Tommy Sheppard

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Sheppard, Hornets, Magic

Following a disappointing 4-1 first-round playoff loss to the Heat, the Hawks could undergo significant roster overhaul, predicts Chris Kirshner of The Athletic. In a new piece, Kirshner assesses who among Atlanta’s current personnel may not return for the 2022/23 NBA season.

“Yes, I think we should have tried to get better rather than bring back what we had,” team owner Tony Ressler recently said of the Hawks’ 2021 offseason team building. “That won’t happen again. It was a mistake, in my opinion at least.”

Among the priciest players, Kirshner considers forwards John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, and Danilo Gallinari, plus unrestricted free agents Gorgui Dieng and Lou Williams, unlikely to return to the Hawks next year.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard had plenty of thoughts regarding the lottery-bound team’s preparation for the 2022 NBA draft, including the NBA Combine in Chicago this week, writes Jackson Filyo of Wizards.com. Washington will have the No. 10 pick this year. “The combine is a continuation of the work we have already done,” Sheppard said. “We have been evaluating some of these players since they were 14 or 15 years old… At the combine, you want to see their character, you want to see how they react, how they respond to coaching. You want to see how they respond to different environments.”
  • Now that the Hornets know they will be drafting near the end of the 2022 lottery with the No. 13 pick, Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer takes stock of four candidates worth considering: Duke center Mark Williams, Wisconsin small forward Johnny Davis, Memphis center Jalen Duren, and LSU forward Tari Eason. Boone adds that the Hornets will also have the No. 15 pick in the draft as a result of their sign-and-trade deal that landed Devonte’ Graham with the Pelicans. Boone notes that one or both of those selections could be bundled into a trade for a veteran.
  • The Magic have landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft for the first time since 2004, and the fourth time in the franchise’s history. Orlando has an opportunity to add one of the top young prospects entering the draft this season, per Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m so happy for our fans tonight,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “They really stuck with us and nights like this help when you can show the fruits of why you go through these phases and cycles. Hopefully, they’re really excited by this. We’re going to add another good young player to our talent base.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Avdija, Offseason, Porzingis

Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, should he decide not to pick up his $36.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season. Washington president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard appears to be optimistic that Beal will stick around long-term with the team that drafted him, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“I feel every indication he’s given me is that he wants to be here moving forward,” Sheppard said of Beal’s future with the Wizards. “I stick to the 10 years of confidence I have in the relationship we’ve had. It’s a lot of time, a lot of equity and a lot of conversations. I feel that we’ve shown this is a place we can build around him. I think he’s shown to the community here that when he’s healthy he’s one of the best players at his position. Those are hard to come by.”

The 28-year-old Beal, a three-time All-Star, was limited to just 40 games this year due largely to a left wrist injury that ultimately required surgery. He averaged 23.2 PPG, 6.6 APG and 4.7 RPG this year.

There’s more out of D.C.:

  • Wizards swingman Deni Avdija expressed excitement for being able to hone his game during the first normal, healthy offseason of his NBA career, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. There was no training camp or summer league due to the pandemic during the 2020 offseason, and the 21-year-old was recovering from an ankle fracture in the 2021 offseason. “I know what I need to do better,” Avdija said. “Just finishing the season like that gives you motivation and energy. You know you can make plays, you know you can help the team win. I feel like just taking the next step.” Hughes notes that Avidja closed out the year with an uptick in his output. He averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.6 APG across his last 16 contests of the year.
  • Following a disappointing 2021/22 season in which they missed the playoffs and play-in tournament, the Wizards must deal with a variety of personnel issues in the offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes in a separate piece. Hughes identifies the free agent fate of Beal as the biggest hurdle confronting Washington in the offseason. The next priority, should Beal return, will be finding a long-term solution as the team’s starting point guard. Hughes expects the Wizards front office to consider trade and free agency options over drafting a point guard. Hughes also anticipates that Washington will look to shore up its defense and long-range shooting.
  • New Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis expects the team to compete for the playoffs next year, writes Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Porzingis also posits that he himself has only reached 60-65% of his ceiling, and hopes to boost that level next year. After shooting guard Bradley Beal went down with a wrist injury in February, the team ultimately finished with a 35-47 record and missed the play-in tournament. “This summer is a long one, and also I’m fresh,” the 26-year-old big man said of his offseason health. “I’m feeling great. I could play right now. That’s an exciting thing for me, and I’m really looking forward to doing some work, getting some tan and coming back next season with batteries fully charged.”

Wizards’ Sheppard Talks Beal, Dinwiddie, Hachimura, Bryant, More

The maximum-salary contract extension the Wizards offered to Bradley Beal in October remains on the table and will stay there all season long, general manager Tommy Sheppard told Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Beal may end up opting for free agency – where he could earn a longer, more lucrative deal with Washington or explore other destinations – but Sheppard wants to make sure the All-Star guard knows the extension is still an option.

“There’s no reason to take it off. It stands all year. He can sign it all season,” Sheppard said. “I’ve never been anything but transparent. We delivered it the first day that it was available. That’s out of respect to him. He’s an All-NBA player, and we expect him to be an All-Star again this year, and I think he’ll be there at the end for All-NBA. That’s a matter of respect. I think for him he’s going to do what’s very best in his interest. And for the franchise, it’s the same.”

With no guarantee that Beal will eventually sign a new contract, Robbins wondered if the Wizards might have to at least consider the possibility of trading him by the February 10 deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing. However, that doesn’t appear to be a path Sheppard is exploring. The general manager told Robbins that the club remains focused on keeping and building around Beal and believes the 28-year-old remains committed to that plan too.

“I understand the question,” Sheppard said. “I can only keep coming back to the same things I say over and over again: We have constant dialogue. And I’ve been very transparent. He’s been very transparent. We want the same things. We want this to work, and I see every reason to believe we’ll keep moving forward.”

Here are a few more highlights from Sheppard’s conversation with Robbins:

  • Sheppard isn’t concerned about the fact that the Wizards have been outscored by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie share the court. He preached patience and still believes the two guards complement each other well. “Last I checked, Spencer’s got a three-year deal, not a 40-game deal,” Sheppard said. “It takes time for things to kind of come together. They’ve still got to figure out each other. … Forty games isn’t enough to say this is working or not working. We’ve seen it when it can really work. We’ve seen that they can play well.”
  • Asked about Washington’s up-and-down performance so far this season, Sheppard pointed out that injuries and the COVID-19 protocols have created an “incomplete picture” of the team’s potential. The Wizards’ GM referred to Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant as two of “our probably top six guys or seven guys” and said he’s looking forward to seeing what they bring to the current group.
  • Sheppard, who has spoken in the past about the Wizards making steady improvements as they build around Beal, believes they’re still headed in the right direction. “I think that our roster has some balance,” Sheppard said, referring to the club’s mix of youngsters and veterans. “I think our contracts are balanced-out now. I think that gives you an opportunity, especially around the deadline, to look and see if there’s a way to improve your team. Certainly in the offseason, it gives us opportunities to do things. So I’m really excited with where we’re at.”

Eastern Notes: Beal, Sheppard, Johnson, L. Rose, Washington

Wizards star Bradley Beal was “ecstatic” to learn that general manager Tommy Sheppard received a promotion and contract extension with the franchise, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

Sheppard, who was elevated to team president, has overhauled Washington’s roster to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards have opened the season with an impressive 11-5 record, which is vital toward keeping Beal happy and persuading him to reject any rival trade interest.

“I see Shep in here every single day,” Beal said. “He’s very in tune, he cares. He’s an awesome person and he loves the game. He just wants his team to do well, he wants his team to get better and he holds us to a certain standard. I respect it and I love it. I’m definitely happy for him.

“He’s just constantly working, he’s constantly checking on me, checking on everybody. He’s a great GM, I’m happy for him and his promotion and his next few years here.”

Here are some other notes from the East tonight:

  • Nets forward James Johnson has provided some defensive grit for the team, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Johnson, who signed with Brooklyn in the offseason, has seen increased playing time with Nicolas Claxton (illness) and Paul Millsap (personal) missing multiple games. “The biggest part about this team is just trying to find the identity and sticking to that,” Johnson said. “We have to have some kind of identity that when we’re going into a gym it’s not the Brooklyn Nets that’s on paper, it’s that hard-fighting, physical, tough win-it-out gang.”
  • Knicks president Leon Rose will deserve significant blame if the team can’t turn around a slow start to the season, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post writes. The Knicks hold a 9-7 record, but the club is just 4-5 at home. The vast majority of the roster is back from last season’s playoff group.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington (left elbow hyperextension) has been upgraded to doubtful for Monday’s game against the Wizards, the team announced on social media. Washington has missed nine straight games due to the injury. He returned to practice last Tuesday.

Eastern Notes: Sheppard, Anthony, Thybulle, Morris

Wizards president Tommy Sheppard is “grateful” for and “humbled” by his recent promotion with the franchise, he told NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. Sheppard had been serving as general manager and also received a multi-year contract extension.

“I’m just so grateful and I’m very humbled. I think it’s a reflection that we have good people here. I’m very, very grateful for all of them,” Sheppard said. “The thing I look forward to most every day is the people I work with, the people and the staff. I’m very grateful to Ted and his belief and his support. I look forward to greater days ahead.”

