Tommy Sheppard

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.

Wizards Notes: Brooks, Draft Lottery, Wall, Beal

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks will return next season, general manager Tommy Sheppard said on Wednesday, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

Brooks and the Wizards were invited down to the bubble in Orlando, Fla. but did not fare well, losing seven out of eight contests. However, Washington was without John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Dāvis Bertāns. They did see the continued development of second-year forward Troy Brown Jr. and rookie forward Rui Hachimura.

Despite the Wizards’ losses at the Walt Disney World campus and their overall record of 25-47, Sheppard was content with the job that Brooks did with the young squad. “Scottie did a heck of a job adjusting each year to what was in front of him,” he said. “I think this year, in particular, it really felt like we had dang near three seasons worth of time. And all these young players this year got better in their own way. And I think next year, we’ll see the benefits of all that.”

Here are more notes on D.C.’s basketball team:

  • Because the NBA locked in lottery spots for the eight teams not invited to Orlando, the Wizards have the ninth-best lottery odds despite having the eighth-worst record in the NBA. But Sheppard believes playing in the restart was worth it, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “We had a lot of young players, we know we’re going to add another player if it was the ninth pick, the 15th pick; whatever,” he said. “We like 15 players [in this draft]. The benefit of having players play in that situation, in that environment, far outweighed anything else we could mess with.” Sheppard added that if the Wizards somehow made the playoffs, he would’ve been okay with them getting the No. 15 overall pick.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote about how the Wizards could opt to select a guard in October’s NBA draft, despite having Wall and Beal. Sheppard said the team may prioritize talent over fit, which might end up being a guard. “Need is always something that you’ve gotta focus on, certainly. But as you go through the draft, if there’s a player there where you say ‘Look, the talent is too good, too great to pass on,’ then you still have free agency to address that need.” In ESPN’s latest mock draft (Insider link), they have the Wiz taking former Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton.
  • On Tuesday, Brooks gave an injury update on the statuses of Wall and Beal. He said that the 30-year-old Wall is 100% healthy following his torn Achilles, and that he and Sheppard plan on visiting him this offseason in Miami. In regards to Beal, who is recovering from a sore rotator cuff, Brooks said that rehab is going well. This season, the 27-year-old Beal averaged 30.5 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG.

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Beal, Hachimura, Bertans

The Wizards may be in position to gamble in this year’s draft, general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a Q&A session on the team’s Twitter account (hat tip to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington). Last year, Washington used its first pick on Rui Hachimura, who was ready to contribute right away, but Sheppard believes the team can now consider long-term prospects.

“I think when you look at our roster and you see eight players 23 or younger, we can probably take a swing at somebody and they’re not going to have to help us immediately next year. If that player is there, certainly we do that,” Sheppard said.

The Wizards will start their draft process Monday by interviewing college seniors and international prospects. Everything will be different this year because of coronavirus restrictions, which means chatting remotely with potential picks and no in-person workouts. However, Sheppard doesn’t put great value on those individual sessions as the team didn’t work out Hachimura before last year’s draft.

“Workouts are important, but these players have played all season,” Sheppard said. “If we’re going to decide whether to take a player based on one workout, we’re in a lot of trouble. We’ve done our homework.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • Appearing on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Bradley Beal said he considered a lot of positives and negatives before agreeing to a two-year extension last fall. “Ultimately, I felt staying, the positives outweighed leaving,” Beal explained. “The reason being is because I had more control here. I have an organization who basically gave me the keys. We’re gonna build around you, we’re gonna get guys around. If I go anywhere else, granted, it may be a good team, but I would be a piece. Who knows if my role would be the same? My role here, I love what it is.”
  • Beal admits he was among those who laughed on draft night when ESPN’s Chauncey Billups compared Hachimura to Kawhi Leonard, but Beal has become a huge supporter of his rookie teammate. “He’s not Kawhi, but he plays like him,” Beal said. “He has a high ceiling. He’s not really a four. We can really make him into a three. We can make him into a playmaker. He can post up smaller guys. He can guard bigger guys. He’s very versatile in a lot of ways. I love him. He’s a workhorse. I don’t know who he’s really comparable to, because his ceiling’s that high.”
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic examines how expected changes to the salary cap will affect Washington’s chances of re-signing Davis Bertans. The Wizards will have to keep Bertans’ $13.3MM cap hold on their books to retain his Bird rights, so they are expected to operate as an over-the-cap team when the offseason arrives.

Wizards GM Discusses Free Agency, Draft, Wall

Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard took part in a Q&A on Twitter earlier today, addressing numerous topics, including the free-agent statuses of Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier. Sheppard said both players have “shown enough” to make the team want to retain them.

“We acquired [both those players] not as rentals. We acquired them to stay here,” Sheppard said.

Bertans came to the Wizards last offseason, as part of a three-way trade that the Spurs made to create a path to sign Marcus Morris (Morris backed out of the verbal agreement with San Antonio and instead inked a deal with the Knicks). Napier joined the franchise during a midseason trade that sent Jordan McRae to Denver.

