Thomas Bryant

Charania’s Latest: Sexton, Hachimura, T. Bryant

Besides sharing updates on the Celtics’ possible interest in Ben Simmons, a potential return timeline for Pacers forward T.J. Warren, and Sixers center Joel Embiid entering the health and safety protocols, Shams Charania of The Athletic touched upon a few other topics from around the NBA in his latest Inside Pass column. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Cavaliers are still interested in working out a new deal with Collin Sexton once he reaches restricted free agency in 2022, according to Charania, who says Sexton and his camp sought a four-year rookie scale extension worth about $100MM, while Cleveland wanted a fifth year. This seems a little odd, since any rookie scale extension covering five years has to be worth the maximum salary. But perhaps Charania meant that the Cavs preferred to wait until free agency to work something out with Sexton, since they can offer a five-year, non-max deal at that point.
  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura, who has been sidelined to start the season for personal reasons, is expected to be “reintegrated fully” within the next couple weeks, sources tell Charania. Hachimura will have to through a ramp-up process before he’s ready to return to the court.
  • The Wizards remain hopeful that center Thomas Bryant, who is coming off an ACL tear, will return before January, per Charania. The team has previously stated that it hopes Bryant will be able to play “sometime in December,” so that timeline remains unchanged.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Avdija, Harrell, Bryant

COVID-19 forced Bradley Beal to miss the Olympics, but he’s feeling better after going through a few months of “funk,” writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Along with improved health, Beal is enjoying the Wizards‘ 6-3 start as he hopes the conversation will focus more on the playoff race rather than his upcoming contract decision. Washington has offered Beal a four-year extension valued at more than $180MM, but he could make about $50MM more by waiting for free agency next summer.

“There are situations where it can loom over your head like, oh, damn, what am I going to do, where am I going to go, who am I going to sign with?” Beal said. “I don’t think I have that problem. I’m here. This is what I’m making. I’m making a lot of money, and I’m comfortable with doing that, and I could stop today and be good (financially).”

Beal has repeatedly expressed his loyalty to the organization and his desire to spend his career with one team. The drawback has been a lack of competitiveness by the Wizards, who haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since Beal joined the team. That’s the goal he expressed recently to team chairman Ted Leonsis.

“I’m not sitting here and saying we’re going to hold up the Larry (O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy), but I want to be able to have those opportunities,” Beal said. “I want to be able to see that that’s reachable.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • Deni Avdija doesn’t mind having players challenge him on defense, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The second-year forward is a deceptively strong defender, ranking second on the team in opponents’ field goal percentage at 36.2%. “I think I was a good defender even last year, but last year I didn’t get the most respect. I’m just, it’s my heart, you know? I’m not the most athletic. You see people bring me in pick-and-roll all the time. They think they can attack me, they think they can score on me, and it’s fun,” Avdija said.
  • Montrezl Harrell, who was acquired from the Lakers over the summer, says it’s easy to understand why his numbers have improved, Hughes tweets. Harrell is averaging 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per night after playing just 22.9 minutes per game last season. “Montrezl Harrell is on the floor, brother,” he said. “That’s the biggest difference.”
  • With Thomas Bryant expected to return from an ACL tear next month, Hughes posted a video of him at practice, noting that he appears to be running without discomfort (Twitter link).

Injury Notes: Gay, Bogdanovic, Giannis, Robinson, Bryant

Jazz forward Rudy Gay won’t be ready to make his debut for his new team during the preseason or even by the start of the regular season, head coach Quin Snyder told reporters on Friday.

As Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune details, Gay underwent surgery on his left heel shortly after the 2020/21 season ended and is still recovering. He has been going through portions of practice with the Jazz, but hasn’t yet been cleared for contact, Walden writes. Gay is expected to remain sidelined through at least opening night.

Meanwhile, another Jazz forward – Bojan Bogdanovic – has also been held out of the full-contact portions of the team’s practices, according to Walden. However, it sounds like Bogdanovic is closer to returning to action than Gay. A team spokesperson said that Bogdanovic is experiencing some shoulder soreness and is being rested out of caution. If the regular season had begun, he’d likely be able to play, says Walden.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged on Media Day that the knee he injured during last season’s playoffs still isn’t 100%, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic, and he hasn’t been a full participant in the team’s practices so far this week. Asked if there’s a chance Antetokounmpo won’t be ready to play by opening night, head coach Mike Budenholzer replied, “No, I wouldn’t go there. … I would say he’s in a good place and there’s a lot of confidence he’ll be good — and when exactly that is, we hope it’s sooner rather than later” (Twitter links via Nehm)
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who is coming back from a fractured foot, said on Thursday that he’s running but isn’t yet sprinting, according to Ian Begley of Head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters that Robinson – who hasn’t been cleared to practice – still has a few checkpoints to hit, including some related to conditioning, before he’ll be ready to return to action. There’s currently no timetable for his return. Begley adds that the Knicks are unlikely to seriously consider negotiating a new contract for Robinson, who is extension-eligible, until they see him back on the court.
  • Wizards center Thomas Bryant admitted this week that the long recovery from an ACL tear has been a life-changing process for him, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. It’s very hard because that’s like the one love that you have in your life right there. It’s the one thing that’s always been there, always intact that you know that you can always go to. When that’s taken away from you, it’s very hard,” Bryant said. “It’s almost depressing in a sort of way. But when you’re mentally strong and you keep talking to yourself and working with yourself mentally, the days don’t get so much harder, they get a little bit easier.” Bryant is expected to return sometime in December.

