Wes Unseld Jr.

Southeast Notes: Young, Bol, Isaac, Unseld Jr.

Hawks guard Trae Young has adopted a new offseason routine this year, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Instead of taking his usual month off, Young was back in the gym a week after Atlanta’s loss to Miami in its first-round series. He’s undertaking a workout regimen that he plans to continue through the NBA Finals, explaining, “because that’s where I want to play.”

“I think it’s gotta be,” Young said. “It’s happened for a lot of the guys who’ve won championships and all the big-time players that’s come before me, throughout this whole league. Everybody has to go through something to push through, to get to that next step. I think this could be that thing.”

The Heat were able to rattle Young by attacking him with multiple defenders, leading to subpar numbers throughout the series. He averaged 15.4 points and 6.2 turnovers in the five games while shooting 31.9% from the field and 18.4% from three-point range.

“I think this is just a learning experience in the early chapter stage of my career that I needed to go through,” Young said. “The Heat did a great job, their defensive schemes, placement, where their guys were, switching it up, making it difficult. Just looking back at some of the mistakes I had, I know I’m going to learn from them, and it’s only going to make me better, and I think that’s a scary thing, if I’m young and I still have a lot to grow from. I think it’s a good thing that I can learn from it.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic big man Bol Bol is continuing rehab work on his injured right foot that required surgery in January, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Bol wasn’t able to play for Orlando after being acquired in a February deal, and he’ll be a free agent this summer. The Magic can make him restricted by extending a $2.7MM qualifying offer, and it sounds like the team still believes in his future. “Bol’s working very hard,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “He’s working diligently. He’s working every day. He continues to ramp up. He’s just doing individual work right now. We’re going to be careful with him as we are with everyone to make sure he doesn’t skip steps in his rehabilitation.”
  • Speaking as part of the ReAwaken America Tour, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac explained his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, per Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops“Viewing it, it seemed forced. It seemed that there was so much pressure in doing it,” Isaac said. “I don’t see the wisdom in putting something into my body that’s not going to stop me from getting the virus or transmitting it. That is why I decided to be the only player on my team to not get vaccinated.”
  • First-year coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been selected to represent the Wizards at Tuesday’s draft lottery, the team tweeted this week. Washington has a 3% chance of landing the first pick and a 13.9% chance of moving into the top four.

Southeast Notes: Unseld Jr., Capela, Wright, Hunter, Carter

Following a rough start to his new career as a head coach, the Wizards Wes Unseld Jr. said the team needs to establish a defensive identity in his second season, he told Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“We said we were going to be a defense-first team. We’re not there yet,” Unseld said. “That’s a big piece of our identity. To value and share the ball, I think, is another big piece. We’re starting to see that. I think it’s good carryover into the summer, and then we’ve got a lot of things we have to accomplish. We’ve got to spend a lot of time with our guys and put a lot of work in.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Center Clint Capela felt soreness in his knee as the Hawks were eliminated by the Heat on Wednesday, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets. Capela, who didn’t return in the fourth quarter, said he won’t require offseason surgery on the aching joint.
  • Veteran guard Delon Wright said he’d like to stay with Hawks but was noncommittal regarding free agency this summer, Kirchner tweets. Forward De’Andre Hunter echoed similar sentiments regarding a potential extension, Kirschner relays in another tweet“I don’t necessarily have a number I’m looking for, but we’ll see,” Hunter said.
  • Can Wendell Carter establish himself as one of the league’s top 10 centers? That could be the next step for the Magic big man, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Wizards, Winston, Todd, Hawks

Magic center Mohamed Bamba, who is eligible for restricted free agency this summer, hopes to stick around in Orlando long term, writes Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel.

“I want to be here,” Bamba said of his NBA future. “I just want to make that clear. I’ll let that stuff handle itself and continue to work.”

As Price details, Bamba enjoyed his best year as a pro during the 2021/22 NBA season, averaging a career-best 10.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG and 1.2 APG across a career-most 25.7 MPG as a starter alongside fellow big man Wendell Carter Jr., who was drafted one slot behind Bamba in 2018. Bamba also did a good job protecting the rim, Price notes. A career 68.5% free-throw shooter, the 7’0″ Bamba also connected on a career-best 78.1% from the charity stripe on a modest 1.0 attempts per game.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After a disappointing 35-47 season, the Wizards face a fascinating summer. Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) provides a thorough preview of Washington’s offseason, contending that it all starts at finding a reliable point guard to play alongside shooting guard Bradley Beal, who could decline his $36.5MM player option this summer and enter free agency. Center Thomas Bryant will also be an unrestricted free agent. Marks notes that, when it comes to assets, the team possesses 10 tradable player contracts and a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
  • Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. intends to monitor the development of the team’s two most recent second-round selections, reserve point guard Cassius Winston and backup forward Isaiah Todd, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“It’s a big offseason for those two,” Unseld said. “It’s a big offseason for all of our young guys. You’re going to have a season of ebbs and flows. Consistency is the thing we’re searching for and that’s one thing that young players at times have difficulty with… I thought Cash had some really good moments. Not a ton of sample size with the Wizards, but even with [Washington’s NBAGL affiliate the Capital City Go-Go]. Both he and Isaiah had big games and great opportunities to learn and grow.” Winston averagd 12.7 PPG and 4.6 APG as a reserve with the Go-Go, while Todd logged 12.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG for Washington’s G League club.
  • While the Hawks won Game 3 on Friday to pull to within 2-1 in their first-round series, the Heat’s performance so far is showing Atlanta what the team still needs in order to make consistently deep playoff runs, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Kirschner opines that finding a great perimeter defender needs to be a top priority for the Hawks in their roster-building, as Miami All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler has largely been dominant against Atlanta wings De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter.

Southeast Notes: Unseld, Herro, Strus, Vincent, J. Johnson

Wes Unseld Jr. has been thrown into the deep end during his first year as an NBA head coach, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who notes that the Wizards have used a franchise-record 29 players in games this season.

Injuries, trades, and COVID-19 outbreaks have shaken up the Wizards’ roster, and Unseld himself missed multiple games when he contracted COVID. Despite having to deal with a somewhat chaotic first season in D.C., Unseld has tried his best to take it all in stride.

“With this being my first experience in this chair, in a weird way it’s the norm. I can’t compare it to anything,” Unseld told Hughes. “But it’s not lost on me that this has been a bizarre experience, just because of all the things that we’ve had to process and go through.”

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who is out for the rest of the season while he recovers from wrist surgery, said he had “huge respect” for the way Unseld has responded to a challenging year.

“That’s tough on a coach, a first-year coach,” Beal said. “I’m very impressed with how well he’s handled the adversity.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • With Tyler Herro extension-eligible beginning this July, Keith Smith of Spotrac takes a closer look at what the guard’s next contract might look like and considers how much the Heat should be comfortable paying to lock up a player who is currently a sixth man.
  • Now that the Heat‘s roster is healthier than it has been all season, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent aren’t getting the same sort of consistent minutes they were earlier in the year. However, as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes, the two reserves said they were prepared for that possibility, recognizing that the coaching staff needs to experiment with different lineups ahead of the postseason. “They got to play with things. They got to see what works, see what doesn’t work and try to get this chemistry going in a short span,” Vincent said. “I kind of knew it was coming. But you don’t really know how it’s going to go. You could only prepare for something like that so much.”
  • Nate McMillan‘s inclination to trust his veterans over rookies has meant there has been no NBA role this season for first-rounder Jalen Johnson, who has spent much of his rookie year in the G League. According to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, the Hawks are still very intrigued by the potential of Johnson, who was recalled today from the NBAGL with John Collins out, but it remains unlikely that he’ll see regular minutes this season.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Morris, Bamba, Ball, Thomas

Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. blasted his team’s defensive effort after Saturday’s 127-118 loss to the Blazers, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Washington allowed Portland to shoot 52% from the floor and 37% from three-point range. The Blazers were led by Josh Hart, who scored 44 points.

“It’s not something schematic, it’s some of the same issues,” Unseld explained. “We talked about the one-on-one containment, there’s no scheme for transition defense. “You can say okay, well, let’s take care of the ball, we can do that better. But when the shot goes up, there’s no scheme to say, ‘You have to be here, you have to be here, you have to be here,’ it’s an effort, a level of focus, communication that takes care of that.”

The Wizards also allowed 122 points in a loss to the Lakers on Friday. Los Angeles, led by LeBron James (50 points), shot 53% from the floor. On the season, Washington ranks just 24th in defensive rating and 18th in points allowed per game (111.2).

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Heat veteran Markieff Morris returned on Saturday for the first time since November 8, but the forward has no interest in hearing from Nikola Jokic, as relayed by Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Jokic’s hard shot on Morris caused whiplash for the 32-year-old, forcing him to miss most of the season. The hit came after Morris delivered a hard foul just seconds earlier. “F– nah, I don’t want to hear from him,” Morris snapped, according to Vardon. “He did what he did and it is what it is.”
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba has stepped up for the team in recent games, specifically in the paint, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Bamba recently finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks against the Timberwolves on Friday, helping his club win 118-110. He was drafted No. 6 overall in 2018 and is in his fourth season with the organization.
  • Hornets veteran Isaiah Thomas is impressed with young star LaMelo Ball, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer writes. “I mean, he’s going to be the face of this league,” Thomas said of Ball. “He’s already an All-Star. Give him two or three years and he’s going to be top-five, top-10 in this league easily. He’s a special talent. He’s very young. He has great energy. His pace to the game, you can’t teach his pace. And he’s, what, 6-foot-7? He has the full package.” Thomas is currently on his second 10-day deal with the Hornets and could be part of the rotation moving forward, Boone notes (via Twitter).

Eastern Notes: Raptors, Unseld Jr., Randle, Heat

The Raptors may find it hard to determine what they need ahead of the trade deadline, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. The deadline falls on February 10 this year, which is less than three weeks away.

“We’re trying to evaluate who exactly we are, and if you’re going to try to add a piece or two, which you’re always trying to do, saying, ‘What does this team need?’” head coach Nick Nurse said. “Even in the championship year you’re trying to figure out where can we make it that much better, that much deeper or whatever. It has been more difficult this year to figure it out.”

Like many teams, Toronto has dealt with availability issues this season due to COVID-19 and injuries. The team is currently in the play-in tournament picture at 22-21, good for the eighth-best record in the East.

Should they pursue a trade, the Raptors could benefit from upgrading their offense. The team ranks 27th in field goal percentage (43.6%), 21st in three-point percentage (34.1%), and 23rd in points per game (106.8). On the flip side, Toronto has made the third-fewest turnovers per game (12.6).

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). Unseld will return to coaching against the Celtics on Sunday. The club went 1-3 in the four contests he missed while in protocols.
  • The Knicks made Julius Randle‘s situation worse by not allowing him to speak to the media after a loss to New Orleans this week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News opines. New York was fined $25,000 for the decision. Randle has struggled in recent games, scoring four points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Pelicans. He was also fined $25,000 for using profane language during media interviews earlier this month.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines several notes related to the Heat, including the team’s upcoming game against the Lakers on Sunday. Current Lakers players LeBron James, Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington and Kendrick Nunn all hold experience with the Heat, though only James, Bradley and Ariza played in Los Angeles’ win over Orlando on Friday. Ellington received a DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision), while Nunn continues to rehab a bone bruise.

COVID Updates: Gobert, Gay, McDermott, Unseld Jr., Testing Procedures

The Jazz got some very good news on Friday, as center Rudy Gobert has exited the league’s health and safety protocols, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Utah’s defense has fallen apart without Gobert patrolling the middle. The Jazz’s defensive rating has ballooned to 120.8 in the five games he’s missed and they only won one of those contests. Forward Rudy Gay has also exited the protocols, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Utah plays its next game on Sunday.

We have more COVID-related news:

  • According to the league’s injury report for this evening’s games, Spurs forward Doug McDermott is no longer in the protocols. McDermott has not played since New Year’s Eve.
  • Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. has entered the protocols, according to a team press release. Pat Delany will assume acting head coaching duties for Saturday’s game against Portland.
  • Hornets big man Kai Jones has cleared the protocols and was eligible to play on Friday, the team tweets.
  • Players who remain unvaccinated or who are eligible for a booster shot will remain under daily surveillance and game day testing through February 17, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Those who are currently ineligible for a booster due to having been more recently vaccinated won’t be under those restrictions, NBA Communications tweets. Those restrictions also won’t apply to league staff members, since they are all fully vaccinated.

Southeast Notes: Oubre, Butler, Unseld, Capela

A few months before he reached free agency earlier this year, Kelly Oubre strongly suggested that he wanted to be a starter, telling reporters, “I can offer a lot more than coming off the bench.” However, he has been willing to accept a bench role with the Hornets so far, having started just five of 13 games for the team to open the season. On Wednesday, his reserve role put him in position for a historic performance — his 37 points off the bench represented a new franchise record for most points in a game by a non-starter, per Sam Perley of Hornets.com.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • As first reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Heat star Jimmy Butler will miss Thursday’s game vs. the Clippers due to his right ankle sprain. It remains unclear whether the injury will keep Butler out of action for multiple contests.
  • Count Montrezl Harrell among those who believe the Wizards hit a home run by hiring Wes Unseld Jr. as their new head coach this offseason. “I think it was just a great job picking the right head coach, man,” Harrell said, per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. “As you can see, it’s resulted in our play.” Washington is tied for the East’s best record at 8-3 and the team has the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA.
  • One reason for the Hawks‘ slow start to this season has been Clint Capela‘s inability to be the sort of two-way impact player he was last season, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Capela tells Kirschner that he’s still working his way back to 100% after dealing with a lingering Achilles issue. The veteran center was limited during training camp and head coach Nate McMillan doesn’t believe his conditioning is where it would be if he had been fully healthy. “The fact that he didn’t really start running until he got to training camp set him back,” McMillan said. “He’s now trying to play himself into game shape with the season starting.”

Southeast Notes: Powell, Hawks, Unseld Jr.

Kasib Powell has been named the Heat’s new G League head coach, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

The Sioux Falls Skyforce announced that Powell has been promoted from assistant coach. The Skyforce didn’t participate at the Orlando bubble last season.

“I’m honored to be named head coach of such a great organization, with so much history and prestige,” Powell said in a statement. “I look forward to guiding these young men to be the best they can be, both on and off the court.”

Powell spent two seasons with Sioux Falls as a player and earned the 2007/08 G League MVP award. Eric Glass, who coached the Skyforce during the 2019/20 season, has rejoined the Heat’s staff.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Following their unexpected run to the conference finals, the Hawks will hold themselves to a high standard, Zach Harper of The Athletic writes. They’ll need to figure out how to remain a steady contender without getting discouraged if they come up short of a deep playoff run next season, Harper continues. Atlanta made some roster tweaks but its success will be measured by internal growth, Harper adds. Overall, Harper gave the Hawks an A-minus grade for the offseason after retaining some key pieces and signing Trae Young to an extension.
  • With Wes Unseld Jr. entering his first season as the Wizards head coach, Chase Hughes and Andrew Gillis of NBC Sports Washington debate the topic of what would be considered a successful season for him. Both writers view a playoff appearance as the main expectation for a team that was eliminated in the opening round by Philadelphia last season.
  • In case you missed it, the Hornets have a new G League coach. Get the details here.

Unseld Jr.: Dinwiddie, Beal Will Be “Dynamic” Backcourt

Wes Unseld Jr. is excited about the talent he’ll have available with the Wizards in his first NBA head coaching job, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Although the former Nuggets associate head coach is leaving the No. 3 seed in the West for a team that had to go through the play-in tournament last season, Unseld believes Washington is ready to compete right away.

He’s particularly thrilled about the addition of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who agreed to a three-year, $62MM contract in free agency and was acquired in a complex five-team trade. Dinwiddie was a proficient scorer before missing most of last season with a partially torn ACL, and Unseld expects him and Bradley Beal to form a dangerous backcourt.

“On paper, it’s one of the most dynamic 1-2s, 2-1s, however you wanna call it, on the East Coast,” he said. “So, I’m excited to have both those guys. I think they’re about the right thing. I think they’re gonna play together, make us better. Honestly, the way they can score the ball, they’re gonna bail us out of a lot of tough spots.”

Unseld discusses several other topics in the lengthy interview with Katz:

On the versatility of Kyle Kuzma, who was acquired from the Lakers in the deal that included Dinwiddie:

“Whether you wanna call him a two, three or four, he’s gonna be out there. He’s gonna space the floor. He’s gonna make shots. I think the game has moved away from the standard point guard, two-guard, small forward, etc. I think you wanna put your best matchups out there.”

On sorting out playing time at center, where Daniel Gafford is expected to start, but Thomas Bryant will return from an ACL injury and newly-acquired Montrezl Harrell will also expect minutes:

“I made this point to those guys when I spoke to them. All of that is great, but all of our decisions are gonna be based on what’s best for the group. I may at times ask somebody to sacrifice a little bit for the betterment of the group. There’s times when I may ask (them) to do more. And I think that’s a fair way to look at it, and I think it’s just one of our pillars. It’s about us. It’s about ‘we,’ not ‘me.’ ”

On the plans for first-round pick Corey Kispert, who joins a team loaded with young wing players:

“I don’t know. I never wanna paint myself into a corner, commit to something I’m uncertain of, but I think he has a good chance to be impactful. I said at draft night, he’s got a discernible NBA talent. His maturity, the fact that he’s played four years at a high level for a great coach — he’s disciplined. He understands his strengths. He’s gonna play to his strengths. And his ability to stretch the defense is a premium in the league.”

On the significant changes the Wizards have undergone since the draft:

“On a macro level, (changes to the team) don’t change our overall philosophy when it comes to spacing, playing with pace, shots, as far as what we value. That doesn’t change. I think you’ve got to shift your gears as far as some of the nuanced things you run. … I think as coaches, we all steal from each other, so there are gonna be some things that are very similar-looking to what you’re accustomed to.”