Scott Brooks

Wizards Notes: Wagner, Beal, Offense

The Wizards are second in the league in offensive rating and much of their success is a result of the Moritz WagnerDavis Bertans pairing, as I wrote for NBAMath.com.

“It’s fun, fun as hell, excuse my language,” Wagner told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance of playing within the second unit. “When the ball moves like that … it’s when in doubt, pass it to Davis. It’s ridiculous. It’s obviously a lot of fun, and when you play the game with that type of joy, good things happen to you. You’re locked in defensively, and you’re able to make runs.”

While the bench mob is pacing the league (only the Clippers are scoring more off the bench than the Wizards), it may not be here for long. Scott Brooks has left Bertans and Wagner on the floor to close out games recently, so a move to the starting lineup is possible for one player or both. Additionally, it was recently reported that Bertans may fetch a first-round pick in a trade. Enjoy the high-scoring bench-unit in the nation’s capital while you can.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • A source tells Hoops Rumors that the Wizards contemplated moving up from the No. 44 pick to select Wagner in the 2018 draft. Los Angeles nabbed the big man with the No. 25 pick, though Washington remained admirers from afar and the team was thrilled to acquire him as part of the Anthony Davis deal.
  • Travis Thomas and Quinton Mayo of NBC Sports wonder whether Bradley Beal will finally make an All-NBA team this season (video link). Beal was in the conversation for the honor last season, though missed out on being named to the list.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines past teams that have had as high of a rating on offense (114.6) and defense (116.0) as the Wizards this season and finds that many of the squads have had success. 38 teams in NBA history have finished a season with ratings on both sides of the court above 110, and 24 of them made the postseason.

Eastern Notes: White, Poirier, Knicks, Wizards

Lottery pick Coby White has looked good in the first week of the Bulls‘ training camp, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Coach Jim Boylen said White can play either guard spot and appears to already have him penciled into the rotation. “We’ve added ballers to this team,’’ Boylen said. “Coby White, whether he’s a one, he’s a two, he’s a baller. … That’s what this roster is. We’ve got to do a good job using those guys and give them space and freedom to use what they have.’’

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • French center Vincent Poirier is looking to earn minutes with the Celtics through grit and determination, as he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Poirier signed a two-year contract to compete for a role with one of the East’s top teams after playing in Spain last season. “You have a couple of guys who make all the dirty jobs,” he said. “If not, you cannot win. You have to be great at what you can do, and what I can do is all the dirty jobs.”
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale has a dilemma on his hands regarding the point guard spot, as Barbara Barker of Newsday details. With Dennis Smith Jr., Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilikina vying for minutes at the position, choosing a starter may be the toughest decision of the preseason for Fizdale. Utilizing two point guards at the same time will be a serious consideration.
  • Developing good habits with a young roster is the first step toward improvement for the Wizards, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Washington is trying to establish a better culture after the front office and roster changes that were made this offseason. “The season’s going to go quick and the bench is going shorten and Coach (Scott Brooks) is going to want guys who know what he wants and get it done,” guard Bradley Beal said. “So, as long as we’re able to keep those good habits up of being on time, being early, getting the work in and then applying it on the court and getting it done, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Wall, Roster, Brooks

New GM Tommy Sheppard indicated in a press conference this week that the Wizards will be giving a lot more minutes to younger players this year, relays Fred Katz of The Athletic. Sheppard stated that the organization wants to have each rookie play at least 1,500 minutes between the NBA and the G League. That represents a significant change from last season, when Bradley Beal led the league in minutes played and coach Scott Brooks relied heavily on his veterans.

Washington has a pair of rookies with guaranteed contracts in Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield, so they should see plenty of time with the Wizards. Garrison Mathews, who has a two-way deal, and Justin Robinson, who wasn’t drafted but has a chance to make the final roster, could both wind up at Capital City. Troy Brown, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones, all second-year players who didn’t see much time last season, may spend time there as well.

“We gotta show them why and how it’s good for them,” Sheppard said about selling the approach to veterans. “But I think they’re active participants in it, and I think everybody appreciates that we’re trying to prolong careers. You make a bad decision on a player — they go out, and they pop a hamstring, or something happens which could’ve been avoided because of fatigue factor we didn’t recognize — that’s on us.”

