Capitals

Huskies hope to erase painful end to last season

Huskies hope to erase painful end to last season

SEATTLE (AP) For all the firsts Lorenzo Romar has experienced in his decade-plus tenure at Washington, this was one he didn't want his program associated with.

Last March, after the Huskies captured the Pac-12 Conference regular season title, Washington flamed out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and left its postseason fate in the hands of the NCAA tournament committee. When the Huskies were bypassed for the NCAAs and forced to accept an NIT bid as a consolation prize, they became the first regular season champion of one of the six power conferences to not get an NCAA bid

Embarrassing as it was hearing that fact repeated constantly, it's now become motivation for the Huskies entering a new season rife with questions about how they will go about replacing two first-round picks in the NBA draft.

``I don't feel like we have this mentality that we have to prove the world wrong,'' Washington forward Desmond Simmons said. ``We do play with a chip on our shoulder, we all have a chip on our shoulder about the fact that we only went to the NIT last year.''

For the last four years, Washington has claimed either a regular season of conference tournament crown. It's the longest run of success at the top of the Pac-12 in Washington's hoops history.

Yet staying there for the 2012-13 season will be difficult. There are questions about scoring with the loss of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the NBA, front-court play and defense. Proven depth off the bench is also an issue and there have been changes in Romar's coaching staff.

It's the first time since the early years of Romar's return to his alma mater that Washington has not been expected to be a conference title contender. In some regards, the Huskies like it that way.

``We've got the underdog mentality and the fact we're going to have to come out here and work hard every day and we're going to have to try and grind out games and prove to everyone we're not fifth or sixth. We're trying to be the best,'' guard Abdul Gaddy said.

In many ways, Gaddy will end up being the tone setter for Washington.

On the defensive end, his ability to improve defending the perimeter will be a key considering that aspect of Washington's defense was a problem a year ago. Offensively, Gaddy will be at the head of the Huskies' new high-post offense, moving away from the motion system Romar used since the mid-2000s when Washington thrived on its athleticism.

Romar said the move to the high-post was based off personnel now and for the future. It's the system he was taught coaching on Jim Harrick's staff at UCLA and he saw the Bruins win a national title in 1995. It's proven to work, but will take time for the Huskies to master.

``Sometimes when you change your offense or change certain things you want to do within your team, guys fight it,'' Romar said. ``Our guys have embraced it. I think that's a really important piece in this whole thing.''

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of the new offense will be shooters C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs. Wilcox is Washington's top returning scorer after averaging 14.2 points last season, while Suggs returns after redshirting last season due to a foot injury. Because of how the new offense functions, the duo won't need to create their own shots as much, but should have open looks based off the system.

``There are not a lot of positions to break down one on one like there were last year,'' Wilcox said. ``It's more reading off of screens, what the defense does and finding open slots and the open man.''

Aziz N'Diaye and Simmons are the only proven players in Washington's frontcourt. N'Diaye's strength is at the defensive end, but adding additional offensive production could be important for the Huskies' success. The same could be said of Simmons: defense, a strength; offense, a question.

Behind those two lurk Washington's biggest depth questions. Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Breunig and Jernard Jarreau will all be counted on in the Huskies frontcourt. Kemp and Breunig played significant minutes last year, while Jarreau redshirted while adding weight to his lanky 6-foot-10 frame.

If Washington can answer those questions and navigate a strong non-conference schedule, they could erase the bitter memories of last season.

``It left a big chip in the fact that's one of the big reasons you come to college. You want to play in the NCAA tournament,'' Gaddy said. ``That's one of the perks of playing college basketball. You get to play in the NCAA tournament, where you get to have all those people come watch you. It's just a great moment you get to live. Us not being able to live in that moment made us upset.''

Quick Links

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

Quick Links

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

alex_smith_otas_2_ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler