Beal (max contract, no-trade clause), Kyle Kuzma (unrestricted free agent) and Kristaps Porzingis ($36MM player option) are among the most immediate questions facing the Wizards this offseason, as we noted in our preview. It will be interesting to see how Winger impacts the roster with the draft and free agency coming up in the next handful of weeks.

Winger To Have “Carte Blanche” Over Wizards’ Roster

New team president Michael Winger, who had been the Clippers’ GM since 2017, will have “carte blanche” to potentially overhaul the Wizards‘ roster going forward, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

Winger has been tasked by owner Ted Leonsis to develop an “identity” as well as “setting a fresh direction for the team,” according to Wallace.

Echoing a previous report, Wallace says Winger will hire a “general manager-type figure” to focus solely on the roster, though she suggests that may happen after the draft and free agency. Winger is also responsible for the WNBA’s Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go, which are owned by Leonsis’ Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the parent company that controls the Wizards.

The veteran executive is expected to be “empowered” to change the team’s coaching staff as well, Wallace reports. However, it sounds unlikely that head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will be going anywhere, at least for now, as he’s a favorite of Leonsis and is well-regarded within the Wizards, sources tell Wallace.

Wallace writes that Winger has a positive reputation amongst work colleagues, who refer to him as a “crucial voice” within the Clippers who is known as a “fair negotiator ready to lead his own organization.” While the 43-year-old didn’t speak to the media as a Clippers executive, Wallace hears he’s a “strong internal communicator” who’s adept at breaking down advanced concepts, including aspects of the CBA, into “layman’s terms.”

He’s really good at seeing the whole board,” one executive who has worked with Winger told Wallace. “He’s super organized and really smart. Process-driven to the nth degree. He won’t be reckless or let his team make big mistakes.”

Pacific Notes: James, Moneke, Vezenkov, Suns, Winger

LeBron James twisted his left ankle in the late going of Game 2 against the Nuggets on Thursday but the Lakers’ superstar said he’ll play in Game 3, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. James, who has dealt with right foot problems this season, stepped on Anthony Davis‘ foot. “A little ankle [injury] isn’t going to stop me,” James said.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Chima Moneke, who played two games with the Kings this season before signing with AS Monaco in the EuroLeague, fully expects league MVP Sasha Vezenkov to play for his former NBA team next season, Aris Barkas of Eurohoops.net writes. Sacramento holds Vezenkov’s NBA rights. “I know that they love him over there. They’re really excited to bring him over,” Moneke said. “I believe they’re going to do what it takes to implement him on the team. I think he can contribute in a lot of ways.”
  • The Suns have gotten numerous inquiries from college coaches regarding their head coaching job, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. While Rankin doesn’t reveal any specific names, he notes that owner Mat Ishbia is extremely close to his former college coach, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
  • Clippers general manager Michael Winger has interviewed with the Wizards in Washington’s search for a top executive. However, there’s skepticism around the league that Winger, one of the highest paid GMs in the league, will leave the stability of his current job, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

Wizards Interview Clippers’ Winger For Top Front Office Job

The Wizards, who are seeking a new head of basketball operations, conducted an interview with Clippers general manager Michael Winger for the position, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Winger is at least the second candidate to meet with Wizards management and owner Ted Leonsis about the team’s top front office job, Wojnarowski writes. Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon also interviewed with Washington.

Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton reportedly spoke to the Wizards too, though that was when the team was still said to be in the “information-gathering” stage of its search, so that conversation was presumably less formal.

Winger, who has worked under president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank in Los Angeles since 2017, has been an NBA executive for nearly two decades. He served as the Cavaliers’ director of basketball operations from 2005-10 and then was an assistant general manager with the Thunder under Sam Presti from 2010-17.

Although Winger has drawn interest from rival teams since joining the Clippers, he has consistently turned down those overtures. The Timberwolves, for instance, sought an interview with him when they were seeking a new head of basketball operations in 2019, but he opted to pass on that opportunity and remain in L.A.

Bulls To Seek Interviews With Karnisovas, Webster, Others

1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will  join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.

According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.

12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.

Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.

Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.

According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.

Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).

Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.

The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.

However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.

Assistant GM Trent Redden To Remain With Clippers

After taking over as the head of basketball operations in New Orleans, new Pelicans executive David Griffin had reportedly hoped to reunite with Trent Redden, who worked with him in Cleveland’s front office. However, Redden – now an assistant general manager for the Clippers – has opted to remain in Los Angeles, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Redden met with Griffin earlier this month to discuss a front office role, as we relayed a week and a half ago. With Redden no longer in the mix for a job in New Orleans, it remains to be seen which direction Griffin will go to fill out his front office.

This is the second time this month that a top Clippers executive has turned down the opportunity to either interview for – or accept – a job in another front office that would ostensibly represent a promotion. Previously, Clips GM Michael Winger opted to withdraw his name from consideration for the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations position.

In Redden’s case, there were rumblings that New Orleans was interested in making him the club’s general manager under Griffin. However, as Wojnarowski explains, despite a “great belief” in Griffin, Redden still has a strong connection to the Clippers’ group and wants to see the club’s unfinished business through.

Wolves Notes: POBO Search, Saunders, Wiggins

The importance of making the right president of basketball operations hire cannot be overstated for the Timberwolves, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski details, after the team took a step backward during the 2018/19 season, the next steps in Minnesota are critical, and finding the right person to run the show will be the franchise’s top priority this spring.

The Timberwolves’ search has centered on ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth, and Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. While the club’s list of targets may expand beyond that group, it seems likely that one of those four execs will ultimately land the job.

Clippers GM Michael Winger initially seemed interested in the position, and was prepared to “plunge into the process” last week, according to Krawczynski. However, after a conversation with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and the rest of the staff, he decided to remove his name from consideration and remain in L.A.

That leaves four candidates, all of whom are in their early-40s, Krawczynski notes. With the exception of Billups, they all have strong backgrounds in player development too. In addition to targeting a younger executive who has the ability to identify emerging talent, the Wolves are also prioritizing hiring someone who is willing to communicate and cooperate, Krawczynski writes.

As Krawczynski observes, communication wasn’t necessarily a strong suit for former head of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, so the club will be looking for an executive who is more interested in “building bridges” across the organization.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • The Timberwolves have conveyed a desire to retain head coach Ryan Saunders, who took the reins from Thibodeau during the 2018/19 season. However, it’s common for a new head of basketball operations to pick his own head coach. Michael Rand of The Star Tribune digs into whether candidates for the open front office job are expected to keep Saunders, and how that would impact the Wolves’ search.
  • The Timberwolves’ new president of basketball operations will immediately face a major question on what to do with Andrew Wiggins, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. With the former No. 1 overall pick on track to earn $122MM+ over the next four seasons, the Wolves need to find a way to get more out of him — or to explore whether there’s any realistic way to get out from under his contract on the trade market.
  • For all the latest out of Minnesota, be sure to check out our Timberwolves team page.