Wizards Notes: Bryant, Avdija, Sheppard, Unseld Jr.

Wizards center Thomas Bryant is expected to return “sometime in December,” according to general manager Tommy Sheppard, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Bryant suffered a torn ACL in January after appearing in 10 games last season. Sheppard’s comment aligns with the projected timeline for Bryant’s recovery. When Bryant returns, he’ll look to regain his starting job. Daniel Gafford will start the season at center, backed up by Montrezl Harrell.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija will have some limitations heading into training camp, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. He’ll be held out of scrimmages with teammates in the lead-up to camp. Avdija fractured his right ankle in April. “We’ll ease Deni in and continue to monitor day-to-day,” Sheppard said. “He’s doing everything full speed, he just hasn’t been jumping in the scrimmages quite yet. I think a lot of that is just being overly cautious to make sure there’s no setbacks.”
  • Sheppard said he focused on improving the team’s shooting with his offseason moves and that will give new coach Wes Unseld Jr. plenty of late-game options, Jackson Filyo of the team’s website relays. “We constructed this roster to make sure we have plenty of shooting at every position,” he said. “When you look at competition, it’s going to be whoever is hot that game is going to finish games…Competition for minutes is a healthy thing.”
  • Unseld is energized by the versatility on the roster, according to Filyo. “You have so many options. You can play small, you can play big, you can bump guys down, you have multiple ballhandlers who can create and finish,” he said. “Obviously, the amount of shooting we can put on the floor is a tremendous dynamic to have. It gives you a lot of flexibility. It also allows you defensively to do a lot of things.”

Wizards Notes: Offseason, Centers, Defense, Go-Go

The Wizards had an extremely busy offseason, headlined by the massive five-team trade that saw the team send Russell Westbrook to the Lakers and second-round picks all over the place, with the Wizards acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Aaron Holiday, and 31st overall pick Isaiah Todd.

The team is undeniably deeper now, but is it better? Zach Harper of The Athletic isn’t sure, but in his offseason report, he says Washington’s newfound depth ultimately wins out, assigning the team a B grade for its work this summer.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Harper asked Fred Katz of The Athletic, the Wizards’ beat writer, the same question. Katz thinks the team is about on par with where it was at the end of last season, in the range of the play-in tournament for the East.
  • In Katz’ own Q&A mailbag, he speculates that Daniel Gafford will be the Wizards’ opening night starting center, partly because Thomas Bryant is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered last season. Katz notes that Gafford needs to improve his conditioning to play more minutes, and is reported to be a hard worker. It remains to be seen how Harrell will fit into the rotation once Bryant recovers, as Katz views Bryant as a better defender and a much better shooter.
  • Harper and Katz both believe Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma will help the team on defense, but the Wizards will likely miss Robin Lopez on both ends of the floor. The two Athletic writers are also curious to see how new coach Wes Unseld Jr. handles the rotations, because one drawback of having so much depth is the limited amount of minutes available for several talented players.
  • In a lengthy article on the team’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, Jackson Flynn of spoke to several members of the organization about how they utilize the Go-Go to develop not just their young players, but young coaches and front-office personnel as well. New Go-Go head coach Mike Williams is just 25 years old.

Wizards Notes: Gafford, Bryant, Beal, Dinwiddie

Daniel Gafford had the best stretch of his brief career after being traded to the Wizards in March and he’s spending the summer trying to upgrade his low-post moves, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. With a compressed schedule caused by an early-season outbreak of COVID-19, Washington went weeks without practicing, so Gafford had to save the tweaks to his game for the offseason.

Used as a backup center after being acquired from the Bulls, Gafford averaged 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 23 games. He may take over the starting role this season and wants to become more of a scoring threat.

