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Dissecting the Wizards' strangest offseason move

Dissecting the Wizards' strangest offseason move

If we're being honest, most and perhaps all of the Wizards' offseason moves lack pizzazz. That's no biggie outside of box office concerns. Individually, the new additions are largely justifiable. All but one.

Apologies for singling out Marcus Thornton, though this discussion is less about the player and more about the decision to re-sign the veteran guard so early in free agency. It's also over a back-of-the-bench type, which is to say the season won't rise or fall on this single call, even one this hmmm inducing.

Other than actual talent, the most valuable commodities for NBA teams during free agency are salary cap space and roster spots. After three signings (Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith), one trade (Trey Burke) and two yet-to-be-signed agreements (Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky), the Wizards are essentially out of cap space.

Yet flexibility remains. There's the $2.9 million "room" exception. Another trade perhaps. The Las Vegas Summer League is about unearthing (cost-effective) talent and the Wizards' roster alone includes a few intriguing prospects.  Most of all, there are roster spots. With the new guys plus the six returnees, Washington had 11 of its potential 15 slots filled by July 5. That left room for:

* Veteran wing capable of sliding in should Beal's injury history resurface or the unproven options (Kelly Oubre Jr., Satoransky) aren't immediately ready for large roles.

* More perimeter shooting beyond Beal.

* Young prospects to help fill in the gap from having no 2016 draft picks.


Two days later, they re-signed Thornton to a one-year deal. The cost, a veteran's minimum, is negligible. Giving up the roster spot before Summer League tipped and with free agency still flowing is not.

There is nothing wrong with having a player like Thornton, if not the actual Thornton on a roster. Signed by Washington late last season following his release from Houston, the volume shooter helped stabilize the backcourt by providing scoring punch, though he only sank a third of his 3-point attempts. Since the 6-foot-4 Thornton, 29, offers little in the way of athleticism or ball handling or defense, we're looking at a non-rotational fifth guard.

Teams need fifth guards. They just don't need one with scant upside (again, sorry, Marcus) seven days into free agency. Players with Thornton's general skill set and journeyman résumé (seven teams in seven seasons) are available in August after other options fade or October when training camp starts, if not January or February.

 If Beal misses 19 or more games for the fourth time in five seasons, Thornton isn't the day-to-day answer. Alan Anderson, if the docs say he's good to go following an injury-plagued season, could be. Bringing back the swingman or another experienced option would make the Thornton add even odder.

Jarell Eddie ended up buried on Randy Wittman's bench last season, but his quick shot release can bury bombs.  The Wizards delayed any decision on the 24-year-old's contract for next season. The franchise handed out partially guaranteed contracts to three undrafted rookies: guard Sheldon McClellan, forward Danuel House, and center Daniel Ochefu. Those deals are about allowing Washington a longer look into training camp without any major long-term commitment. Aaron White, the Wizards' 2015 second-round pick, is with team in Vegas. Israeli product Shawn Dawson might dribble-drive his way into a camp invite while Nate Wolters could impress with his floor game,

These are the type of players, all 25 and under, that ideally fill the final 2-3 roster spots especially for a team:

* Looking to get younger after going the AARP route in recent seasons

* That should take flyers on potential seeing as that over the last three NBA Drafts (six rounds) they made only two picks.

If the kids flame out during Summer League (which they didn't) or land better offers elsewhere, should Anderson talks stall, that's when Thornton's number is dialed. He's useful. Teams need bench scoring. They also ideally aim for more with precious roster spots one week into free agency.

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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.


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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has been all smiles in public when discussing his rehab from Achilles surgery. He has even remarked how smoothly this recovery has gone compared to others he's underwent in the past.

But his road back from a ruptured left Achilles has not been entirely free of obstacles. He revealed to NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast recently that he dealt with an infection that delayed him getting out of his walking boot.

That was already weeks after he first had surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel in January. He had a series of infections following that procedure, one of which helped doctors discover his Achilles had torn during a fall in his home.

Wall can admit now after the fact it was a difficult time for him.

"I've just put in a lot of hard work," he said. "For me to be where I'm at right now, with all the setbacks and infections and then finding out my Achilles was ruptured and then going through another infection, it was like 'man, when can I ever get past that point of just getting out of the boot and walking?'"

What made that last part particularly frustrating was where Wall makes his offseason home. He summers in Miami, a place notorious for its humidity.

"I was in Miami during the summertime in a boot. Like, man, I don't want to be in hot Miami in a boot, sweating," he said.

Nowadays, things are much better for Wall. He is doing on-court work at the Wizards' practice facility. He can shoot jumpers and do individual ball-handling and passing drills. He can jog and lift weights.

After months of waiting to just have his walking boot come off, Wall is very appreciative to simply be able to do anything on the basketball court.

"Just to do the ball-handling and be able to shoot and do the weight-lifting, that's a great aspect [of my progress]. It makes it easier for me because I'm in a great space where it's fun," he said. 

"I'm able to do what I'm able to do, even if I'm not playing at a high speed and running up and down, I'm able to shoot and do ball-handling. That's what I love to do."

Wall continues to make progress, now nine months removed from the Achilles surgery he had on Feb. 12. He is likely to be out at least three more months, and he could miss all of the 2019-20 season.

At some point, Wall may get restless, but he continues to preach patience towards his return. When asked by Chris Miller if he will start bothering the coaches soon to play, he said he's just happy to be back on the court in practice.