Wizards Rumors

John Wall Remains Unlikely To Return This Season

The Wizards‘ season will continue as they are one of 22 teams to head to Orlando to finish out the 2019/20 campaign. The club will play eight more games with the hope of sneaking into the postseason for more.

If they achieve that goal, they’ll almost certainly do so without the services of John Wall. Though, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link), some Eastern Conference teams heading to Orlando are preparing as if Wall will return to the court. Perhaps rival clubs are simply leaving no stone unturned in their pre-return scouting.

Last week, during a Zoom call with the local media, including Hoops Rumors,  Wall claimed he was “110 percent” but wouldn’t commit to making the potential trip to Orlando with his team let alone suiting up and joining them on the court.

The message out of the Wizards’ organization has been pretty consistent all season: they are taking the most patient approach with regard to getting Wall back up to speed. That means the 2020/21 season will be the next time we see the former No. 1 overall pick.

NBA Expected To Approve 22-Team Return-To-Play Format

11:25am: The NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to approve Silver’s plan on Thursday, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

10:00am: When he meets with the NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday, commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a return-to-play plan that will see 22 teams resume their seasons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The NBA reportedly discussed proposals involving 16, 20, 22, or 30 teams last week, with that 22-team format gaining increased support. Although the ownership groups from teams like the Hawks and Bulls expressed a desire to participate, per Charania, the plan will exclude them and the rest of the NBA’s bottom-eight teams in order to limit – to some extent – the number of people the league will have to bring into its “bubble” in Orlando.

As Charania details, the 22-team format would bring back the 16 current playoff teams, along with six additional clubs who are within six games of a postseason spot (the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards).

The plan would see those 22 clubs play eight regular season games apiece, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), before a play-in tournament is held for the eighth seed. The play-in format would be as follows, per Charania:

  • If the No. 9 seed is more than four games behind the No. 8 seed, the No. 8 seed would automatically earn the playoff spot.
  • If the No. 9 seed is within four games of the No. 8 seed, those two teams would enter a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in the conference. Such a tournament would be double-elimination for the No. 8 seed and single-elimination for the No. 9 seed (ie. a best-of-three series, with the No. 8 seed given a 1-0 lead to start).

Currently, the Grizzlies hold a 3.5-game lead on Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento in the West, with San Antonio four games back, and Phoenix six games back. In the East, the Magic have a 5.5-game lead on the Wizards, so Washington would need to make up some ground to force a play-in tournament.

Besides giving those six current lottery teams a chance to make the postseason, the format will allow all 22 clubs to surpass 70 regular season games, ensuring that many of them meet the requirements for regional TV contracts, which will help out the league financially.

According to Charania, July 31 remains the target date for the resumption of the 2019/20 season, with the draft lottery and combine – which had been postponed indefinitely – now expected to take place in August. Presumably, those events would take different forms than they normally do, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not clear yet how the 2020 lottery odds may be affected by the play-in tournament format.

[RELATED: Proposed NBA Plan Would Complete Finals By October 12]

The NBA’s proposal for the resumption of the season is also expected to include many medical and safety protocols, Charania notes. Sources tell The Athletic that those protocols will likely include players showering at their hotels rather than in the arena, inactive players sitting in the stands instead of on the bench, and players not being permitted to bring guests into the “bubble” until the postseason begins.

Any proposal from the NBA will require approval from at least three-quarters of the league’s Board of Governors (ie. 23 of 30 team owners). However, even if the plan isn’t every club’s first choice, there’s an expectation that team owners will get behind Silver and vote in favor of his proposal.

The Board of Governors’ Thursday call is scheduled for 12:30pm eastern time, tweets Wojnarowski.

Hall-Of-Famer Wes Unseld Passes Away

Former NBA star, head coach, and executive Wes Unseld has passed away, his family announced today, via the Wizards. Unseld was 74 years old.

“It is with profound sadness that we share that our adored husband, father, and grandfather Wes Unseld passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by family following lengthy health battles, most recently with pneumonia,” the family’s statement reads, in part.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis also issued a statement on Unseld’s passing:

“On behalf of the Wizards organization and the entire MSE Family, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Unseld family,” Leonsis said. “… We all admired Wes as the pillar of this franchise for so long, but it was his work off the court that will truly leave an impactful legacy and live on through the many people he touched and influenced throughout his life of basketball and beyond.”

Unseld, the second overall pick in the 1968 NBA draft, spent his 13-year career playing for the Bullets, first in Baltimore and later in Washington. He earned MVP honors in his first NBA season in 1969, becoming only the second rookie in league history to do so, along with Wilt Chamberlain. Unseld eventually won a championship and a Finals MVP award in 1978.

An elite rebounder at 6’7″, Unseld averaged 14.0 RPG in 984 career regular season contests to go along with 10.8 PPG. He earned five All-Star nods and was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1988.

Unseld held a role in the Bullets’ front office following his retirement in 1981, then served as the team’s head coach from 1987-94 before becoming the general manager of the newly-renamed Wizards in 1996. He was the franchise’s head of basketball operations until 2000, then again from 2001-03 following Michael Jordan‘s departure.

Our condolences go out to Unseld’s friends and family, including his son Wes Unseld Jr., currently an assistant coach for the Nuggets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020/21 Salary Cap Preview: Washington Wizards

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.

The Wizards‘ salary cap flexibility over the last couple years has been compromised by the fact that their highest-paid player – and one of the highest-paid players in the entire NBA – has been on the shelf with injuries since December of 2018. However, John Wall is set to return to the court next season, as some other money – including Ian Mahinmi‘s sizable deal – comes off the team’s books.

That doesn’t mean that the Wizards are in a great position to spend. Their unwillingness to trade Davis Bertans at the deadline signaled that they want to re-sign him, and doing so may limit the club’s ability to do a whole lot else this offseason.

Here’s where things stand for the Wizards financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Isaac Bonga ($1,663,861) 2
  • Anzejs Pasecniks ($1,267,981) 1
  • Total: $2,931,842

Restricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

If we assume all the Wizards’ players on guaranteed and non-guaranteed contracts return and that the team gets the No. 9 pick in the lottery, that would work out to about $107.5MM in commitments for 12 roster spots. Re-signing Bertans to a contract in the $10-15MM neighborhood would take team salary well over the cap.

If Bertans signs elsewhere or returns on a reasonably team-friendly deal, the Wizards would still have a decent amount of breathing room below the luxury tax line, opening the door to potentially use their full mid-level exception.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,258,000 5
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,623,000 5

Footnotes

  1. Pasecniks’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 8.
  2. Bonga’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 29.
  3. The cap hold for this pick will depend on where it ultimately falls in the lottery. Currently, the Wizards rank ninth in the lottery standings.
  4. The cap holds for Lawson, Randle, and Sessions remain on the Wizards’ books because they haven’t been renounced after going unsigned in 2019/20. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  5. These are projected values. If the Wizards’ team salary continues to increase, they may be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,718,000).

Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Players Oppose Going Straight To Postseason When Play Resumes

Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Friday (video link), Ramona Shelburne reported that NBA players she has spoken to are opposed to the idea of advancing directly to the postseason when the league resumes play.

“The one thing that they really don’t want to do is go straight to the playoffs,” Shelburne said. “They might have essentially four months off between March 11 and whenever we get the season resumed, and nobody wants the first meaningful game they play to be a playoff game. They need at least a week – maybe even longer than that – of real games that count for something before they play a playoff game.”

Some of the proposed scenarios for the NBA return would involve just bringing back the 16 playoff teams and advancing directly to the postseason; others would involve only teams at or near the bottom of the playoff picture participating in a play-in tournament. Shelburne suggests that neither of those solutions would be favorable for teams at the top of the postseason picture, who would want some time to shake off the rust and re-establish their chemistry before jumping into the playoffs.

Earlier today, we relayed Shams Charania’s report on the four scenarios the league discussed in its conference call with the Board of Governors call today. We noted in that story that bringing back all 30 teams seems unlikely. Based on Shelburne’s report, it sounds like the NBPA may not be on board with jumping directly to the playoffs with just 16 teams either.

That would leave two scenarios — a World Cup-esque play-in pool, featuring 20 teams, and a “playoffs-plus” option that may feature 22 teams. Shelburne and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer provided a few more updates on that second option this afternoon, offering the following details:

  • Teams within six games of a playoff spot would be invited to participate, per Shelburne (Twitter link). That means the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards would join the 16 current playoff teams.
  • All 22 teams would likely play eight regular-season games apiece, then a play-in tournament would be held for the eighth seed in each conference, according to O’Connor (Twitter link).
  • While the proposal isn’t yet finalized, it sounds as if conferences would remain in place for the postseason under this scenario, O’Connor adds.

The solution would check off a few boxes for the NBA. It would give every playoff team a solid ramping-up period before the postseason; it would allow many of those 22 teams to reach the 70-game threshold necessary for regional TV contracts; and it would give every team in Orlando something to play for without the league having to bring back all 30 clubs.

However, as O’Connor observes in another tweet, there are some potential downsides as well. Timing could be an issue if the NBA is aiming to resume play on July 31 and requires two or three weeks of regular season games before beginning the playoffs.

Plus, the particulars of the play-in tournament are unclear — for instance, the Magic are currently 5.5 games up on the Wizards and could increase that gap with eight more regular season games to play. Would Washington still be given a chance to steal the eighth seed in that scenario?

There’s no indication yet that the NBA is leaning toward that 22-team concept, and even if the league goes in that direction, it’s possible some details would be tweaked, so we’ll have to wait for further updates on talks between the league, teams, and players. There’s hope that a vote will happen next week.

Wizards Reopen Practice Facility

The Wizards have reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts, the team announced today in a press release. Friday, the first day of D.C. “phase one” for reopening, was also the first day that players were allowed back at the MedStar Wizards Performance Center for individual on-court work.

According to the Wizards’ announcement, the building will remain closed to the general staffs of the Wizards, the WNBA’s Mystics, and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go until local guidelines allow for reopening. However, players are permitted to work out while following strict protocols provided by the league, including no more than four players being in the building at a time.

The Warriors, Spurs, and Pistons are now the only three teams that haven’t reopened their facilities or officially announced plans to do so next week. Golden State has long targeted the week of June 1 to get back into its building, however — we’ll see if San Antonio and Detroit follow suit.

Bradley Beal: Trade Rumors “A Sign Of Respect”

Despite the fact that Bradley Beal signed a contract extension with the Wizards last fall and remains locked up through at least 2022, he continues to be the subject of trade rumors and speculation. Most recently, a New York Daily News report indicated the Nets were having internal discussions about potential avenues of acquiring Beal.

That Daily News report included the caveat that the Wizards are likely uninterested in trading their All-Star guard. Beal’s agent Mark Bartelstein subsequently shot down the idea as well. Speaking to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, Beal chose to view those rumors in a positive light, even as he downplayed them too.

“To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me,” Beal said. “That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie (Irving) and KD (Kevin Durant) want you, s–t, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.”

Beal did admit that he sometimes can’t help but think about different possibilities when he hears his name mentioned in trade rumors. However, he stressed that he has no desire to leave D.C. at this time — especially with fellow backcourt star John Wall set to be back at full strength for the start of the 2020/21 season after more than a year on the shelf with heel and Achilles injuries.

[RELATED: John Wall Declares Himself “110%” Healthy]

“My biggest thing right now is that I want to play with John again,” Beal said. “I want to see him get back to that level where I know he can be, especially since my game has grown so much (while he’s been out). What can we accomplish together? I’m so happy he’s healthy, working his tail off.”

John Wall Declares Himself “110” Percent Healthy

Wizards guard John Wall hasn’t played in a game since December of 2018, but the former No. 1 overall pick has declared himself “110 percent” healthy, as he told local media, including Hoops Rumors, via a Zoom conference call today.

“I’m itching to get back out there,” said Wall (as I relayed on Twitter). The 29-year-old added that he’s still taking his time with rehab and getting himself into the “best possible shape.”

Wall, who launched a rent-assistance foundation which will help those impacted by COVID-19 in Southeast D.C., won’t return to the court this year regardless of how the league returns from hiatus. It’s not certain that he would even travel with the Wizards to Orlando if the team is invited to join a campus-like bubble at Walt Disney World. The five-time All-Star believes that the league will return in a safe-manner and if that can’t be assured, they will “stop the season and prepare for next year.”

Wall underwent surgery on his heel back in the 2018/19 season. He was expected to come back at some point during that campaign. However, he slipped and fell in February of 2019 while recovering and he ruptured his Achilles, which forced him to go under the knife yet again.

Things will be different from an on-court perspective once the nine-year veteran returns next season. The Wizards have gotten younger and running mate Bradley Beal has turned into a more complete star after being given the opportunity to run the show.

“I’m just focused on getting back out there and watching how Brad has developed, how our team has developed,” Wall said. “We have made changes in the organization to prepare ourselves for next season and see what we can do.”

Wall has three years left on his contract after this season, including a $47.37MM player option for the 2022/23 campaign. Beal’s deal runs concurrently with Wall’s and includes a player option for that same season. Washington remains committed to the Wall-Beal combo as the future of the franchise.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wagner, Bonga, Stewart

Bradley Beal‘s agent is downplaying a report that the Nets have had “internal discussions” about trading for the star guard, writes Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

“There are no Beal sweepstakes and that’s why he re-signed with the Wizards,” Mark Bartelstein said. “Brad re-signed with the Wizards because he wanted to stay in Washington and the Wizards wanted to keep him there.”

Beal agreed to a two-year extension in October that will keep him under contract through the end of the 2021/22 season. It also includes a $37.26MM player option for 2022/23.

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • Fred Katz of The Athletic looks back at 10 storylines he set for the team during preseason to see how they panned out. Among his findings are that former Lakers Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga have both been valuable additions, Thomas Bryant has been slowed by injuries and still hasn’t developed into a rim protector, Troy Brown has improved as a ballhandler and shooter and coach Scott Brooks appears more likely than ever to make it to the end of his contract next season. Katz believes the team’s most significant decisions were to hold onto Beal and impending free agent Davis Bertans.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports continues his look at potential Wizards draft picks with University of Washington power forward/center Isaiah Stewart. Hughes believes Stewart could be an effective back-up big man behind Bryant and Rui Hachimura, but he doesn’t have the athleticism or enough of a complete game to justify being taken with a top-10 pick.
  • Playing five more regular season games, which has been suggested in some circles, probably wouldn’t be enough to give the Wizards a shot at the playoffs, Hughes tweets. At 24-40, Washington was in ninth place when the hiatus began, five-and-a-half games out of the eighth spot.

Latest On Wizards' Practice Facility

  • Due to a positive trend in COVID-19 cases in D.C., Washington’s stay-at-home order may no longer extend through at least June 8, as previously anticipated. That could be good news for the Wizards, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who notes that the team is still waiting for government clearance to reopen its practice facility.