I’m really just focusing on if I get the ball down in the post, working on my face-up game,” Gafford said. “Shooting the ball more, just trying to be more of a threat on the floor when I’m out there, during the times that I get on the floor.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • Injured center Thomas Bryant may be ready to return early in the upcoming season, relays Bijan Todd of NBC Sports Washington. Bryant is working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in January, and his agent, Todd Ramasar, provided an encouraging update this week on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “He’s doing great. He’s right on track in terms of his recovery,” Ramasar said. “If I’m guestimating in talking to his trainers, he’s probably going to make a return towards the end of this (calendar 2021) year, or let’s say, the beginning of the regular season.”
  • Bradley Beal is already a nightmare for opposing defenses and he’s working to expand his game even further, Hughes adds in a separate story. Beal hopes to become more effective on longer three-point shots to put pressure on the defense as soon as he crosses half court. Deeper threes. I’m not trying to compete with (Damian Lillard), I’m not Logo Lillard. But I want to shoot deeper threes and shoot more threes,”  Beal said. “You know I need to shoot more threes. You probably say it all the time. And, obviously, make them. I have to make them.”
  • Beal has been teaming with new backcourt partner Spencer Dinwiddie in pickup games hosted by skills trainer Drew Hanlen, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports.

Unseld Jr.: Dinwiddie, Beal Will Be “Dynamic” Backcourt

Wes Unseld Jr. is excited about the talent he’ll have available with the Wizards in his first NBA head coaching job, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Although the former Nuggets associate head coach is leaving the No. 3 seed in the West for a team that had to go through the play-in tournament last season, Unseld believes Washington is ready to compete right away.

He’s particularly thrilled about the addition of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who agreed to a three-year, $62MM contract in free agency and was acquired in a complex five-team trade. Dinwiddie was a proficient scorer before missing most of last season with a partially torn ACL, and Unseld expects him and Bradley Beal to form a dangerous backcourt.

“On paper, it’s one of the most dynamic 1-2s, 2-1s, however you wanna call it, on the East Coast,” he said. “So, I’m excited to have both those guys. I think they’re about the right thing. I think they’re gonna play together, make us better. Honestly, the way they can score the ball, they’re gonna bail us out of a lot of tough spots.”

Unseld discusses several other topics in the lengthy interview with Katz:

On the versatility of Kyle Kuzma, who was acquired from the Lakers in the deal that included Dinwiddie:

“Whether you wanna call him a two, three or four, he’s gonna be out there. He’s gonna space the floor. He’s gonna make shots. I think the game has moved away from the standard point guard, two-guard, small forward, etc. I think you wanna put your best matchups out there.”

On sorting out playing time at center, where Daniel Gafford is expected to start, but Thomas Bryant will return from an ACL injury and newly-acquired Montrezl Harrell will also expect minutes:

“I made this point to those guys when I spoke to them. All of that is great, but all of our decisions are gonna be based on what’s best for the group. I may at times ask somebody to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of the group. There’s times when I may ask (them) to do more. And I think that’s a fair way to look at it, and I think it’s just one of our pillars. It’s about us. It’s about ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ ”

On the plans for first-round pick Corey Kispert, who joins a team loaded with young wing players:

“I don’t know. I never wanna paint myself into a corner, commit to something I’m uncertain of, but I think he has a good chance to be impactful. I said at draft night, he’s got a discernible NBA talent. His maturity, the fact that he’s played four years at a high level for a great coach — he’s disciplined. He understands his strengths. He’s gonna play to his strengths. And his ability to stretch the defense is a premium in the league.”

On the significant changes the Wizards have undergone since the draft:

“On a macro level, (changes to the team) don’t change our overall philosophy when it comes to spacing, playing with pace, shots, as far as what we value. That doesn’t change. I think you’ve got to shift your gears as far as some of the nuanced things you run. … I think as coaches, we all steal from each other, so there are gonna be some things that are very similar-looking to what you’re accustomed to.”

Wizards Notes: Dinwiddie, Bryant, Holiday, Hachimura, Avdija

Speaking today to reporters, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said that Spencer Dinwiddie is further along in his recovery from an ACL tear than Thomas Bryant is, as Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Dinwiddie sustained a partially torn ACL in late December, while Bryant suffered the same injury just a couple weeks later.

According to Sheppard, Dinwiddie is on track to progress to 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages, while Bryant has not been fully cleared for basketball activities yet.

I can’t see Thomas necessarily being in our first game,” Sheppard said.

A previous report indicated that the Wizards may be targeting a December return for Bryant.

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Sheppard confirmed a report that the Wizards tried to trade for Aaron Holiday in the past before acquiring him this offseason. “Usually, trade deadline calls, trades that don’t work out kinda resurface in the summer,” Sheppard said (Twitter link via Katz).
  • Sheppard was asked today about whether the roles for young forwards Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija will changes in 2021/22 as a result of the Wizards’ influx of depth. As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays (via Twitter), the Wizards’ GM said he thinks Hachimura will remain in the starting lineup, but Avdija – who started 32 of his 54 games as a rookie – is more likely to be part of the second unit.
  • Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, acquired from the Lakers in the Russell Westbrook blockbuster, will bring specific skill sets to a revamped Wizards roster, writes Kareem Copeland of The Washington Post. Caldwell-Pope, in particular, is the kind of three-and-D wing the team has been lacking.