There’s more from D.C., all courtesy of Katz:

  • John Wall is serving as a virtual assistant coach while he waits to return from a ruptured Achilles that may sideline him for the entire season. Sheppard said Wall is helping to teach the younger players, and the team won’t pressure him to try to return. “We’re not waiting on a calendar. There’s not a clock when he comes back,” he said. “He comes back when he’s 100 percent.”
  • The Wizards have 13 players with guaranteed contracts and may opt to go with a 14-player roster rather than the maximum of 15. “If you have 15 players and one gets hurt, (using a two-way player) is the only way you can plug it,” Sheppard said. “You have 14 players; you can sign somebody and bring them in that’s not in the G League. It gives you optionality … My vision, putting rosters together, it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to hold back a roster spot for the competition, for the inevitable injury, something.” Jordan McRae, who has a $400K guarantee, is considered likely to earn a roster spot, according to Katz, but injuries to Wall and Isaiah Thomas increase the need for another point guard.
  • Brooks, who is entering the fourth year of his five-year contract, will be judged on building a positive culture rather than wins and losses, Sheppard adds.

Wizards Rumors: Beal, DPE, Wall, Brooks

When Bradley Beal become eligible for a contract extension in July, the Wizards reportedly offered the most lucrative possible long-term deal they could (three years, $111.8MM). Two months later, they still don’t have an answer from Beal, who isn’t talking as if a new contract is his top priority at the moment.

In a conversation with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller (video link), Beal said he hasn’t been thinking about an extension, preferring to let his agent handle his contract situation. However, he also stressed that he’s not looking for an exit from the Wizards.

“Honestly you might slap me, but I haven’t thought about it,” Beal said. “I’m just getting better and letting my agent, [GM] Tommy [Sheppard], and everybody else deal with it. I just go hoop. Every day I see somebody and they ask ‘Beal, you leaving?’ and I’m like ‘I’m still living in D.C., I ain’t going nowhere.'”

Acknowledging that he’s aware of speculation about his future and the fact that fans want an answer, Beal said that he likes being a member of the Wizards, hinting that the grass wouldn’t necessarily be greener if he were to go elsewhere.

“It’s a great thing that a lot of people love your game and want you on their team,” Beal said. “But I love the situation I have too. Not every situation would be my situation.”

Sheppard said today that he’s giving Beal space to consider the team’s extension offer, and that it will be up to him to make a decision by October 21 (Twitter link via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington). Because the All-Star guard still has two guaranteed years left on his current contract, he can’t sign an in-season extension. As we’ve noted previously, waiting until at least 2020 to sign a new deal would give him the best chance to maximize his earnings.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Having assumed control of the Wizards’ front office this summer, Sheppard and his group are prioritizing players who embody the “Wizards Way,” as Gene Wang of The Washington Post relays. “I think we’re still evaluating the best way to express it, but we know what we don’t want the Wizards Way to look like,” Sheppard said. “We don’t want players that don’t want to be here. We don’t want people to have contracts that far exceed what they produce result-wise. We don’t want unhappy people that are going to cause disintegration in our locker room. That’s the way out. That’s the Wizards’ way out, so what we’re trying to onboard now, talent, of course, but high character, hard-driven, value-driven people that we can back with data that have places in our locker room.”
  • The Wizards still haven’t gotten an answer on whether their disabled player exception request for John Wall will be approved, Sheppard said today (Twitter link via Hughes). The club applied all the way back at the start of July, so it appears it wasn’t a slam-dunk decision. An NBA-designated physician will have to determine whether Wall is “substantially more likely than not” to be out of action through at least June 15, 2020.
  • Hughes adds in the same tweet that Wall will be helping out the coaching staff this season as he recovers from his Achilles tear. The veteran point guard will have a few players to whom he’s specifically assigned.
  • It will be a pivotal year for head coach Scott Brooks in Washington, according to Hughes, who writes at NBC Sports Washington that the season could go a number of different ways. It remains an open question whether Brooks will be coaching the Wizards beyond 2019/20, says Hughes.
  • The Wizards signed Chris Chiozza and finalized their 20-man training camp roster, as we detailed earlier today.

Scott Brooks Talks Wizards, John Wall, Bradley Beal

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks had his team thoroughly tested last season, facing a myriad of injuries. As Washington prepares to be without highly-paid point guard John Wall for the 2019/20 season, Brooks was reflective on his team’s trying 2018/19 campaign.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Brooks described the Wizards’ disbelief after Wall’s initial diagnosis. Wall, who signed a massive extension two summers ago, remains the organization’s top financial investment. Given the uncertainty of his health returning from an Achilles tear, it’s fair to wonder how impactful he’ll be when he’s ready to return.

Brooks also weighed in on Bradley Beal’s development and improved leadership. Here are some of the highlights:

How the Wizards handled John Wall’s injury:

“Well, you know a couple of things. I look back to the last couple of months. First thing you look back, I didn’t do a good job. I could have done things different, and then I think we’ve had some unfortunate luck with injuries and that’s the part you hate but you don’t prepare for it. You can never prepare for John missing 40 games last season and 50 games this season. Now who knows if he even plays. He’s working his butt off to get back, but I wasn’t expecting all that. I figured, ‘OK, we had our bad injury year,’ but last year it was just from the start. It was tough and John was a big part of our team. We were really good when John was healthy.”

