- The Wizards are encouraged by their strong start to the season, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. The team owns the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 13-7 after winning an impressive road game against the Mavericks 120-114 on Saturday. “I trust my teammates. I trust them to make the right play, and it means the world to me not having to make every one,” Bradley Beal said. “I have guys I can throw the ball to and then go get a shot, go create a play for somebody else. I can have a hockey assist. Those are all — I’m definitely proud of [it], and it’s a stepping stone for me, too. It’s a learning process.”
- Speaking of Beal and the Wizards, Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines how the All-Star guard is maturing and why it’s so important. In 17 games this season, Beal is averaging 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists, shooting 44% from the floor, 28% from deep and 93% from the free throw line.
- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura, whose debut this season has been delayed due to a personal absence, still isn’t quite ready to return to action. According to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link), Hachimura didn’t accompany the team on its current four-game road trip, which runs through Monday.
We noted yesterday that bertans practiced with the Capital City Go-Go in the G League and was a game-time decision against the Hornets. However, he ended up missing the game and will instead make his return tomorrow against the Pelicans.
Bertans was off to a slow start this season; through seven games, he’s averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.7 RPG in 16.9 MPG, with a .342/.333/1.000 shooting line.
Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Montrezl Harrell, an unrestricted free agent in 2022, is off to a terrific start with the Wizards, averaging 17.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 2.3 APG (28.4 MPG) through 17 contests. Josh Robbins of The Athletic explores how much Harrell might earn in free agency. Robbins says if Bradley Beal decides to stay with the team, and assuming Harrell maintains his production, he could see the Wizards offering him a contract in the range of $10-14MM annually. He points to Christian Wood (three years, $41MM) and Richaun Holmes (four years, $46.5MM) as recent examples of contracts in that range.
- Fourth-year center Mohamed Bamba, who’ll be a restricted free agent this summer if the Magic tender him a qualifying offer, recently gave a Q&A with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Bamba says he’s happy in Orlando and thinks the team has a lot of potential. “I think the sky’s the limit for this young group. We have a lot of talent, and we have a lot of depth at every position. I’m excited to be a part of this. I’m excited to wear Orlando across my chest. I’m just focusing on the now and the moment,” Bamba said.
- Hawks wing Cam Reddish is showing progress in his third season, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Star Trae Young says good things happen when Reddish is in attack-mode on offense. “He’s just stepping right in and playing his role, going hard on defense, and then on the offensive end we want him to attack, be aggressive and for me personally I love when he’s going to the basket and he’s making plays and he’s talking mess, just being himself, you know what I’m saying?” Young said. “I think that’s when you get the best version of Cam, when he’s playing like that.” Reddish will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
In his early look at 2022’s top free agents, John Hollinger of The Athletic ranks Bulls guard Zach LaVine as the No. 1 player in next year’s class, ahead of stars like Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Nets guard James Harden. As Hollinger explains, LaVine will be just 27 years old when he reaches free agency, which means his next contract is a good bet to cover his prime years. Beal will be 29 and Harden will be entering his age-33 season, so the final seasons of long-term deals would be a little riskier in those cases — especially for Harden.
Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- Former NBA first-round pick Malachi Richardson is continuing his professional career in Poland, having signed with King Wilki Morskie Szczecin, according to the team. The 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, Richardson hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2018/19 season and most recently suited up in Italy.
- Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexico City Capitanes’ first season in the NBA G League has them based out of an apartment complex in Fort Worth, Texas without a home arena. Scott Cacciola of The New York Times takes a closer look at an unusual start for the G League’s first Mexican franchise, which won’t actually play in Mexico in 2021/22.
- With the Lakers and Knicks set to face one another in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, Sopan Deb of The New York Times explores why Sportico and Forbes have given both teams valuations north of $5 billion and why the value of a big-market franchise like the Lakers or Knicks isn’t really dependent on whether or not they’re winning.
- Wizards forward Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura both practiced with the Capital City Go-Go in the G League today, per Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Bertans, who has been out for three weeks due to a left ankle sprain, will be a game-time decision tonight. Hachimura, who missed the start of the season for personal reasons, continues to ramp up his conditioning.
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.
The Heat may have enough talent to challenge for an NBA title, but they’ll have to break their habit of letting big leads slip away, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Jimmy Butler addressed the topic Saturday night after Miami squandered a 16-point third quarter advantage while losing to the Wizards in a battle of two of the East’s top teams.
Most troubling for an organization built around its defensive mentality is that the Heat couldn’t stop the Wizards in the fourth quarter. Miami allowed Washington to shoot 73.3% in the final 12 minutes, including 5 of 9 from three-point range.
- Rui Hachimura attended the Wizards‘ shootaround Saturday and is getting closer to making his season debut, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “The fact that he was able to go through parts of shootaround today were terrific,” said coach Wes Unseld Jr. “I think it’s just another step in his ramp-up. We still don’t have a definitive timetable, but every day it seems like it’s more.”
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.
Since USA Basketball announced its 12-man roster earlier this week for the first qualifying games for the 2023 World Cup, two players have been removed from the squad — DaQuan Jeffries withdrew due to an injury, and Frank Mason wasn’t cleared to participate.
NBA veterans Isaiah Thomas and Justin Anderson will replace Jeffries and Mason on the Team USA roster, according to a press release. Thomas, who continues to pursue an NBA roster spot, represented the U.S. in the AmeriCup qualifiers back in January, so he’s no stranger to international competition.
The same is true of Anderson — the veteran swingman, who has appeared in 226 NBA games, played for Team USA in the AmeriCup qualifiers in 2020 and was part of the Select Team that scrimmaged against the U.S. team prior to the 2019 World Cup.
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- ESPN’s Bobby Marks identifies some of the offseason moves that been the most impactful during the first month of the 2021/22 NBA season, including the Cavaliers‘ acquisition of Ricky Rubio and Tommy Sheppard‘s reshaping of the Wizards‘ roster.
- The NBA plans to increase COVID-19 testing during the Thanksgiving holidays next week, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski explains, the league is trying to avoid risking any team-wide breakouts after players participate in family celebrations.
- Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) breaks down the pros and cons of the various pathways to the NBA for top prospects, taking an in-depth look at the G League, Overtime Elite, National Basketball League (Australia), and college basketball. As Givony writes, the NCAA remains “the most bankable path to the NBA” for top prospects, but those players have more options than ever to choose from.
- Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is expected to begin training with the Capital City Go-Go in the G League next week, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. Hachimura hasn’t played this season due to personal reasons and the Wizards are hopeful he’ll soon return to their rotation. The focus right now is mainly about getting his conditioning up to speed.