Tommy Sheppard

Beal Says Opposing Players Constantly Try To Recruit Him

The trade rumors that have swirled around Bradley Beal in recent years have quieted down to some extent in 2021, but the Wizards star tells Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that in “almost every game we play,” an opposing player tries to recruit him to leave D.C.

“It brings you back to college. Which school is the right school? Which team is the right team?” Beal said. “You love the fact that people see your game and would love to play with you. But it’s also tough on the back end, because you have no idea what you want to do.”

Beal is eligible to sign a contract extension anytime, but he’d be able to earn more money if he waits until 2022, turns down his player option, and signs a new contract with the Wizards. Of course, he could also choose to leave the team as a free agent at that point.

As O’Connor writes, Beal remains committed to the Wizards for the time being, but hasn’t made any decision yet about his long-term future. While Beal likes the moves that general manager Tommy Sheppard and his front office made during the offseason, the team knows it needs to do more to convince the three-time All-Star he should remain in Washington for years to come. The goal, according to Sheppard, isn’t to turn into a contender overnight but to continue steadily improving each season.

“We’re going into year three of a plan to be more competitive every year,” Sheppard said. “It’s not a win now. It’s win more.

“… We have all year to keep showing him, ‘Hey, this is a place you’re going to win,'” the Wizards’ GM added. “Then, of course, the championship’s the next thing. But we can’t skip steps. I can’t sit here and look our guys straight in the face and say, ‘We should win a championship this year.’ Not at all. But the more pieces you’ve got, the longer you can hang around. That’s what I really, really believe.”

The Wizards committed to one of the league’s bigger roster shakeups this offseason when they traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers in a five-team blockbuster. Washington folded its Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade acquisition into that deal and acquired five other players, including Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.

Sheppard, who referred to Beal as a “shareholder” in the Wizards, said he bounces major roster moves off of the 28-year-old, so we can safely assume Beal wasn’t caught off guard by the team’s mega-deal. In fact, he told O’Connor that he was “definitely impressed” with the way Sheppard revamped the roster and upgraded the Wizards’ depth without giving up “crazy picks” or other assets.

“It was just me and Russ before. Now we have so many guys who can be versatile with the game. I can play off ball, and take more challenges on the defensive end,” Beal said. “We have probably the best depth we’ve had in a long time, maybe since 2017. To be able to look at the roster on paper, and see we’re three-deep at every position, is pretty good.”

As O’Connor points out, even if Beal is undecided about his future, his safest play might be to lock in a five-year deal with the Wizards for the sake of financial security — if he’s unhappy in two or three years, he could always push for a trade, like many of his contemporaries have. However, Beal is wary of taking that approach, suggesting that if he signs a long-term deal, he wants to be fully bought in.

“That’s kind of a dangerous game to play because you’re not in ultimate control,” Beal said. “Once you sign a five-year deal, you’re pretty much hooked.”

Rival teams – and players – will be keeping a close eye this season on Beal, who could emerge as one of the NBA’s biggest-name candidates to change teams in 2022 if things go south in Washington.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Draft, Avdija, Staff, Future

Bradley Beal has not requested a trade, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard confirmed today, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Reports surfaced over the weekend that Beal was pondering whether to make a trade request this week, which would have given the Wizards a chance to acquire picks in Thursday’s draft. However, Beal never made that request, according to multiple reports.

We have more from Sheppard’s press conference on Wednesday:

  • The team owns a mid-first round selection at No. 15 but does not currently possess a second-rounder on Thursday. That may change, as Sheppard said the Wizards “definitely want to get something in the second round,” according to Katz (Twitter link).
  • Sheppard used the old “best player available” line regarding the first-round pick, saying the club isn’t necessarily looking for the player who will make the biggest immediate impact, Katz tweets.
  • Last year’s lottery pick, Deni Avdija, has been cleared for on-court play and will begin contact work in a couple of weeks. Sheppard said the Wizards will wait to see if Avdija, who suffered a right ankle fracture in April, will play for the Summer League team (Katz, Twitter link).
  • New head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will have the most of the input on putting together his staff (Katz, Twitter link).
  • Sheppard doesn’t necessarily believe he has to compromise the team’s future to build a contender for next season. “I think there’s ways to get better next season and to have something in the bank to improve in the outer year,” he said. (Katz, Twitter link).

Wizards Notes: Brooks-Westbrook, Beal, Coach Search, Unseld

Russell Westbrook wanted the Wizards to keep Scott Brooks as head coach, but his endorsement wasn’t enough to save Brooks’ job, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Westbrook and Brooks have a long relationship that dates back to Oklahoma City, where Brooks coached him for seven seasons.

Westbrook endorsed Brooks after Washington was ousted from the playoffs and spoke to general manager Tommy Sheppard about the coaching situation during his exit interview. However, Sheppard doesn’t think Westbrook will be affected by the change on the bench.

“Moving forward, Russell’s career does speak for itself. He was fantastic with Scotty in (Oklahoma City),” Sheppard said. “He won MVP in (Oklahoma City) under a different coach. Last year, he was All-NBA under a different coach. This is part of the business that we all struggle with, but it’s a certain part of the business that is something we know when we get into this business, that the only constant thing is change.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • The Wizards’ decision to move on from Brooks is all about trying to ensure that All-Star guard Bradley Beal sticks around long-term, per Fred Katz of The Athletic“What we gotta do as an organization is continue to do whatever it takes to put ourselves forward to have sustainable winning,” Sheppard said in comments to reporters about the decision. Katz notes, however, that it may behoove Washington to add a new voice on the bench who could be open to a rebuild, should Beal opt to leave ahead of the 2022/23 season.
  • Because Wizards stars Westbrook (soon to be in his age-33 season) and Beal (an All-Star in his prime) both have player options in their deals for 2022/23, it may make sense to make a win-now hire, adding someone with a prior head coaching track record, opines Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Sheppard seemed open to adding a first-time head coach if he deemed the fit appropriate. “You want the qualities that you think are going to amplify the needs of your team,” Sheppard said. “You look at the modern NBA and what’s going on, who’s in the [playoffs], who’s still playing. It’s a great snapshot of what the NBA is. You have very diverse coaches, you have former players, you have people that came from Division II colleges. It’s just a reminder that there’s no clear path of how to get there, there’s no magic formula.” Less experienced coaches can also be significantly more cost-effective, Hughes notes.
  • The Wizards would be wise to consider longtime Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr., writes David Aldridge of The Athletic. Aldridge notes that Unseld has significant roots in D.C., from his Hall of Fame father to the years he logged between stints as a scout and assistant coach for the Mystics and Wizards. Given the precarious nature of Beal’s future with the franchise (he can sign a long-term extension in the fall or opt out in 2022), nailing this hire will be crucial for Sheppard, Aldridge writes.

Arthur Hill contributed to this report.

Wizards’ Coaching Search Will Be ‘Diverse, Robust’

With Scott Brooks officially out as the Wizards’ head coach, his replacement won’t be named quickly. GM Tommy Sheppard said he will conduct a “very diverse, very robust” search, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. Sheppard also used the words “thorough” and “inclusive” to describe the search, which suggests that he might give serious consideration to a woman candidate.

We have more interesting tidbits from Sheppard’s press conference on Wednesday:

  • Sheppard said he opted to part ways with Brooks and then informed team chairman Ted Leonsis of his plan. Leonsis gave a rubber stamp of approval, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. “‘If that’s what you want to do, then that’s what you’ll do,'” Leonsis told Sheppard.
  • The ability to communicate well with the players will be high on the list of traits Sheppard is seeking for his next coach, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Sheppard doesn’t want the next coach to take on too much responsibility — he’ll seek one that’s willing to have offensive and defensive “coordinators” on this staff.
  • Sheppard will be seeking more depth and veteran leadership in free agency and trades this offseason, Youngmisuk relays in a separate tweet. He isn’t worried about finding plenty of worthy candidates for the head coaching job on a team that make the playoffs this season, adding that “D.C. will sell itself.”

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Bridges, Heat, Hall

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard won’t be afraid to take “big swings” to improve his roster this offseason if the opportunities present themselves, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

The Wizards dealt with several COVID-19 and injury-related issues this season, finishing with just a 34-38 record. The team was eliminated by the Sixers in a five-game series after making it out of the play-in tournament.

“We’ve gotta continue to add talent everywhere we can, and I think we’ve shown that I’m not afraid to take big swings,” Sheppard said. “We’re not afraid to go out and acquire players in trades, to do whatever it takes.”

Prior to the season, Washington dealt John Wall and a future first-round pick to the Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook, a prime example of a big-swing move.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Hornets forward Miles Bridges emerged as a well-rounded threat for the team this season, Sam Perley of NBA.com writes. Bridges averaged 12.7 points and a career-high six rebounds per game, serving as a key cog in the club’s rotation. “I feel like I can always get better at everything,” Bridges said during his exit interview, as relayed by Perley. “For this team, I play a lot of positions, a lot of different roles. I want to get better at everything – my IQ mainly. Learn how to finish games better, creating shots for myself and my teammates. I can always get better at defense, so for me, it’s just the full package.” Bridges will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.
  • The Heat‘s early playoff exit will allow the team to spend more time reflecting on the season and planning for the summer, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Team president Pat Riley — much like Tommy Sheppard — has never been afraid to take big swings to improve his team, something worth monitoring this offseason.
  • While Donta Hall provided relentless energy as a depth piece during his time with the Magic, he’s not under contract for 2021/22 and it remains to be seen whether he’ll have a place in the team’s future, notes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Haslem, Capela, Wizards

Within the last two years, the Magic‘s medical staff has been tasked with helping Chuma Okeke, Jonathan Isaac, and Markelle Fultz rehab from ACL tears. As the player who suffered his injury most recently, Fultz is reassured by observing how the club’s staff has handled his teammates’ recoveries, he tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“Seeing what my (team’s) medical staff has done with people who had ACL injuries, I know they have some experience with that,” Fultz said. “That also gives me a little bit of confidence going into it, and I have a little bit of a blueprint to see how it goes and how it feels. I have people to ask questions that are my peers, somebody who I can relate to, which also gives me a boost of confidence going into it knowing that they’ve come back stronger and better.”

Although Fultz won’t get back on the court until the 2021/22 season, he said his knee “feels amazing,” and he told Robbins that he can’t wait to suit up again for a Magic team that has shifted into rebuilding mode.

“It just puts another chip on my shoulder again, to come back and play for this organization and the city, and just give it my all,” the former No. 1 pick said. “(I want to) just show them the love that I have for the city and how thankful I am for the opportunities that they’ve given me.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In what has become an annual tradition, Heat center Udonis Haslem said this week that he’s unsure whether or not he’ll play another year and that he plans to make that decision sometime after the season (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). The big man, who will turn 41 next month, has signed one-year contracts with Miami for five consecutive years.
  • As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Hawks center Clint Capela passed the 1,757-minute threshold on Wednesday, making him eligible to earn a $500K bonus based on defensive rebound percentage. Capela needs that number to be higher than 30% to receive his bonus — it’s currently a league-best 34.4%, per Basketball-Reference.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington contends that a handful of GM Tommy Sheppard‘s roster moves – including drafting Rui Hachimura, trading for Russell Westbrook, and acquiring Daniel Gafford – have the Wizards on a positive trajectory.

