Quick Links

Inside access: What's behind Wizards' offseason moves and what's next

Inside access: What's behind Wizards' offseason moves and what's next

LAS VEGAS -- The Wizards are in the midst of a good run at summer league, with Kelly Oubre’s playing like a lottery pick and quality free agents battling for just a training camp invite going into today’s quarterfinal game vs. the Chicago Bulls.

The result is important to the players who want to win. But the bigger picture takes precedent. If it wasn’t clear how much different the Wizards’ roster was shaping up after the start of free agency when they shifted to Plan C and D, it should be now. Whether or not it works out won’t be known for months:

  • Yes, there were other plans and anyone who suggests otherwise were overreacting to what they thought was inaction. Ernie Grunfeld didn’t buy a second-round pick in the 2016 draft or land Kevin Durant. That didn't mean there was no plan. It's just that everything paled in comparison after no Durant. Al Horford, Luol Deng and Ryan Anderson were strongly considered. That the Wizards were one of the final two teams Horford, a four-time All-Star, decided between isn’t a monumental failure of some sort. This was a 41-41 team that didn’t make the playoffs and unlike Durant he gave the Wizards a face-to-face meeting in Atlanta. That Horford thought highly enough to have the Wizards on his short list counts for something though ultimately it resulted in nothing. Acquiring him would’ve caused other dominoes to fall given his skill set and position but after Horford there weren’t many attractive options out there to extend a monster contract with an exploding salary cap.
  • Marcin Gortat is the starting center. Multiple league sources, as late as Friday night, told CSNmidatlantic.om that it’s not in the cards to make a move with the 6-11 center because of Ian Mahinmi’s signing (four years, $64 million). Of course, it's never safe to say never but as for now that appears to be the case.
  • Mahinmi being brought in as a backup isn't problematic but what about the size of the contract? It’s an indication of how highly Grunfeld regards him because of his defensive strengths. He has been a backup most of his career but doesn’t have the mileage of a 29-year-old. It’s still a hefty raise for a player who made $4 million as a starting center on a playoff team, the Indiana Pacers, last season. The Wizards could’ve had Zaza Pachulia, CSN has confirmed with multiple league sources, for less (two years, $20 million) but went with Mahinmi instead. There were discussions between the sides but the Wizards were non-committal and Pachulia ended up signing with the Golden State Warriors for just one year and $3 million. Pachulia is three years older and faded down the stretch last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Mahinmi could end up being better in 2016-17, but $13 million-a-year better? How both perform next season will be worth monitoring.
  • The Wizards aren’t done with summer league because more roster changes look imminent. Getting Jarell Eddie to agree to push back is guarantee date Friday makes that obvious. The Wizards want to keep flexibility to do something else with the promise to Eddie that he’ll be taken care off ($980,000). Eddie has done more than enough to earn his regular-season roster spot. The Wizards still will have a couple spots open and have paid small guarantees to Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Sheldon McClellan to attend training camp in September. At least one of them makes the cut and they'll keep that final spot open, likely for a veteran, as this roster has quickly skewed younger in age and experience.

Quick Links

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener


Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.


Quick Links

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

John Wall and Bradley Beal will depend on each other more than ever in year 7

The Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal take them. There's just no other way around it.

The chemistry between Wall and Beal has been the dominant topic for years surrounding this team, and the magnifying glass will only be pushed closer this season, despite all of the other additions the Wizards made this offseason.

It's all about the backcourt. 

Luckily, both Wizards All-Stars understand and embrace the pressure. 

"We're opposites, but we're the same in a way," Beal told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. "He's more loud and outspoken, I'm more chill and relaxed, but you put us together, it's peanut butter and jelly."

Have you noticed that peanut butter and jelly always seems to be the go-to "good combination" for people? At least Beal didn't say something weird like tuna and bananas, although to each his own if that's what you like.

Anyway, more importantly, Wall understands this sandwich dynamic just as much as Beal does. Especially when the topic of a championship comes up. 

"I couldn't get it without him, and he couldn't do it without me," Wall said.  "I think that's the bond we have built, and it's gotten so much better each year."

One of the biggest reasons for divorce that we see in pro sports is ego. So many players don't understand what Wall alluded to. No matter how good you are, you can't do it alone. You need your wingman.

There were certainly rumblings or worries that Wall and Beal had their issues chemistry-wise earlier in their careers, but we're seeing two young stars grow as each season passes. 

That doesn't mean there still won't be times where they don't click. That's natural.

Keep in mind though, this is the seventh season the two will play together. The NBA is known to chew up and spit out young, inexperienced teams. The grind is part of the journey. Wall and Beal have had playoff success and failures, but they went through it together.

Now comes the time where those learning experiences become something they grow from, and use it to fuel a push to their ultimate goal – a championship.

And maybe a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich.