Tommy Sheppard

Southeast Notes: Kuzma, Carter, Sheppard, Bridges

When asked to address the Wizards‘ issues in recent seasons, Kyle Kuzma often spoke about how the team wasn’t “playing winning basketball,” writes The Washington Post’s Ava Wallace. Having won a championship in 2021 with the Lakers, Kuzma is now part of an organization that is making winning secondary to building a top-notch organization, according to Wallace.

That’s why it was intriguing to see Kuzma re-up with Washington this offseason. Wallace writes that while money was a factor – he can earn up to $102MM over four years – Kuzma’s communication with the front office and a chance to be a No. 1 on a team were the primary reasons for coming back.

I’ve said it before: I want to have a chance to lead people and really have a lasting impact on an organization, and this was the best opportunity for me to do that,” Kuzma said.

Jordan Poole quickly moved to try to help convince Kuzma to stay after arriving in a June trade, according to Wallace, who says Poole valued Kuzma and realized the duo could grow together.

You feel it — the authenticity, the knowledge, the basketball knowledge, his experience,” Poole said. “Being able to have a running mate like that is huge, especially when we have a new group, new front office, new coaches. As long as you think the right way and have the right perspective, everything else will kind of just fall in place.

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. feels Kuzma and Poole have “bought in” to the rebuild, according to Wallace. Kuzma averaged 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season and will embark on his seventh season in the league and third with Washington.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wendell Carter Jr. has had a solid stint with the Magic, but he’s hoping to take things to the next level, as Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel details. Carter is attempting to improve his play-making and shooting in 2023/24, according to Beede, and he’s sometimes been taking over 1,000 shots per day in practice. “His jumper definitely looks cleaner,” Magic forward Paolo Banchero said. “It looks like he’s shooting it more comfortably; less hesitation and letting it rip. It’s been going in.”
  • Despite not playing last year after pleading no contest to felony domestic violence in November, Miles Bridges is back with the Hornets and, according to his teammates and coaches, is in game shape, as Roderick Boone writes. “Yeah, it’s been great,” Hornets wing Gordon Hayward said. “Honestly, it’s like he never left, the way he’s fit in just because he knows a lot of the same stuff that we are doing, and he’s going to bring so much versatility to us.
  • While former general manager Tommy Sheppard is out of the picture for the Wizards, his philosophies on defense, pace and attention to detail still ring true, as The Athletic’s Josh Robbins lays out. “You get to the end of the season, and if there’s still questions [about how to play defense], if there’s still confusion or anything, then maybe sometimes you either have to simplify or really go back and say, ‘How much accountability [was there] throughout the year to get us to this point?” Sheppard said in April. “Are we still doing some of the same things?” The Wizards are focusing on using this season as a building block for something bigger, but Robbins opines that if Bilal Coulibaly, Deni Avdija and others don’t make individual strides, it will have been a wasted year.

Wizards Notes: Beal Trade, Winger, Porzingis, Black

The Wizardsdecision to trade Bradley Beal is a smart move that probably should have been made four years ago, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Robbins argues that Washington could have gotten much more in return for Beal in 2019 after John Wall suffered an Achilles injury that altered the future of the franchise. Beal had just finished his second All-Star season, and although the deal would have been controversial, the Wizards could have demanded a significantly higher price than what they’re getting from Phoenix.

Beal had become frustrated with the organization’s lack of progress, and former team president Tommy Sheppard had considered trading him at the 2022 deadline, according to Robbins. That plan fell through when Beal suffered a season-ending ligament tear in his left wrist, and Robbins speculates that Sheppard might still be running the team if he could have moved Beal at that point.

Sources tell Robbins that the Wizards are willing to work with the Suns to expand the trade if Chris Paul wants to be shipped to a contending team. The Clippers have been mentioned as a potential suitor for Paul, and Robbins believes Washington might be able to pick up at least one useful player and a draft pick in such a deal.

