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Brad Stevens admires 'cool stuff' Wizards are doing under Scott Brooks

Brad Stevens admires 'cool stuff' Wizards are doing under Scott Brooks

NEW ORLEANS -- Who would ever think that a young, innovative coach like Brad Stevens has lifted ideas from teams such as the Wizards, even under previous coach Randy Wittman, to build the Boston Celtics into the second-best team in the East?

According to Stevens, who'll coach the East All-Stars in Sunday's game, that's exactly the case. And it probably explains why the Celtics are so easily adaptable to any situation and can get high-percentage looks consistently from after-timeout plays.

The Celitcs are 37-20 at the All-Star break. The Wizards sit at 34-21 for third place under first-year coach Scott Brooks, and that includes a 2-1 sereies lead over their rival. He's had better success than coach Randy Wittman who went 0-4 as the Wizards' coach in a 41-41 season a year ago. 

"Scott is a great coach. Does a lot of little tweaks and cool stuff. I felt that way about Randy, too," said Stevens. "I stole a lot from Randy when he was coaching. A lot. Credit to Scott and his staff and credit to those players. They're having a great run. They've handled us twice. We weren't competitive in two of the three games we played against them."

The reverence for Stevens in the Wizards' locker room is real because every time they thought they had the Celtics figured out, they did not. Stevens drew up a set that resulted in an uncontested layup for Jae Crowder with four seconds left in what would be a 119-117 win in Washington on Jan. 16, 2016. It was a play the Wizards, who were meticulous in their game-planning under Wittman, had never seen. 

The ball was inbounded over the to of Kelly Oubre, where Stevens knew there wouldn't be weakside help or rotation. It was one of those soul-crushing, midseason defeats that could've been a turning point that became a stumbling block for the Wizards.

A year later, however, this is how the Wizards are catching opponents off-guard with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. The guards have used their size to their advantage on inbounds and after-timeout plays, getting entry passes into the low or mid post for easy baskets. 

Those aren't play calls. Those are just reads that allow the inbounder, usually Otto Porter or an adept passer such as Markieff Morris, to exploit mismatches where they present themselves. 

"I think the biggest thing you can be as consistent in what you do every single night. I think that (other) stuff gets overrated," Stevens said. "They are on an incredible roll of consistent play."

MORE WIZARDS: KID REPORTER STORMS OFF AFTER HEARING WALL'S FAVORITE DISH

 

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5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

5 biggest 2020 offseason questions for the Wizards, like will Davis Bertans re-sign?

Now that their 2019-20 season is finally over after nearly 10 full months, the Wizards' offseason is going to pick up very soon. The draft lottery is on Aug. 20, so just one week after their season finished.

The Wizards are entering one of the most important offseasons for them in recent memory. Here are the five biggest questions they will need to address...

Will Davis Bertans re-sign?

The No. 1 question for the Wizards this offseason centers around their most prominent free agent. Bertans enjoyed a breakout season in Washington after coming over in a trade from the Spurs last summer. But he is an unrestricted free agent and he won't be cheap, as he is now legitimately one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He can impact games dramatically despite barely touching the ball.

The WIzards made a bet that they could re-sign Bertans by not trading him at the deadline in February. Now it will be up to general manager Tommy Sheppard to seal the deal. The good news is that there is mutual interest. Bertans likes playing in Washington and is intrigued by the role he could play next season with John Wall and Bradley Beal back. Bertans could be a perfect complement to them and help supercharge the Wizards' offense into one of the very best in the NBA. Re-signing him is the top priority for the team this offseason, as NBC Sports Washington has reported, now they just have to get it done.

Will Scott Brooks be back?

This isn't really much of a question, barring something unforeseen. But it is worth addressing solely because Brooks only has one year left on his contract and that can often force decisions to be made with coaches. The overwhelmingly safe bet is for Brooks to enter the final year of his deal and for both sides to play it by ear. If they reach expectations next season, or exceed them, maybe he sticks around beyond 2020-21. If they don't, both sides can part without calling it a firing.

Back before the pandemic hit, like right when it hit, I was working on a story involving Brooks' contract where I interviewed his agent, Warren LeGarie. The world has changed quite a bit since then, but LeGarie made some interesting points at the time. One is that Brooks has been down this road before, coaching out the final year of a contract. He did that in Oklahoma City once. LeGarie, who has also represented Sheppard, called Brooks "re-energized" by the team's youth movement and "all-in" on their future. He said they would "be open" to continuing the partnership beyond next season if that's where things went. Basically, both sides seem ready to keep it rolling at least into next year and see what happens.

Who will they draft?