Sheppard constructed a Wizards roster that’s opened the season with a 10-5 record. Washington has succeeded despite Rui Hachimura (personal) and Thomas Bryant (torn ACL rehab) not appearing in a game to date.

The Wizards overhauled their roster this past offseason, signing Spencer Dinwiddie and trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell. The club was eliminated from the playoffs last year in a five-game, first-round series against the Sixers.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Magic guard Cole Anthony has suffered a sprained right ankle, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). Anthony will miss the club’s game against Milwaukee on Saturday. He’s averaging 19.6 points, 5.9 assists and 34.1 minutes per game on 42% shooting.
  • Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle will return from a seven-game COVID absence on Saturday against the Blazers, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Pompey notes that Thybulle isn’t scheduled to receive many minutes. The Sixers are still missing Joel Embiid (health and safety protocols), Danny Green (left hamstring tightness), and Ben Simmons (personal).
  • Heat veteran Markieff Morris (neck) isn’t traveling with the team for its four-game road trip, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Morris has yet to play since being intentionally hit from behind by Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic on Nov. 9 — an altercation that began with Morris’ hard foul in transition.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Beal, Bridges, Heat, Hunter

Explaining the decision to sign general manager Tommy Sheppard to a contract extension, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis told Ava Wallace of The Washington Post that he believes in continuity and said the move is a reflection of Sheppard’s full body of work rather than the team’s hot start this season.

The Wizards also have an extension offer out to Bradley Beal, but it’s not a major surprise that the All-Star guard hasn’t accepted it — even if he wants to remain in D.C., Beal could sign a more lucrative contract in free agency next summer.

As Wallace relays, Leonsis believes the Wizards’ best path to locking up Beal long-term is to keep making good roster and business decisions to show the 28-year-old it’s possible to win in Washington. The Wizards owner is hopeful that Beal will follow in the footsteps of Washington Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who recently signed multiyear extensions with Leonsis’ NHL team.

“(Beal is) not obsessing over a decision; I’m not obsessing over a decision,” Leonsis said. “I think that’s correct with my belief, just like I said, with Alex Ovechkin. I have high confidence in the integrity of the player in their believing in our city, our community. Everybody was all hyper on Alex, and he signed his long-term extension. Nick did the same.

“I’m expecting that it’s not negotiating with Brad, it’s Brad sees and enjoys and likes and believes and knows that there’s something special about spending your career and going through hard times and coming out the other end a champ.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The newfound ability Miles Bridges is showing as a ball-handler and creator this season is a key reason why the Hornets forward is on track for a big payday in restricted free agency next summer, says John Hollinger of The Athletic.
  • The Heat would have interest in point guard John Wall if he’s bought out, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, but there’s no indication the Rockets intend to pursue a buyout agreement with Wall anytime soon.
  • Heat two-way player Marcus Garrett has a reputation as a defensive dynamo, but was never a major offensive threat during his four years at Kansas, averaging double-digit points just once in his college career. He’s focusing on expanding his offensive game during his time in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “I’ve been playing point, especially with the G League team,” Garrett said. “Just learning the game, getting more comfortable with the pro level game and getting comfortable with the offense.”
  • In his latest mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores a handful of Hawks-related topics, suggesting that De’Andre Hunter‘s ever-growing history of injuries makes him an increasingly likely candidate to be moved if Atlanta makes a consolidation trade for an impact wing or forward.

Wizards Extend, Promote Tommy Sheppard

The Wizards have signed general manager Tommy Sheppard to a contract extension and promoted him, as reported by Ava Wallace of The Washington Post and confirmed by the team in a press release. Sheppard will now hold the title of team president in addition to GM.

Sheppard took control of the Wizards’ front office in 2019, replacing longtime head of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld. He finalized a short-term extension with Bradley Beal during his first few months on the job and has since reshaped the roster around the star guard.

After winning just 25 games in Sheppard’s first season at the helm, the Wizards earned a playoff spot in 2020/21 and are off to a 10-3 start this season, putting them atop the Eastern Conference. Sheppard has received praise for his offseason deal that turned pricey star Russell Westbrook into several reliable rotation players and allowed the team to add Spencer Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade.

In addition to extending and promoting Sheppard, the Wizards have done the same for chief planning and operations officer Sashi Brown. The team says Brown will be the president of Monumental Basketball, as well as a special advisor to the Office of the CEO at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns and operates the Wizards.

“Tommy has effectively improved our team each year of his tenure by following the plan he laid out to us as his vision when we hired him as general manager and Sashi has been instrumental in making us a leader in analytics, research and player engagement while efficiently streamlining operations across all of our basketball teams and venues,” Wizards owner and Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis said in a statement. “Their combined efforts have put us in a position to compete now with an exciting and hard-working team while also having the flexibility to execute our long-term strategy of building a championship program that is a leader in the community.”

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.