Wizards Rumors: Westbrook, Beal, Dinwiddie, Neto, Kispert, Bryant

After spending the 2020/21 season with the Wizards, Russell Westbrook contemplated his future and found he had a growing desire to join the Lakers, according to Shams Charania and Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Westbrook’s desire to play for his hometown team intensified after he spent time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at LeBron’s home about two weeks ago and the trio discussed the idea of teaming up, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Turner says James and Davis spoke in that conversation about changing positions if it’s best for the team, with LeBron willing to play more frequently at the four, with AD at the five.

Westbrook recently informed the Wizards that he’d like to be dealt to the Lakers if they could find a trade that worked, per Charania and Katz, and the two teams did just that on Thursday, reaching an agreement on a blockbuster deal that will send Westbrook and two future second-round picks to L.A. for Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and No. 22 pick Isaiah Jackson. Washington is flipping Jackson to Indiana in a deal that will involve Aaron Holiday and No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd.

One of the primary reasons Westbrook originally wanted to play in D.C. was the presence of head coach Scott Brooks, according to Charania and Katz, who note that the star point guard lobbied for the Wizards to retain Brooks. After the team decided to part ways with Brooks, Westbrook preferred an established coach, sources tell The Athletic, but Washington opted for a first-timer in Wes Unseld Jr.

Here’s more on the Wizards and how the Westbrook trade affects their offseason:

  • Bradley Beal had no issues with the Westbrook deal and hasn’t expressed a desire to leave Washignton, sources tell Charania and Katz. For now, the Wizards remain confident they can keep the All-NBA guard long-term.
  • The Athletic’s duo reiterates that Spencer Dinwiddie is a potential Wizards target worth keeping an eye on, though a source tells Charania and Katz that the Nets wouldn’t be inclined to sign off on a sign-and-trade of Dinwiddie for Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma alone. Dinwiddie is also expected to receive interest from the Nets, Heat, Knicks, and Raptors, among others, per The Athletic.
  • Elsewhere on the point guard front, a reunion with Raul Neto is a possibility for the Wizards, sources tell Charania and Katz. The team also agreed to acquire Aaron Holiday, having grown “enamored” with him prior to the 2018 draft. Washington tried to trade for Holiday a year ago, according to The Athletic.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, one of Beal’s closest friends in the NBA, is the type of three-and-D player the Wizards have long sought, Charania and Katz observe.
  • Corey Kispert was 10th on the Wizards’ draft board entering Thursday night, and the team considered the possibility of trying to trade up for him before landing him at No. 15, write Charania and Katz.
  • The Wizards are preparing for Thomas Bryant to miss the start of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. A source tells The Athletic the club is hoping Bryant will be able to return by December.

Wizards Notes: Westbrook, Bryant, Neto, Mathews

Improved play from Russell Westbrook has sparked the Wizards‘ move up the Eastern Conference standings, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The former MVP says the difference involves recovering from a left quad injury that had been bothering him since he was acquired from the Rockets in December.

“Well, I can move and jump now,” Westbrook said. “So, there ya go.”

Westbrook’s quickness has returned, Katz adds, and he has become more aggressive in attacking the basket. He took 55% of his shots at the rim during the team’s recent four-game road trip after shooting just 26% of them from there earlier in the season.

“He just does a great job of staying in attack mode. We’re better when he does that,” Bradley Beal said. “He’s just being able to put pressure on the rim, getting to the basket, letting our bigs be able to follow up for offensive tip-backs if that’s the case. So, we just need him always in that mode. He never stops.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Thomas Bryant joined his teammates on the bench Saturday for the first time since suffering a season-ending ACL tear in January, Katz tweets“That was definitely the best part about the first half, just seeing him in the locker room,” coach Scott Brooks said. “… He’s definitely missed, loved by all of us.”
  • Backup point guard Raul Neto had to leave Saturday’s game with a left knee contusion, but Brooks doesn’t believe it’s serious, Katz adds (via Twitter). The team will check on Neto’s condition today.
  • The Wizards have won seven of their eight games since Brooks inserted Garrison Mathews and Moritz Wagner into the starting lineup, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Both are among the top 10 in the league in drawing charges, and they have raised the team’s energy level. Brooks is particularly impressed with Mathews, who earned a two-way contract last year after going undrafted. “He’s a fighter,” Brooks said. “I remember the pre-draft workout. We did this running drill and he has our record. I thought his lungs were going to explode he was running so hard. You could tell that he wanted to slow down, but he was determined. That got my attention right there.”