Bjorkgren, Stotts, Budenholzer Among Coaches On Hot Seat

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Nate Bjorkgren‘s future as the Pacers‘ head coach is uncertain, and Shams Charania and Sam Amick echo that point in their latest report for The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, Bjorkgren’s “abrasive” style and a tendency to be controlling with assistants and other staff members has been a cause for concern.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that multiple Pacers players have expressed dissatisfaction with Bjorkgren this season, with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis among those who haven’t been on the same page with the first-year coach. Those same sources tell The Athletic that several Pacers players feel the analytical style Bjorkgren has employed doesn’t suit the team’s personnel.

The growing pains Bjorkgren has experienced in Indiana don’t necessarily mean that the Pacers will make a coaching change at season’s end, but the situation is worth keeping a close eye on, per Charania and Amick.

The two Athletic reporters also singled out a few other coaching situations worth watching around the NBA. Here are a few highlights from their report:

  • The Trail Blazers are increasingly likely to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts this offseason unless he can “pull a rabbit out of his hat” and make a deep playoff run, according to Charania and Amick. Sources tell The Athletic that Stotts has less player support this season than he has in past years. Charania and Amick identify Jason Kidd, Dave Joerger, Chauncey Billups, Brent Barry, and – if he becomes available – Nate McMillan as potential targets for Portland if the team makes a change.
  • There’s significant pressure on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer entering the postseason, according to Charania and Amick, who say Budenholzer’s job will be in serious danger if the team is eliminated in the first two rounds. Budenholzer has one year left on his contract after 2020/21, per The Athletic’s duo.
  • Luke Walton of the Kings and Scott Brooks of the Wizards are other coaches whose job security isn’t exactly rock solid, but Charania and Amick point to financial considerations in Sacramento and a recent hot streak in D.C. as factors working in favor of Walton and Brooks keeping their jobs. Walton has a strong relationship with Kings GM Monte McNair, while Brooks is well-liked in Washington, note Charania and Amick. Still, the long-term future of Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is also somewhat uncertain, which further clouds Brooks’ status.

Southeast Notes: Young/Collins, Westbrook, Heat, LaMelo

After Hawks power forward John Collins reportedly voiced his frustration with the way the club has been running its offense through All-Star point guard Trae Young, Young addressed their issues with a measured response.

“I know me and John have set the bar high for ourselves, but we’re still 22 and 23 years old,” Young said of their early Hawks tenure, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). “There’s a lot we can get better at. There’s going to be times where we are going to talk and there’s going to be times when teammates are going to talk about what we see.”

The revamped Hawks are currently 4-4, good for the No. 9 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Fred Katz of The Athletic details the Wizards‘ “load management” plan for new starting point guard Russell Westbrook. Washington GM Tommy Sheppard tells Katz that the club’s process for resting Westbrook will be fluid going forward. “We’ve adhered to a schedule thus far and a lot of it just kinda evolves on how he’s feeling, how he’s responding to the rigors of the season,” Sheppard said. “It’s way too early right now to say, ‘OK, well this is how it’s going to be the entire year.’”
  • The Sioux Falls Sky Force, the G League affiliate of the Heat, will not be partaking in the 2020/21 G League “bubble” this season. Miami GM Andy Elisburg addressed the decision, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “For us, just for the quick turnaround, it just became a lot on everyone’s plate, and dealing with the fact that it’s an unusual season, managing the COVID,” Elisburg said. “There’s a lot of different things that were on the plate. That’s where we made the decision.”
  • Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball has had to grow up quickly on the hardwood for Charlotte, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Ball’s size and on-court versatility has allowed the Hornets to experiment with intriguing lineups. “I definitely knew I had to rebound,” the 6’7″ Ball said of being played in an ultra-small lineup alongside Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham for the team’s last two contests.

Southeast Notes: Hayward, Bryant, Wall, Heat

The Hornets made one of the biggest and most controversial splashes in free agency, signing injury-prone forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract. Due to injuries and the development of his Boston teammates, Hayward was never able to return to his All-Star form while with the Celtics.