There’s more from Washington:

  • New president of basketball operations Michael Winger made a similar trade when he was with the Clippers, sending Blake Griffin to Detroit when L.A.’s front office decided his contract was an impediment to building a contender, notes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Golliver believes trading Beal was the right move, even if the Wizards didn’t get much in return, because the franchise now has financial flexibility and a commitment to start rebuilding. Golliver expects Winger to focus on developing players and collecting draft assets, the same way he did when he worked for the Thunder.
  • Kristaps Porzingis would become a valuable trade asset if he picks up his $36MM player option for next season, observes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Porzingis is accomplished both as an outside shooter and rim protector, connecting at 38.5% from long distance this season while averaging 1.5 blocks per game. He has become a more effective post scorer and may have moved past his health concerns by appearing in 65 games. Porzingis is only 27 and might not have a future in Washington if Winger is serious about a long-term rebuild.
  • The Wizards appear to be targeting Arkansas’ Anthony Black with the No. 8 pick in the draft, tweets Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. Multiple sources told her that Black was impressive during his workout and interview in Washington.

Southeast Notes: Vincent, Heat, T. Young, Beal

Heat guard Gabe Vincent has been a key member of the team’s surprising playoff run, boosting his regular season averages of 9.4 points and 2.5 assists on .402/.334/.872 shooting (25.9 minutes) up to 13.1 points and 4.1 assists on .417/.375/.893 shooting in 15 postseason games, all starts (30.8 minutes).

Unfortunately, the impending free agent suffered a left ankle sprain in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to Boston and is officially listed as questionable for Game 5, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link).

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald hears (via Twitter) that Vincent is “doing all he can” to try and play Thursday night. The Heat lead the series 3-1 and are only one win from the Finals.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • The Heat were unfazed by their lone loss in the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. “If anything, it will build momentum for us knowing that we have to play with a lot more energy,” star Jimmy Butler said. “We’ve got to play like our backs are against the wall. But I think all year long, we’ve been better when we’ve had to do things the hard way.”
  • Although the Lakers have reportedly had internal dialogue about trying to trade for Trae Young, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said on the #thisleague UNCUT podcast that Young and the Hawks seem to be in a good spot right now, with no talks of a possible trade (hat tip to HoopsHype). Jeff Schultz of the Athletic contends that trading Young this summer – especially to Los Angeles – doesn’t make sense, as the Lakers don’t have much to offer and the Hawks want to see what he can do with a full season playing under Quin Snyder. Schultz notes that Young praised Snyder at the end of the season, saying the coach could bring Atlanta a championship.
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal was surprised former president Tommy Sheppard was dismissed after the season, league sources tell Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Wizards are set to hire a new president, former Clippers GM Michael Winger, who will reportedly have full discretionary power over the team’s roster.

Wizards Fire GM Tommy Sheppard

Tommy Sheppard has been dismissed as general manager and president of the Wizards, the team announced in a press release. The move comes after another disappointing season for Washington, which compiled a 35-47 record and failed to qualify for the play-in tournament.

Sheppard, 53, had been with the organization since 2003, starting as vice president of basketball operations. He had served as GM since 2019 when he was promoted to replace Ernie Grunfeld. He received an extension and a promotion to president of basketball operations after the club got off to a strong start in 2021/22.

The Wizards never won more than 35 games in a season under Sheppard’s tenure and they reached the playoffs just once, advancing through the play-in tournament in 2021 before losing to the Sixers in the first round.

“Failure to make the playoffs the last two seasons was very disappointing to our organization and our fans,” owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement explaining the move (Twitter link from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski).

Sheppard’s departure means someone else will handle key financial decisions in what should be an important summer for Washington. Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis are both expected to turn down their player options for next season and test free agency, although Porzingis is involved in extension talks with the team.

The new GM will also try to improve on Sheppard’s performance in the draft, as Washington holds the No. 8 spot heading into next month’s lottery.

Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly are names to watch as the Wizards launch their search for Sheppard’s replacement, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

The front office shakeup won’t affect Wes Unseld Jr., who just completed his second season as head coach, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from sources that Leonsis remains a strong supporter of Unseld.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Sheppard, Hornets, Magic

Following a disappointing 4-1 first-round playoff loss to the Heat, the Hawks could undergo significant roster overhaul, predicts Chris Kirshner of The Athletic. In a new piece, Kirshner assesses who among Atlanta’s current personnel may not return for the 2022/23 NBA season.