The development of Bradley Beal:

“But the bright side of it is Bradley Beal really stepped up and took his game on the court and in the locker room to another level. And going forward he’s going to have to do that with the group of young players that we have. But also, with all that being said, we never made excuses. Not one time, not one time did any of our players make excuses. We had a lot of injuries and if we didn’t have injuries we would be competing against the best teams in the East.”

How Beal can further develop:

“Three years ago, when I took the job, I knew he could shoot. But he can score in every area of the floor, attack the basket, free throws, three points. And now I think the last year and a half he was able to facilitate and make his teammates better this year. I think there’s no limit. I think he can average eight or nine assists a game. I think those are numbers that are attainable, and I think he’s ready for that challenge.”

Eastern Notes: Brooks, Poirier, Beasley, Magic

The Wizards are set to face a number of challenges entering the 2019/20 season, which could ultimately reinvigorate head coach Scott Brooks as the team works through its struggles, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports writes.

Brooks, who was hired by Washington in 2016 after eight years with Oklahoma City, is set to coach one of the league’s most underwhelming rosters on paper this season. The matter intensifies when you remember All-Star guard John Wall will likely sit the entire season due to a torn Achilles’ tendon.

“One thing I also want to really pipe in on is the support we have from Coach Brooks and his staff and the ability they have to pivot,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “When Coach Brooks got here, we won 49 games and we were one game away from going to the conference finals. That was kind of the team he got coming through the door. Now, this takes him back to his OKC days.”

The Wizards wound up missing the playoffs last season due to an assortment of injuries, and a new roster will certainly test the patience of Brooks this year as the franchise seeks to find a new identity under Sheppard.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference tonight:

Eastern Notes: Brooks, Ntilikina, Lopez, Knicks

Wizards coach Scott Brooks recently finished his third season with Washington and 10th season as an NBA head coach, reaching a full decade in the position and achieving a goal that very few coaches do these days.

Brooks guided the Wizards through a tumultuous, injury-plagued season and finished with a 32-50 record, causing some around the league to question his future job security. Team owner Ted Leonsis has since decided to keep Brooks entering next season, but Brooks was non-committal on whether the rest of his staff would be joining him for another year.

“I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks said, as relayed by Ben Standig of NBC Sports. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We’re probably going to make some changes. I don’t know if it’s for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks shares a close relationship with former Rockets defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who was let go from Houston in a surprising move last week. Washington could wind up pursuing Bzdelik or lose some of their assistant coaches – such as Tony Brown – to other teams, Standig notes. Brown was one of Brooks’ lead assistants this past season but is now a coaching free agent.

Regardless of which assistant coaches return for Washington, the team is still seeking a new president of basketball operations and recently offered their vacant position to Denver’s Tim Connelly, according to a report from The Athletic.

“Ted is going to make a [president of basketball operations] decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

Here are some other notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks will explore a trade centered around Frank Ntilikina in the hopes of landing a late first-round or early second-round draft pick, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. New York explored moving Ntilikina during the regular season but ultimately opted to hold onto him past the NBA’s trade deadline. Ntilikina was drafted by the Knicks with the No. 8 pick in 2017.
  • Brook Lopez‘s big Game 1 showed once again why the Bucks’ decision to sign him was a steal last summer, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Lopez, who is on a one-year, $3.4MM deal, finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in Milwaukee’s Game 1 victory.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks previews the offseason for the Knicks, including potential free-agent targets, the draft, possible trades and future moves. New York is widely expected to pursue top-tier free agents such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker when free agency opens on the night of June 30.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Wall, Draft

Scott Brooks still has two years and $14MM left on his contract and while he hasn’t heard a definite answer on his future, he expects to be on the Wizards‘ bench next season.

“I haven’t been told anything different,” Brooks said (via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post). “I’m not saying this in an arrogant way, but I worry about my job day-to-day. I don’t worry about my job long-term. I worry about doing my job today. If that’s good, I can do it again tomorrow.”