Although the Hornets’ $120MM commitment to Hayward is widely viewed as an overpay, it didn’t come out of left field. In today’s edition of The Lowe Post podcast, Zach Lowe of ESPN suggests that the Hornets’ offer to Hayward was not significantly higher than that of some competing clubs hoping for his services in free agency.

“You want to clown the contract?” Lowe said (per RealGM). “That’s fine. Just know it’s not like the Pacers and the Celtics were offering $80MM. They weren’t offering $120MM. But my best intel is something like $105MM, $108MM, $102MM, $110MM.”

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines Hayward’s fit with the Hornets, conceding that the deal is probably an overpay. However, he also contends that Hayward can supply veteran leadership to the Hornets’ young core while being by far their best player, if healthy. Hayward will be leaned on to supply multifaceted scoring and is an expert play-maker. He also will be able to convincingly slot into the lineup at small forward, power forward, and even shooting guard.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:
  • Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said today that the team informed every center it spoke to in free agency that Thomas Bryant would remain the Wizards’ starter, according to Quinton Mayo of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). “Certainly probably rubbed some guys the wrong way who thought they could come in here and start,” Sheppard said. The club ultimately signed Robin Lopez to back up Bryant.
  • Beyond the churning NBA rumor mill, Wizards point guard John Wall has remained active during the offseason. Wall will purchase an ownership stake in the Australian NBL club the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Los Angeles entrepreneur Romie Chaudhari heads the ownership group for the Phoenix, which also includes and Cavaliers reserve guard Dante Exum, plus retired big men Zach Randolph and Al Harrington and retired swingman Josh Childress.
  • Point guard Goran Dragic and backup center Meyers Leonard are excited to return to the Heat, according to Joe Beguiristain of Heat.com. Miami prioritized re-signing both players to lucrative two-year contracts with team options for the second year. “When free agency hit, we pretty much made our quick deal,” Dragic commented. “First of all, it felt like there was unfinished business for our team and for me because, obviously, going through the ankle injury was not easy, and I feel like I could have helped in many different ways,” Leonard said.

Southeast Notes: Leonard, Sheppard, Wizards, Hornets

Meyers Leonard has recovered from a severe ankle sprain he suffered in February, but his role with the Heat has completely changed, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Leonard was Miami’s starting center in 49 of the 51 games he played, but he has only been on the court for nine minutes in the playoffs.

“My team knows this, and our coaching staff knows this,” Leonard said. “I would do anything to be out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I’m not competitive as hell. I wish I was impacting the game on the floor. I’m not, but as a person and as a player, I want what’s best for everybody.”

Leonard was still recovering from the injury when the hiatus began in March, which caused team facilities to shut down and forced a change in his rehab process. Miami also switched to a smaller lineup after acquiring Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala at the trade deadline. Coach Erik Spoelstra informed Leonard of his reduced role before the restart began.

“There’s just two things that I won’t ever let be questioned and that’s character and work ethic,” Leonard said. “Every day when I walk through the door, I’m going to be a great guy, a great teammate. It’s not fake. So I’m trying to make my impact now from the sideline.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard is a believer in analytics and he hopes to use data to help the team lessen its risk of injuries, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic. More teams are turning to load management to avoid overextending players during the regular season, and Sheppard thinks numbers can play a role in that. “Rather than have to react to an injury, you could see possibly something on the horizon and take that player out of harm’s way,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you shut him down, but maybe they play less in a game, or maybe they don’t play at all, or maybe they have active recovery days.”
  • In a separate story, Katz teams with David Aldridge of The Athletic to assess the Wizards‘ current situation and find a way to rebuild the franchise. Aldridge notes that Washington used its $9.2MM mid-level exception to sign four players last summer and suggests that the entire amount should be targeted to one player this year, possibly Derrick Jones Jr., Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Maurice Harkless.
  • With the third overall pick and two selections in the second round, the Hornets might benefit more than most teams from the decision to delay the draft until November, writes Danny Thompson of Sports Illustrated.