Here’s more highlights from the session with Sheppard:

  • The executive discussed Washington as a free agency destination.“Look at the [free agents] we’ve retained over the years. We’ve retained our biggest free agents. They wanted to stay here and re-sign. We attracted plenty of free agents over time,” Sheppard said, arguing that location and ownership are two of the biggest factors to attracting talent.
  • The inability to meet with and evaluate prospects in person in the coming weeks and months isn’t going to impede the Wizards’ ability to scout talent in the draft. “If we were going to decide to take a player off of one workout, we’re in a lot of trouble,” Sheppard said.
  • Sheppard added that the league’s hiatus has not been great for John Wall‘s progress. The point guard had been participating in scrimmages as he continued to rehab his Achilles injury. However, without the ability to compete against others, Wall can’t get into game shape. “He’s just not able to get out on the floor and do those things. So, when we do come to play, he will be behind, unfortunately,” Sheppard said.

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Centers, Wall, Draft

The Wizards will focus on improving their defense, especially on the interior, during the upcoming offseason, general manager Tommy Sheppard tells Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington ranked last in the league in opponents’ points per possession, although the numbers were better over the last month of the season. They allowed teams to shoot 66% from the restricted area, which ranks third from the bottom.

“We’re gonna improve defensively, and a lot of that is by repetition and continuity,” Sheppard said. “We certainly look inside. Maybe we can get some more physicality there and get some more help out on the wings. There’s a lot of need that comes, but sometimes those needs get met by just staying patient (with your) players.”

Sheppard also talked about the need to find a rim protector, which the Wizards didn’t have with the center spot being manned by Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner, along with Ian Mahinmi, who is headed for free agency. Katz suggests Wagner could be effective as a power forward if the team can find a shot blocker for him to play alongside.

Although Washington will be over the salary cap when the offseason arrives, the team will have its full mid-level and biannual exceptions available, along with a lottery pick, to pursue a defensive-minded center.

There’s more Wizards news, all courtesy of Katz:

  • Sheppard is counting on some of the defensive improvement to come from the return of John Wall, who didn’t play at all this season while recovering from a torn Achilles. Washington was ineffective defensively with Isaiah Thomas at point guard before he was traded in February. “When you get John back, that guy was on the All-Defensive Team a few years ago,” Sheppard said. “John can contain the dribble, and that takes a lot of pressure off the defense, too.”
  • The Wizards, who occupy the ninth spot in our Reverse Standings, are planning a “best player available” strategy for the draft, Sheppard added. “You’re talking eight players 23 and younger (on the current roster),” he said. “Throw Jerome (Robinson) in that mix, this kinda gives us a little better opportunity to, ‘Hey, let’s look at the best player available.’ … It just gives you a little bit more options. You wanna draft for your need if it’s possible. But if it’s not possible, you don’t just grab somebody to grab them. You do, ‘Hey, is there somebody else that can add value to your roster?’ And maybe that person is very interesting to some other team — whatever. But I don’t think we can say today, ‘Hey, this is exactly who we need,’ because that player is just not gonna be in college or free agency.”
  • If the NBA season does resume, coach Scott Brooks cautioned that players will need adequate preparation time before games can begin. “NBA players, they can miss six or seven weeks with an injury and have three or four practices and all of a sudden come out and get you 19 points and nine rebounds,” Brooks said. “But I don’t know the answer. We definitely need some time. … I would imagine a week to 10 days is probably the best that we would get. And hopefully we get that.”

Wizards Notes: Centers, Wall, Draft, I. Smith

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Sunday afternoon, and while not all of his answers were especially juicy, he shared a handful of interesting tidbits with fans over the course of that Q&A.

As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington passes along, one of Sheppard’s most noteworthy responses came when he was asked about the Wizards’ center position and how much of the team’s cap flexibility this summer might be put toward addressing it. Sheppard’s answer suggested it won’t be a top priority, according to Hughes.

“If you look at the way the game is played, it’s harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position,” Sheppard wrote. “We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We’re pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Within that Reddit AMA, Sheppard also addressed the progress John Wall is making as he rehabs his Achilles injury, noting that the point guard has scrimmaged with Washington’s G League affiliate. “We’re extremely pleased with John’s condition right now, his participation throughout the rehab process has been fantastic,” Sheppard wrote, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. “I’ve never seen him this motivated to make a full recovery. We see John scrimmage with the Go-Go, we see him at practice with the Wizards. And while the rust is still there, there’s plenty of signs that point to a full recovery.”
  • Jackson Filyo of WashingtonWizards.com passes along a few more of the highlights from Sheppard’s AMA, including the GM’s comments on drafting Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown‘s position, and the Wizards’ plans for the 2020 draft. Sheppard described this year’s draft class as “deeper this year than people realize.”
  • Wizards point guard Ish Smith will be re-evaluated later this week, as his left hamstring injury has gone from a day-to-day issue to a week-to-week ailment. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the details.