If they do re-sign Bertans, they will not have a ton of money left to spend in free agency thanks to the max deal for Beal and the supermax contract for Wall. That leaves trades and the draft as the best way for the team to make significant improvements to their roster. And because they missed the playoffs, the Wizards will have a high first round draft pick, which will give them a chance to add another blue chip young player on a cheap contract.

They have the ninth-best odds in the lottery, which gives them a high possibility of selecting in the top-10 and a 20.2 percent chance of picking in the top-four. If they pick around 10th, then it could be tough for that player to contribute right away, unless they find another Rui Hachimura-type, whom they got at No. 9 last summer. But if they move up closer to the top, they could land an instant impact player like Anthony Edwards of Georgia or James Wiseman of Memphis. Given his position, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, Wiseman seems like the obvious best fit for the team in a dream scenario. There are also some intriguing options like LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Obi Toppin and Tyrese Haliburton who could be in the mix at the top.

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Who starts at forward?

The Wizards have some parts of their roster that are settled going into next year. We know what their backcourt will look like and, unless something shocking happens, we know Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will likely be in the frontcourt. Now, Troy Brown Jr. or Isaac Bonga or even Bertans could fill that fifth spot, but for several reasons it appears to be the most likely area they could find an upgrade.

Brown and Bonga are young players who could be best placed on the bench. Bertans also fits well there given his ability to change games as a microwave scorer and the defensive concerns you would have with him and the rest of the starting lineup. So, if the Wizards do want to use the rest of their money on a free agent, or target something significant in a trade, forward is the place to look. Whether that's a three or a four depends on how they view the short-term future of Hachimura. One name my colleague Chris Miller has thrown out there that makes a lot of sense is Jerami Grant of the Nuggets. He defends multiple positions and defense is a major need for the Wizards. His brother, Jerian, also happens to already be on the team.

Will they swing big or stay measured?

We know the timeline is going to speed up for the Wizards considerably this offseason with Wall coming back and Beal entering another year of his prime. They can't take the longview like they did a year ago. They want to win and that will dictate how they operate this offseason, which means veterans will likely be favored over young players to an extent. But to what extent, we don't know. What the Wizards have to balance is the possibility Wall and Beal do not work out once they reunite. And if things ever did go south, you wouldn't want to leave yourself in a position where you mortgaged the future and are left with nothing to show for it.

Also, when it comes to making win-now moves, there are different degrees of that. There is the method of putting together an experienced, playoffs-worthy bench. And then there is the method of thinking much bigger and trying to obtain another star on the level of Wall or Beal, or one that is even better. That, of course, is easier said than done, but the Wizards do have some options now with all the young players they have and the high draft pick they are set to receive. They have some trade assets to to work with. Stranger things have happened.

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Kendrick Perkins believes Giannis Antetokounmpo got star treatment in suspension for headbutt

Kendrick Perkins believes Giannis Antetokounmpo got star treatment in suspension for headbutt

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo received a one-game suspension for his headbutt of Wizards forward Moe Wagner during the teams' matchup on Tuesday.

Though the suspension itself was not a true surprise, the length of the punishment was. For a move that could have seriously put another player in danger, Antetokounmpo was only forced to miss the final seeding game in Orlando, which did not matter for his team and many expected him not to play in anyways.

On ESPN's The Jump, ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe explained how he was not shocked by terms of the suspension, as it is on par for what the league has done in the past.

"I think the precedent is, one game is typical," Lowe said. "Giannis wasn’t playing this game anyway."

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Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins had a very different opinion on the matter.

Stemming from the fact that Antetokounmpo wasn't even planning to play in the game he missed, Perkins viewed the treatment as a weak slap on the wrist by the NBA. He felt as if the star's reputation impacted the punishment and that it sets a bad example for the rest of the league.

"Yes, it was unfair. This is not MMA, this is basketball. You cannot be headbutting people," Perkins said. "Giannis got star treatment because anybody else would have at least got two-to-three games, right? One game suspension for headbutting somebody? This is professional basketball. I do not think it's fair. One game."

Perkins makes a reasonable point, as Antetokounmpo could have easily caused a lot of harm to either his head or Wagner's, and trauma to that area can have serious consequences. Still, it is interesting to see Perkins take that stance when one considers his past experiences in the NBA. Host Rachel Nichols recalled an incident with Tyreke Evans in 2015 in which Perkins appeared to headbutt Evans.

Perkins explained that was different, as he was not deliberately trying to headbutt him. If he had, he says the outcome would have been a lot different.

"My headbutt wasn’t, uh, I didn’t put that into it. We kinda just bumped heads," Perkins said. "You're talking about me and Tyreke Evans. I remember that because I was trying to protest that that wasn’t a headbutt, I didn’t deliberately throw a blow."

"If I woulda headbutted Tyreke I woulda knocked him out!" Perkins said. 

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