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Hawks' backup Jose Calderon shocks Wizards with 'podium game'

Hawks' backup Jose Calderon shocks Wizards with 'podium game'

ATLANTA -- Jose Calderon had a podium game against the Wizards. Jose Calderon, a backup point guard for the Atlanta Hawks who routinely is out of his element when attempting to defend anyone in the starting backcourt.

Not so much Monday, when he took on a bigger role with Dennis Schroder's three first-quarter fouls changing the tone. The Hawks went from down 27-18 to ahead 59-50 at halftime behind the spark provided by Calderon (10 points, five assists) and Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists) in a 111-101 victory in Game 4 to tie the series at 2.

"I always think I'm going to be on the podium," Calderon said after playing 20 minutes and making 4 of 9 shots, inlcuding two three-pointers. 

Calderon, 35, is in his 12th NBA season and rarely has had success against the physical, athletic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Wizards couldn't exploit is defensive deficiences.

"They both played well," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Calderon and Bazemore. "One thing I do know about Jose -- I don't know him but I've seen him enough -- he's a winner. He's a winning basketball player.

"He came in, played well, took care of the game. ... He makes winning basketball plays for every team he's been on."

Bazemore isn't a creator off the dribble. Usually, he's a turnover waiting to happen if he dribbles too much but he led his team in assists -- off the bench. 

[RELATED: Toughness and defense are two reasons Wizards lost Game 4]

While the Wizards would tie it at 77 entering the fourth, that was enough for Schroder to come back and not have to play from a hole. He could be aggressive and was as he finished with 18 points. All came in the second half. 

This was Calderon's night. He was a free agent after getting his release from the L.A. Lakers and was signing with the Golden State Warrors.

Their needs changed, however, after Kevin Durant's knee injury late in the season and they chose to go with a forward, Matt Barnes, instead.

That left Calderon a free agent again and coach Mike Budenholzer, who also is the Hawks' team president, pounced.

"Jose Calderon, pretty special with what he did tonight with Dennis in foul trouble," Budenholzer said. "Dennis has been such a huge part of the first three games. So much of what we do is through Dennis.

"We need to send a little thank-you note to the Warriors. No doubt, Jose has infected us with his spirit. He's been great."

Calderon's final bucket came at 9:11 of the fourth quarter, when the Hawks began pulling away after the score was tied at 77 after the third had ended. 

He slipped in front of the Wizards' defenders for a tip-in and an 89-81 lead. There was no recovery from it. 

[RELATED: Brandon Jennings says Game 5 'is a must-win game']

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.

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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.

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