“Yes, I think we should have tried to get better rather than bring back what we had,” team owner Tony Ressler recently said of the Hawks’ 2021 offseason team building. “That won’t happen again. It was a mistake, in my opinion at least.”

Among the priciest players, Kirshner considers forwards John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and Danilo Gallinari, plus unrestricted free agents Gorgui Dieng and Lou Williams, unlikely to return to the Hawks next year.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard had plenty of thoughts regarding the lottery-bound team’s preparation for the 2022 NBA draft, including the NBA Combine in Chicago this week, writes Jackson Filyo of Washington will have the No. 10 pick this year. “The combine is a continuation of the work we have already done,” Sheppard said. “We have been evaluating some of these players since they were 14 or 15 years old… At the combine, you want to see their character, you want to see how they react, how they respond to coaching. You want to see how they respond to different environments.”
  • Now that the Hornets know they will be drafting near the end of the 2022 lottery with the No. 13 pick, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer takes stock of four candidates worth considering: Duke center Mark Williams, Wisconsin small forward Johnny Davis, Memphis center Jalen Duren, and LSU forward Tari Eason. Boone adds that the Hornets will also have the No. 15 pick in the draft as a result of their sign-and-trade deal that landed Devonte’ Graham with the Pelicans. Boone notes that one or both of those selections could be bundled into a trade for a veteran.
  • The Magic have landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft for the first time since 2004, and the fourth time in the franchise’s history. Orlando has an opportunity to add one of the top young prospects entering the draft this season, per Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m so happy for our fans tonight,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “They really stuck with us and nights like this help when you can show the fruits of why you go through these phases and cycles. Hopefully, they’re really excited by this. We’re going to add another good young player to our talent base.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Avdija, Offseason, Porzingis

Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, should he decide not to pick up his $36.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season. Washington president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard appears to be optimistic that Beal will stick around long-term with the team that drafted him, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“I feel every indication he’s given me is that he wants to be here moving forward,” Sheppard said of Beal’s future with the Wizards. “I stick to the 10 years of confidence I have in the relationship we’ve had. It’s a lot of time, a lot of equity and a lot of conversations. I feel that we’ve shown this is a place we can build around him. I think he’s shown to the community here that when he’s healthy he’s one of the best players at his position. Those are hard to come by.”

The 28-year-old Beal, a three-time All-Star, was limited to just 40 games this year due largely to a left wrist injury that ultimately required surgery. He averaged 23.2 PPG, 6.6 APG and 4.7 RPG this year.

There’s more out of D.C.:

  • Wizards swingman Deni Avdija expressed excitement for being able to hone his game during the first normal, healthy offseason of his NBA career, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. There was no training camp or summer league due to the pandemic during the 2020 offseason, and the 21-year-old was recovering from an ankle fracture in the 2021 offseason. “I know what I need to do better,” Avdija said. “Just finishing the season like that gives you motivation and energy. You know you can make plays, you know you can help the team win. I feel like just taking the next step.” Hughes notes that Avidja closed out the year with an uptick in his output. He averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.6 APG across his last 16 contests of the year.
  • Following a disappointing 2021/22 season in which they missed the playoffs and play-in tournament, the Wizards must deal with a variety of personnel issues in the offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes in a separate piece. Hughes identifies the free agent fate of Beal as the biggest hurdle confronting Washington in the offseason. The next priority, should Beal return, will be finding a long-term solution as the team’s starting point guard. Hughes expects the Wizards front office to consider trade and free agency options over drafting a point guard. Hughes also anticipates that Washington will look to shore up its defense and long-range shooting.
  • New Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis expects the team to compete for the playoffs next year, writes Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Porzingis also posits that he himself has only reached 60-65% of his ceiling, and hopes to boost that level next year. After shooting guard Bradley Beal went down with a wrist injury in February, the team ultimately finished with a 35-47 record and missed the play-in tournament. “This summer is a long one, and also I’m fresh,” the 26-year-old big man said of his offseason health. “I’m feeling great. I could play right now. That’s an exciting thing for me, and I’m really looking forward to doing some work, getting some tan and coming back next season with batteries fully charged.”

Wizards’ Sheppard Talks Beal, Dinwiddie, Hachimura, Bryant, More

The maximum-salary contract extension the Wizards offered to Bradley Beal in October remains on the table and will stay there all season long, general manager Tommy Sheppard told Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Beal may end up opting for free agency – where he could earn a longer, more lucrative deal with Washington or explore other destinations – but Sheppard wants to make sure the All-Star guard knows the extension is still an option.

“There’s no reason to take it off. It stands all year. He can sign it all season,” Sheppard said. “I’ve never been anything but transparent. We delivered it the first day that it was available. That’s out of respect to him. He’s an All-NBA player, and we expect him to be an All-Star again this year, and I think he’ll be there at the end for All-NBA. That’s a matter of respect. I think for him he’s going to do what’s very best in his interest. And for the franchise, it’s the same.”

With no guarantee that Beal will eventually sign a new contract, Robbins wondered if the Wizards might have to at least consider the possibility of trading him by the February 10 deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing. However, that doesn’t appear to be a path Sheppard is exploring. The general manager told Robbins that the club remains focused on keeping and building around Beal and believes the 28-year-old remains committed to that plan too.

“I understand the question,” Sheppard said. “I can only keep coming back to the same things I say over and over again: We have constant dialogue. And I’ve been very transparent. He’s been very transparent. We want the same things. We want this to work, and I see every reason to believe we’ll keep moving forward.”

Here are a few more highlights from Sheppard’s conversation with Robbins:

  • Sheppard isn’t concerned about the fact that the Wizards have been outscored by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie share the court. He preached patience and still believes the two guards complement each other well. “Last I checked, Spencer’s got a three-year deal, not a 40-game deal,” Sheppard said. “It takes time for things to kind of come together. They’ve still got to figure out each other. … Forty games isn’t enough to say this is working or not working. We’ve seen it when it can really work. We’ve seen that they can play well.”
  • Asked about Washington’s up-and-down performance so far this season, Sheppard pointed out that injuries and the COVID-19 protocols have created an “incomplete picture” of the team’s potential. The Wizards’ GM referred to Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant as two of “our probably top six guys or seven guys” and said he’s looking forward to seeing what they bring to the current group.
  • Sheppard, who has spoken in the past about the Wizards making steady improvements as they build around Beal, believes they’re still headed in the right direction. “I think that our roster has some balance,” Sheppard said, referring to the club’s mix of youngsters and veterans. “I think our contracts are balanced-out now. I think that gives you an opportunity, especially around the deadline, to look and see if there’s a way to improve your team. Certainly in the offseason, it gives us opportunities to do things. So I’m really excited with where we’re at.”

Eastern Notes: Beal, Sheppard, Johnson, L. Rose, Washington

Wizards star Bradley Beal was “ecstatic” to learn that general manager Tommy Sheppard received a promotion and contract extension with the franchise, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

Sheppard, who was elevated to team president, has overhauled Washington’s roster to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards have opened the season with an impressive 11-5 record, which is vital toward keeping Beal happy and persuading him to reject any rival trade interest.

“I see Shep in here every single day,” Beal said. “He’s very in tune, he cares. He’s an awesome person and he loves the game. He just wants his team to do well, he wants his team to get better and he holds us to a certain standard. I respect it and I love it. I’m definitely happy for him.

“He’s just constantly working, he’s constantly checking on me, checking on everybody. He’s a great GM, I’m happy for him and his promotion and his next few years here.”

Here are some other notes from the East tonight:

  • Nets forward James Johnson has provided some defensive grit for the team, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Johnson, who signed with Brooklyn in the offseason, has seen increased playing time with Nicolas Claxton (illness) and Paul Millsap (personal) missing multiple games. “The biggest part about this team is just trying to find the identity and sticking to that,” Johnson said. “We have to have some kind of identity that when we’re going into a gym it’s not the Brooklyn Nets that’s on paper, it’s that hard-fighting, physical, tough win-it-out gang.”
  • Knicks president Leon Rose will deserve significant blame if the team can’t turn around a slow start to the season, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post writes. The Knicks hold a 9-7 record, but the club is just 4-5 at home. The vast majority of the roster is back from last season’s playoff group.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington (left elbow hyperextension) has been upgraded to doubtful for Monday’s game against the Wizards, the team announced on social media. Washington has missed nine straight games due to the injury. He returned to practice last Tuesday.

