In case you've been wondering, ex-Wizard Andray Blatche remains a free agent. In case you've been wondering how the skilled forward with a hefty amount of baggage handled the whole being amnesty thing, Blatche calls it a "blessing."And, if you've been wondering what he thought about all those "DNP-Conditioning" listed in box scores when the team shut him down during the second half of last season, wonder no more. Blatche shared his thoughts on that and more on Friday with the Syracuse Post-Standard, his hometown newspaper.The GMs came to me and said, You know, youve been hurt, youre out of shape, so lets say that youre working to get your body back right, to get over your wounds,"Blatche said. And then when I saw on the paper, not a DNP, but a conditioning, I was kind of upset because thats not what we talked about. But I ran with it because conditioning was part of it. But it was moreso the injuries that caused the conditioning problem.Apparently the Post-Standard reporter attempted to contact Ernie Grunfeld for his thoughts,but had no luck. Shucks. More interesting nuggets throughout the article, including...On being released by the Wizards: It was very tough, Blatche said Friday. It seemed like the Wizards had a string of bad luck with the gun situation and so on. Me getting amnesty this year wasnt more of a hurt to me, it was more of a blessing to me. Im looking at that as giving me a chance to go somewhere else and revive my career and become the player I used to be.On where he'll play next, even if it means going down a level: My dream destination right now would be back on the court. For real. Just to get back on the court, he said. Its something I love to do. It doesnt matter if its the Heat or the Spurs or the D League. Whatever. As long as Im back on the court playing ball."On going from a prep school star straight into theNBA: It was difficult coming from Syracuse, a small city, going to a big city like D.C., where there were a lot of colleges and probably one of the craziest nightlifes, Blatche said. I got there as a young kid and I didnt have my priorities straight at first. I was moreso basketball and having fun. But basketball wasnt about having fun any more. It was my job. It took me a few years to realize that. And once I did, I was better.Since May, Blatche has been living in Houston and working with John Lucas, the former University of Maryland star, Washington Bullets guard and noted life coach to many an NBA player. With Lucas overseeing a"regimen of yoga, weights and basketball", Blatche has gone from"a soft 282 pounds into the firmer, trimmer 268 he weighs today."
Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...
Washington Wizards, B+
2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough
Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.
Atlanta Hawks, B
2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor
The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.
Miami Heat, D
2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt
The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward.
Charlotte Hornets, C+
2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham
New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.
Orlando Magic, B+
2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo
The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.
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Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.
GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.
"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."
Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.
Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.
"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."
The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.
Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.
"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."
"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.
The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.
"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."
"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.
That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.
Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.
Many G-League teams do not go to that length.
"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.
The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.
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