Tommy Sheppard

Wizards Notes: Robinson, GM Search, Satoransky, Green

The incident that led to Devin Robinson‘s dismissal from the Wizards was a fight with Jalen Mills of the Philadelphia Eagles outside a Washington, D.C., nightclub early this morning, reports Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The Wizards issued a statement after the altercation saying they won’t extend a qualifying offer to the two-way player for next season.

Robinson and Mills were both arrested after the fight, which D.C. police say began with a verbal altercation. They wound up trading punches outside the Opera Ultra Lounge at 2:56am, resulting in Robinson being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The 24-year-old recently returned from a hip injury that sidelined him for two months. He appeared in seven NBA games this season and one last year. Robinson’s agent refused to comment on the incident.

There’s more Wizards news to pass along:

  • David Griffin’s decision to join the Pelicans removes the potential top candidate in Washington’s search for a new GM, according to Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington. Losing out on Griffin may improve the chances that senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will be promoted to the GM’s role, but the Wizards won’t be in a hurry to make a move. Owner Ted Leonsis said he plans to reflect on the situation for about three weeks while consulting with a search firm.
  • Danny Ferry, who served as interim GM in New Orleans and is the son of former Bullets GM Bob Ferry, has been mentioned as a possibility for the Wizards, along with Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, who was also a candidate for the Pelicans’ job. Nuggets president Tim Connelly, Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver and Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren may also receive consideration, but Standig doesn’t believe Zarren is likely to leave Boston.
  • No matter what happens with restricted free agent Tomas Satoransky, he’s sure of which position he wants to play, Standig relays in a separate story“I’m a point guard. I’m definitely a point guard. I will never be agreeing with someone that tells me otherwise,” he said. That’s where the Wizards used him after John Wall‘s season-ending injury and what his role projects to be if he returns to Washington with Wall possibly sidelined for all of next year. Standig states that management approached Satoransky about a long-term deal at mid-season, but he and his representatives preferred to test the free agent waters.
  • Jeff Green, who is headed for unrestricted free agency after signing a one-year deal last summer, enjoyed the chance to play in his hometown, he says in a video interview tweeted by the team.

Latest On Pelicans’ GM Search

The Pelicans continue to make progress in their search for a new general manager, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic, who reported this morning (via Twitter) that the team was starting to conduct in-person interviews. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), New Orleans interviewed former Cavaliers GM David Griffin today.

Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune (Twitter link) has confirmed that, in addition to Griffin, the following candidates are on the team’s list:

  • Interim GM Danny Ferry
  • Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris
  • Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon
  • Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas
  • Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard

Meanwhile, while his name doesn’t show up on Duncan’s list and hadn’t been previously reported, Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton is also in the mix for the GM job in New Orleans, tweets Jabari Young of The Athletic.

It’s not clear whether all of those candidates reciprocate New Orleans’ interest, or if they’ll all interview with the team. Several of them are believed to be options for some of the other clubs around the NBA who are seeking new heads of basketball operations, including the Wizards, so the Pelicans won’t necessarily be able to hire their top choice.

Still, it appears as if the franchise is moving quickly in the hopes of installing a permanent head of basketball operations sooner rather than later. A big offseason looms for the Pelicans, as Anthony Davis‘ future will almost certainly be decided in the coming months.

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 Targeting Tim Connelly To Run Front Office

The Wizards have centered in on Tim Connelly as the top candidate to run their front office, sources tell Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Connelly, who currently serves as the Nuggets‘ president of basketball operations, grew up about an hour north in Baltimore and began his NBA career as an intern with the Wizards. He joined Denver in 2013 and recently signed an extension with the team.

While prying him from Colorado may be tricky, Katz notes that teams have been able to land coaches and executives under contract in the past, citing Doc Rivers‘ move from Boston to Los Angeles and Jason Kidd‘s journey from Brooklyn to Milwaukee.

Connelly and Tommy Sheppard are close friends dating back to their time together in Washington. Sheppard reportedly has a chance to land the GM position.

“Tommy is the first person I met with, and I reminded Tommy of what happened with the Capitals, that our No. 2 to the GM that wasn’t a known commodity, wasn’t a frontrunner. He had the best interview,” owner Ted Leonsis said today. “And the reason he had the best interview was he was the most prepared, and he knew all of the good things and all of the not good things. And so 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, he will interview for the top job.”

Sheppard, who most recently served as second-in-command to Ernie Grunfeld, began his career with the Nuggets, starting in public relations before eventually switching over to basketball operations. Perhaps a Connelly/Sheppard ticket could be in the works in Washington.

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.

Wizards Fire Ernie Grunfeld

The Wizards have decided to part ways with longtime president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). According to Stein (via Twitter), Grunfeld was informed of the decision today by team owner Ted Leonsis.

The Wizards have confirmed the move in a press release, announcing that senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard will assume interim GM duties. The club will launch its search for a permanent head of basketball operations at season’s end, and will consider Sheppard a candidate.

“We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes,” Leonsis said in a statement. “I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.”

Grunfeld, who had been one of the NBA’s longest-tenured top executives, took over as the Wizards’ president of basketball operations back in the summer of 2003. Since then, the team has compiled a record of 568-724 (.440) and made the playoffs eight times. Washington has never advanced beyond the second round of the postseason during that 16-year stretch.

In recent years, the Wizards failed to live up to lofty expectations with a roster that featured All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. The team finished eighth in the Eastern Conference a year ago and was bounced in the first round of the playoffs before missing the postseason entirely this spring.

Grunfeld has also made some questionable salary-cap decisions in recent years, including long-term, big-money deals for Wall and Ian Mahinmi. Wall’s four-year super-max extension, worth a projected $170MM, will go into effect this summer, so the new head of basketball operations will have to work around that contract.

It remains to be seen which direction the Wizards will go under new management, but with Wall expected to miss most or all of the 2019/20 season due to an Achilles tear, a retooling – or even a full-scale rebuild – appears likely. Beal will be a key player to watch going forward — Grunfeld and Leonsis had stated they were committed to keeping the star guard in D.C., but it’s possible a new general manager will view things differently.

It also makes sense to keep an eye on head coach Scott Brooks, though as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes (via Twitter), Brooks still has two years and $14MM left on his contract. He seems like a good bet to be back for 2019/20 at least.

While no specific names have been cited yet as Grunfeld’s potential long-term replacement, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that team ownership has been active in pursuing search films to help with the hiring process. Wojnarowski suggests that it should be an attractive job, given the geography and the resources available.

The Pelicans, the Suns, and perhaps the Timberwolves will be among the other teams competing with the Wizards for general manager candidates this spring. Stein hears from league sources that Sheppard, Grunfeld’s interim replacement, will receive consideration from the Pelicans for their GM opening (Twitter link). New Orleans is also interviewing executives Larry Harris (Warriors), Trajan Langdon (Nets), and Gersson Rosas (Rockets), all of whom could be of interest to Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Wizards’ Bench, Hawks’ FO, Winslow

The Wizards fell just shy of the Celtics in their Eastern Conference Semifinal showdown and now must look at ways to improve if they hope to take the next step as a potential contender. One place they can start, point guard John Wall tells Chris Miller of CSN Mid-Atlantic, is with their bench.

I think we have to add pieces to help our bench,” the Wizards All-Star said. “Just to be honest I think that’s been our downfall.

While Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 27.2 and 24.8 respective points per game this postseason, mid-season trade acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic was their most potent reserve averaging a modest 8.8 points per game.

Brandon Jennings, another mid-season Wizards target charged with the task of jump-starting the second unit, posted averages of just 2.8 points and 1.8 assists per game in the playoffs.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks have interviewed Wizards VP of basketball operations, Tommy Sheppard and Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk in their ongoing search for a new executive, Marc Stein of ESPN writes.
  • A recent profile from the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman features Heat assistant general manager Adam Simon‘s and his background scouting internationally.
  • The Celtics may have offered a first-round pick to the Heat in exchange for Justise Winslow back on draft night in 2015 but it wasn’t the Nets pick, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel clarifies.
  • A column by George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel draws comparisons between Lonzo Ball and Shaquille O’Neal, citing the overbearing presence of their respective father figures.
  • The Magic have several options that could realistically be available to them at the No. 6 pick, including De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel breaks them down.

Nets Interested In Tommy Sheppard For GM Job

The Nets have requested permission to interview Wizards senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard for their GM vacancy, a source said to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. He joins Bryan Colangelo, Arturas Karnisovas and Gersson Rosas as contenders for the position, Lewis notes, having reported earlier this week that Danny Ferry was no longer a viable candidate. John Calipari is a long shot candidate, but remains a possibility because of his strong support from CEO Brett Yormark, according to Lewis.

Brooklyn already reportedly received permission to speak with Karnisovas and Rosas. Washington denied a June 2014 request from the Grizzlies to interview Sheppard, as Chris Vernon of 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis reported at the time, so it’s no lock that the Nets will have the chance to pursue him. Sheppard has been with the Wizards for 12 years and assumed his current position under GM Ernie Grunfeld shortly before the 2013/14 season.

The Nets reportedly want to hire a GM before the trade deadline, which is two weeks from today. Assistant GM Frank Zanin has been running the front office since the team removed Billy King from the GM job nearly a month ago.

Southeast Rumors: Wizards, Magic, Heat

The way the Magic, Hawks and Bobcats stand with training camp approaching figures to make for some intrigue in the weeks ahead, as I examined this weekend. Those three teams have fewer than 13 guaranteed contracts, so there are regular season jobs up for grabs. The same might not be true for the Heat and the Wizards, though Michael Beasley's presence could make it interesting for Miami, and there are other developments for Washington's team, as we detail:

  • Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld remains in charge, but D.C.'s front office is getting a makeover, the team announced on its website. Tommy Sheppard gets a promotion and will presumably serve as Grunfeld's right-hand man. The Wizards have brought in other officials from the Raptors, Thunder and Hawks.
  • Washington's offseason additions will allow the Wizards to play more small-ball this season, as J. Michael of CSNWashington.com examines. The opposite approach is taking place in Orlando, where No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo will play the point and Maurice Harkless will see some action at two guard, HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy tweets.
  • In today's mailbag, a reader asks Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel if Michael Beasley could eventually find his way into the Heat's starting lineup ahead of Udonis Haslem.  Winderman doesn't see that as a likely outcome, as the starting five is already overloaded with scorers.  Beyond that, Beasley has to prove himself as being worthy of a roster spot and worth an extra $2MM+ when factoring in his salary along with the luxury tax.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Several Candidates Emerge For Nuggets GM Job

Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke's strong relationship with Masai Ujiri was the primary force behind the outgoing Denver GM's hesitation to accept Toronto's five-year, $15MM offer to jump to the Raptors front office, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Nuggets were willing to give Ujiri a deal worth $1.2MM a year, according to USA Today's Sam Amick. Still, none of it was enough to convince Ujiri to stay, and now the Nuggets are the team looking for a new GM. There's early talk about several who could eventually get the job, as we detail below:

  • Nuggets assistant GM Pete D'Alessandro and director of player personnel Mike Bratz are viable options, sources tell Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
  • Wojnarowski speculates that the Nuggets could promote D'Alessandro or go after Cavaliers assistant GM David Griffin. The Nuggets offered Griffin the job in 2010, but he turned them down, leading Denver to turn to Ujiri.
  • Other executives who figure to be top candidates include Gersson Rosas of the Rockets, Bobby Marks of the Nets, Tim Connelly of the Pelicans, Wes Wilcox of the Hawks and Scott Perry of the Magic, according to Wojnarowski.
  • The Nuggets could have some competition if they want to go with D'Alessandro, since Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, the leading candidate to take the GM job in Sacramento, would like to hire him to work in the Kings front office, Amick reports (Twitter link). 
  • Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk interviewed well with the Kings, Amick tweets, arguing that Schlenk could be a fit in Denver if it doesn't work out for him in Sacramento.
  • Assistant GMs Tommy Sheppard of the Wizards and Jeff Weltman of the Bucks have ties to the Nuggets and bear watching as the Nuggets' search takes place, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.