The Wizards were plagued with injuries this season, but Brooks has done well with the hand he was dealt. Bradley Beal evolved into a premier player under his leadership and Brooks made several prudent rotation decisions, such as inserting Thomas Bryant into the starting lineup instead of Ian Mahinmi when Dwight Howard was forced out of action. Mahinmi was the team’s fourth-highest paid player at the time so the decision wasn’t an easy one to make.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Brooks acknowledges that he has to continue to improve as a coach, as Buckner relays in the same piece. His defensive scheme could be an area where change occurs.“We have to, myself and my staff and I have to be — I have to evaluate just like Ted and our new person will evaluate, as well,” Brooks said. “But it’s a lot of things we have to look at, and everything is on the table.”
  • According to some within the Wizards‘ organization, John Wall lost his edge once he signed his mammoth deal and some questioned his level of commitment to the game, The Athletic’s Michael Lee writes. Wall has gained a greater appreciation for the game being away from basketball and he’s anxious to prove all of his doubters wrong. “Just hearing what people say, that just keeps my fuel going,” Wall said. “I read all the articles. It’s over. His career is over. All that type of stuff. So, it’s fun for me.”
  • The Wizards can’t let Wall deter them from drafting a top point guard prospect during the upcoming draft, Lee argues in the same piece. The scribe believes Washington should take Ja Morant if available but ultimately the team needs to take the best player available regardless of position.

Wizards Expected To Keep Scott Brooks As Coach

The shakeup in Washington won’t include head coach Scott Brooks, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. The Wizards fired GM Ernie Grunfeld yesterday as the first step in what could be a massive housecleaning, but multiple sources tell Aldridge that Brooks’ job remains safe.

Brooks has a 124-118 record since taking over in Washington in 2016. He still has two years left on his five-year, $35MM contract, so there’s a financial incentive for the franchise to keep him around. This will be the first time the Wizards will miss the playoffs under his guidance.

“I’ve spent one-on-one time with Scott just to tell him I expect us to do, work hard and play hard and continue to give the fans their money’s worth,” owner Ted Leonsis said Tuesday.

There’s more today on the shakeup in Washington:

  • Nuggets executive Tim Connelly is believed to be the top candidate to replace Grunfeld, but the Wizards will strongly consider promoting VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard, confirms Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington. Leonsis told reporters that Sheppard, who has been with the organization for 16 years, will get a shot at the GM post. “I’ve told Tommy it’s not lip service, you’re highly regarded and there’s other teams that want to talk to Tommy and when the time comes, we will interview for the top job,” Leonsis said. Sheppard is also reportedly being considered for the Pelicans’ open GM spot.
  • League sources tell Standig that others names to watch in the GM search are Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren and Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry. Other possibilities include former Cavaliers GM David Griffin and Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon.
  • Figuring out what to do with the backcourt will be the greatest challenge for the new GM, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. John Wall may miss all of next season with a ruptured Achilles while making $37.8MM in the first year of his supermax contract, while Bradley Beal will be eligible for a supermax of his own this summer if he makes an All-NBA team. If the Wizards decide to rebuild, Beal could find himself on the trade market.
  • Grunfeld’s most significant mistake was targeting Kevin Durant in free agency in 2016 and not having a backup plan ready when he signed with the Warriors, Aldridge contends in the Athletic piece. Grunfeld spent two years clearing cap space to make a run at Durant, who never gave the team serious consideration. That meant parting with solid players such as Nene and Trevor Ariza. Grunfeld tried to sign Al Horford after not getting a meeting with Durant, but then gave $64MM to Ian Mahinmi and $26MM to Andrew Nicholson.

Wizards Notes: Grunfeld, Leonsis, GM Search

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said he alone made the call to relieve Ernie Grunfeld of his duties. “No one made this decision other than me,” Leonsis said (Twitter links via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post).

“My main goal is to right now as fast as I can bring in an outside firm to provide some services for us,” Leonsis said. “I want to do what’s called ‘best practicing.’ What do the best organizations look like? What do they spend?

“Maybe I made the mistake in the way we spent and invested out money. I have to be open-minded.”

Leonsis does not believe the organization will have issues attracting a top candidate for the GM gig, a sentiment echoed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Resources and geography are among the reasons to expect the position to be highly sought after.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Tommy Sheppard, the team’s interim GM, is a strong candidate for the position, per Leonsis. Sheppard is the senior vice president of basketball operations and has been with the organization for 14 years.
  • Leonsis called both Bradley Beal and John Wall shortly after making the move to notify them of the change, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports tweets.
  • Scott Brooks’ job status will be determined after a general manager is hired, Leonsis added (via Hughes in a separate tweet). The new GM won’t be restricted in terms of the direction the franchise goes in, as Leonsis is open to all ideas.
  • Hughes (in a full-length piece) identifies 10 possible candidates for the GM position, including Sheppard and former Cavs GM David Griffin. Hughes also speculated that Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton, who was with the Wizards from 2003 until 2013, could be a candidate for the position.