Eastern Notes: Sheppard, Anthony, Thybulle, Morris

Wizards president Tommy Sheppard is “grateful” for and “humbled” by his recent promotion with the franchise, he told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. Sheppard had been serving as general manager and also received a multi-year contract extension.

“I’m just so grateful and I’m very humbled. I think it’s a reflection that we have good people here. I’m very, very grateful for all of them,” Sheppard said. “The thing I look forward to most every day is the people I work with, the people and the staff. I’m very grateful to Ted and his belief and his support. I look forward to greater days ahead.”

Sheppard constructed a Wizards roster that’s opened the season with a 10-5 record. Washington has succeeded despite Rui Hachimura (personal) and Thomas Bryant (torn ACL rehab) not appearing in a game to date.

The Wizards overhauled their roster this past offseason, signing Spencer Dinwiddie and trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell. The club was eliminated from the playoffs last year in a five-game, first-round series against the Sixers.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Magic guard Cole Anthony has suffered a sprained right ankle, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). Anthony will miss the club’s game against Milwaukee on Saturday. He’s averaging 19.6 points, 5.9 assists and 34.1 minutes per game on 42% shooting.
  • Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle will return from a seven-game COVID absence on Saturday against the Blazers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Pompey notes that Thybulle isn’t scheduled to receive many minutes. The Sixers are still missing Joel Embiid (health and safety protocols), Danny Green (left hamstring tightness), and Ben Simmons (personal).
  • Heat veteran Markieff Morris (neck) isn’t traveling with the team for its four-game road trip, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Morris has yet to play since being intentionally hit from behind by Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic on Nov. 9 — an altercation that began with Morris’ hard foul in transition.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Beal, Bridges, Heat, Hunter

Explaining the decision to sign general manager Tommy Sheppard to a contract extension, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis told Ava Wallace of The Washington Post that he believes in continuity and said the move is a reflection of Sheppard’s full body of work rather than the team’s hot start this season.

The Wizards also have an extension offer out to Bradley Beal, but it’s not a major surprise that the All-Star guard hasn’t accepted it — even if he wants to remain in D.C., Beal could sign a more lucrative contract in free agency next summer.

As Wallace relays, Leonsis believes the Wizards’ best path to locking up Beal long-term is to keep making good roster and business decisions to show the 28-year-old it’s possible to win in Washington. The Wizards owner is hopeful that Beal will follow in the footsteps of Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who recently signed multiyear extensions with Leonsis’ NHL team.

“(Beal is) not obsessing over a decision; I’m not obsessing over a decision,” Leonsis said. “I think that’s correct with my belief, just like I said, with Alex Ovechkin. I have high confidence in the integrity of the player in their believing in our city, our community. Everybody was all hyper on Alex, and he signed his long-term extension. Nick did the same.

“I’m expecting that it’s not negotiating with Brad, it’s Brad sees and enjoys and likes and believes and knows that there’s something special about spending your career and going through hard times and coming out the other end a champ.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The newfound ability Miles Bridges is showing as a ball-handler and creator this season is a key reason why the Hornets forward is on track for a big payday in restricted free agency next summer, says John Hollinger of The Athletic.
  • The Heat would have interest in point guard John Wall if he’s bought out, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, but there’s no indication the Rockets intend to pursue a buyout agreement with Wall anytime soon.
  • Heat two-way player Marcus Garrett has a reputation as a defensive dynamo, but was never a major offensive threat during his four years at Kansas, averaging double-digit points just once in his college career. He’s focusing on expanding his offensive game during his time in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “I’ve been playing point, especially with the G League team,” Garrett said. “Just learning the game, getting more comfortable with the pro level game and getting comfortable with the offense.”
  • In his latest mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores a handful of Hawks-related topics, suggesting that De’Andre Hunter‘s ever-growing history of injuries makes him an increasingly likely candidate to be moved if Atlanta makes a consolidation trade for an impact wing or forward.