Wizards Rumors

Wizards Notes: Len, Bell, Westbrook, Bertans

After finalizing contracts with Alex Len and Jordan Bell earlier today, the Wizards have enough eligible players to resume their season, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Washington has been among the teams hardest hit by COVID-19 and hasn’t played since January 11. After six postponed games and with a still-depleted roster, the Wizards appear ready for Sunday’s game in San Antonio.

The addition of the two big men should make that possible, with Len signing as a free agent after being waived by Toronto and Bell inking a 10-day deal after being ticketed for Washington’s G League affiliate.

“I’m happy to have them. We need bodies,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “Both have good experience. Both will get opportunities, probably, for sure Alex will. Right now we only have one five. He gives us good experience, he gives us good length, defensive protection.”

Washington has been depleted at center by a season-ending ACL injury to Thomas Bryant and the loss of Moritz Wagner due to health and safety protocols. Veteran Robin Lopez has taken over as the starter, and Len is expected to be his primary backup.

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • In addition to Wagner, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura and Ish Smith are unavailable due to coronavirus-related reasons. Brooks plans to stagger their returns, bringing them back one or two at a time, Hughes tweets.
  • If there’s a bright spot to the way the virus has hit the Wizards, it’s that Russell Westbrook has only missed two games after aggravating a quadriceps injury he suffered in the preseason, observes Jackson Filyo of NBA.com. Westbrook has been practicing in a limited capacity and is listed as questionable for Sunday. “(I’ve been) just running through a few things with the team,” he said. “Trying to get myself back in shape a little bit, seeing how I feel each day – trying to ramp up and making sure I take my time.”
  • Bertans will miss his second return to San Antonio since the Spurs traded him to Washington, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. Bertans was spectacular against his former teammates last season, scoring 23 points and hitting all seven of his shots from the field. “We definitely brought something out in him that I don’t want to see again,” said LaMarcus Aldridge.

And-Ones: Team USA, Monroe, Jerebko, Cuban, Beal

USA Basketball has sent out approximately 60 invitations to players who have expressed interest in being part of the Olympic player pool, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Team USA could be without players advancing to NBA Finals, based on the timing of July Olympics in Tokyo, Wojnarowski notes. Among the players invited are some of the league’s young stars, including Duncan Robinson, Zion Williamson, Trae Young and Ja Morant, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press tweets.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big men Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko had their contracts terminated by BC Khimki Moscow, the team tweets. Monroe played in nine Euroleague games with averages of 10.3 PPG and 6 RPG. Jerebko was averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG. The team cited “personal circumstances of (the) players” as the reason for the termination.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he is in talks with the NBA to organize some preseason games in Europe against Real Madrid or in Slovenia, according to Sportando. Cuban would like to give European fans a chance to watch Luka Doncic in action.
  • The Wizards have endured a number of postponement due to COVID-19 protocols and Bradley Beal wouldn’t mind if the league considered another bubble or regional sites as the season progresses, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. Beal didn’t play in the summer restart in Orlando. “I probably wouldn’t be totally against it as long as we had the same success that we did the first go-around,” he said. “I wasn’t part of the bubble in the first go-around, so I don’t necessarily know how all that worked down there every day. But I know going through it every day here, it’s a lot. We test twice a day at least for the last week. That’s very overwhelming at times.”

Wizards Sign Jordan Bell To 10-Day Contract

10:55am: The Wizards have officially signed Bell, the team announced today in a press release.

9:30am: The Wizards plan to sign forward Jordan Bell to a 10-day contract using the hardship provision, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Bell, 26, began his career with the Warriors during the 2017/18 season. Golden State won the NBA championship that season with Bell as a key reserve, averaging 4.6 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 57 games (13 starts).

The Los Angeles native appeared in 68 games for the Warriors the following season but has since bounced around the league. After signing with the Timberwolves in 2019, Bell was traded as part of the four-team, 12-player trade in February and was subsequently released.

Washington signed and waived Bell back in mid-December with the intention of having him suit up in the upcoming G League bubble. The Capital City Go-Go (the Wizards’ NBAGL affiliate) claimed Bell off waivers last March, so the team held his returning rights for the upcoming season. He may still be ticketed for the Go-Go after his stint with the Wizards.

As we’ve noted, the NBA adjusted the hardship provision this season to give teams flexibility to sign players to 10-day contracts if hit hard not just by injuries but by a series of positive COVID-19 tests.

The Wizards have not played since January 11 as a COVID-19 outbreak among the team and safety and health protocols have forced postponements. Bell joins Alex Len as another big man who will reportedly sign with Washington.

Bell’s 10-day contract will pay him about $115K, while the Wizards take on a cap hit of approximately $111K, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Hunter, Len, Magic

The Magic‘s performance as of late without point guard Markelle Fultz has highlighted his importance to the club, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The Magic are 1-6 since Fultz was lost for the season with an ACL tear. Fultz’s savvy court vision had been a key component of the Magic’s offense.

“We’ve got to figure something out to try to get us going into offense smoother and understand how we’ve got to play,” shooting guard Terrence Ross noted. “With no Markelle we’re trying to figure it out, but it’s tough. So we’ve got to keep going at it.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks wing De’Andre Hunter has grown into the club’s most reliable player, with an improved offensive attack, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic opines. Hunter’s development can be a boon to the franchise in both the short and long term. “He has a chance to be really, really special,” Hawks center Clint Capela said. “To be able to guard the star on the opposite team every night, (it) has been amazing to see that.”
  • With the Wizards losing starting center Thomas Bryant for the year due to a torn left ACL, the club may need to shore up the position with some additional help. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington posits that recently-waived big man Alex Len could be an intriguing defensive fit for the team.
  • Given the season-long absences of recently-extended young starters Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, Josh Robbins of The Athletic explores whether or not it makes sense for the Magic to tank for a high draft pick this season.

Poll: Bradley Beal’s Future

In recent months, most of the star players who were expected to be traded during the NBA’s 2020/21 league year – either during the offseason or in-season – were indeed on the move. Chris Paul and Jrue Holiday were dealt early, followed a couple weeks later by Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Last week, James Harden and Victor Oladipo landed with new NBA teams.

After catching their breath following a flurry of blockbuster trades, fans and pundits figure to eventually ask the inevitable question: Who’s next?

After all, while we get the occasional lull between mega-deals, it’s always just a matter of time before another big-name player on an underachieving team hits the trade block, either because he wants to be moved or because his team recognizes it’s better off cashing in one of its top trade chips sooner rather than later.

While this year’s trade deadline is still over two months away, it’s worth considering which player might be the next one to fit that bill. There are a few contenders around the NBA, but at this point, no star player appear to be a likelier trade candidate than Bradley Beal.

The most important factor working against a Beal trade is the fact that the Wizards have repeatedly indicated – both privately and publicly – that they have no interest in moving the star guard. When they sent Wall and a first-round pick to Houston for Westbrook, the Wizards made the deal in the hopes of returning to the postseason and convincing Beal that the franchise was working its way back toward contention. Washington wants to build around Beal, not trade him.

But there are a number of factors working against the Wizards. For one, the club got off to a poor start this season, opening with a 3-8 record before having six consecutive games postponed due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.

When the Wizards resume play – likely on Sunday – they’ll be looking to climb out of that early hole with a shorthanded roster, knowing they’ll have to cram a ton of makeup games into their schedule later in their season if they want to get close to playing a full 72-game slate.

A playoff spot is certainly possible, especially with the play-in format opening things up to the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds, but it will be an uphill battle. And it seems unlikely that Washington would make any real noise in the postseason against a higher-seeded opponent.

Beal’s contract situation isn’t ideal for the Wizards either. Although he did sign an extension with the team in 2019, that deal essentially only tacked on one guaranteed year to his previous contract, meaning he’ll still be able to reach the open market in 2022. That doesn’t give the Wizards a ton of time to turn things around.

It’s a safe bet that teams around the NBA will blowing up GM Tommy Sheppard‘s phone between now and the March 25 deadline to see whether Beal is available. With Harden off the market, Beal is the most appealing star who could realistically be on the block. The Heat, whose strong interest in Beal has been stated repeatedly over the last year, would be at the front of the line, but they’d have plenty of competition for a player who would be a strong fit in virtually any and every system.

Beal has spent his entire career in D.C., has talked about his loyalty to the city and to the franchise, and has backed up his words with actions, as his 2019 extension showed. But he has also made it clear that he wants to win a championship. If the Wizards, whose win total has declined each year since 2016/17, don’t start trending in the right direction, it’s hard to imagine him recommitting to the franchise when his current contract expires (right around the time he turns 29).

With all that in mind, we want to know what you think. Will the Beal trade rumors heat up in the next couple months? Will the Wizards have to start seriously considering moving him? Or do you expect the All-Star guard to remain in Washington for the foreseeable future?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

NBA Postpones Friday’s Wizards/Bucks Game

The game between the Wizards and Bucks that was scheduled to be played on Friday in Milwaukee has been postponed, the NBA announced tonight (Twitter link).

It’s the sixth consecutive postponement for the Wizards, who haven’t played since January 11. The team was cleared to return to the court to practice on Wednesday, but remains significantly shorthanded.

Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner are out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad) are sidelined due to injuries, leaving just eight available players on the roster (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the game is being postponed due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing affecting players on the roster, and the club’s lengthy layoff from practicing.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote earlier tonight, Bradley Beal and the Wizards had been planning to lobby for a postponement of Friday’s game, since they felt that potentially playing with the league-mandated minimum of eight players after not practicing for the last week would result in a high risk of injury for the active players.

The next game on Washington’s schedule is Sunday in San Antonio. The hope is that the Wizards will have enough available players – and enough practice time between now and then – to be ready to play that game.

The NBA has now postponed 17 contests this season. The full list is here.

Nearly Half Of NBA’s Teams Have Open Roster Spots

After the NBA’s transactions wire remained relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the 2020/21 season, teams have begun making moves with a little more frequency as of late.

While one recent transaction – the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn – was clearly a higher-impact move than the rest, a number of clubs have made smaller changes to their rosters by waiving players this week. The Raptors and Wizards cut big men Alex Len and Anzejs Pasecniks from their 15-man rosters, while the Sixers opened up a two-way slot by releasing Dakota Mathias.

As a result, there are now 12 teams across the NBA that have at least one open 15-man roster spot. One of those teams – the Trail Blazers – also has an open two-way contract slot, as do two others, leaving just 16 clubs who are carrying the maximum of 17 players.

With so many clubs facing roster shortages recently and the NBA and NBPA discussing the possibility of adding a third two-way slot to rosters for the rest of the season, it’s a little surprising that more teams aren’t making use of all 17 available spots, but it will likely just be a matter of time before those many of those openings get filled.

Here’s the current breakdown of teams with open roster spots:

Teams with an open 15-man roster spot:

  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Note: The Nets have three open roster spots and will need to fill at least two of them within two weeks of completing the Harden trade.
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Los Angeles Clippers *
  • Los Angeles Lakers *
  • Milwaukee Bucks *
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes that the team can’t currently sign a 15th man due to the hard cap.

Teams with an open two-way slot:

  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers

Wizards’ COVID-19 Problems Worsen As Another Player Tests Positive

The Wizards’ COVID-19 issues continue to mount, as a seventh player and a staff member have now tested positive, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets.

On Friday, Washington GM Tommy Sheppard confirmed that six players had tested positive for the virus and three others were under health and safety protocols.

However, there is some room for optimism. The team could practice again as soon as Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. That’s because some of the players currently under health and safety protocols could soon be cleared to return, he adds.

The lack of available players has forced the NBA to postpone five consecutive Wizards games. Earlier on Monday, the league announced the Wizards’ game on Wednesday against the Hornets would be moved to a later date. They also officially waived center Anžejs Pasečņiks, though it’s unknown whether he was one of the players on the COVID-19 list.

The Wizards started to bring players who have tested negative and cleared contact tracing protocols into the practice facility for one-on-zero workouts Sunday, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. They haven’t been together in a group setting since their last game a week ago.

NBA Postpones Wednesday’s Wizards/Hornets Game

The Wizards‘ coronavirus outbreak continues to force postponements, with the NBA announcing today that Wednesday’s game in Charlotte between the Wizards and Hornets won’t take place as scheduled. It’s the fifth consecutive Washington game that has been postponed.

General manager Tommy Sheppard confirmed over the weekend that the Wizards have had six players test positive for the coronavirus, with three more players tied up in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for contact tracing purposes.

It’s not clear whether or not Anžejs Pasečņiks – who has since been waived – was one of the affected players. Either way though, with Thomas Bryant out for the season due to a torn ACL, Washington  doesn’t have the league-required minimum of eight players available for games.

The team hasn’t played since last Monday, when it recorded a 128-107 win over Phoenix. The next game on the Wizards’ schedule is a Friday contest in Milwaukee — we’ll have to wait to see if it can be played as scheduled.

The NBA has now had to postpone 15 games on this season’s schedule. The full list can be found right here.

Wizards Waive Anžejs Pasečņiks

JANUARY 18: The move is official, per NBA.com’s transactions log.

JANUARY 17: The Wizards will waive center Anžejs Pasečņiks, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Pasečņiks had a $350K partial guarantee on his minimum-salary contract with the club.

Pasečņiks was initially selected by the Sixers (by way of a trade with the Magic) with the No. 25 pick in the 2017 draft. The seven-footer remained in Europe, where he had been playing for Herbalife Gran Canaria in Spain since 2015, through the 2018/19 season.

The Sixers renounced their rights to Pasečņiks that summer. After he impressed the Wizards in their 2019 summer league, he was eventually signed to a two-way contract for the 2019/20 season and split time between the Wizards and their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.

Pasečņiks appeared in 27 games for the Wizards during his rookie season, averaging 5.8 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 16.2 MPG. This season, the 25-year-old appeared in just one game for Washington.

The Wizards, who have not played a game since their 128-107 defeat of the Suns on January 11 due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, will now have 14 players on guaranteed standard contracts, with one open spot on their 15-man roster.