Wizards

Quick Links

Kevin Durant 'excited' for new coach's arrival

usatsi_8418413.jpg

Kevin Durant 'excited' for new coach's arrival

The Wizards playing in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a second straight season and having a sincere chance to advance at least another round is the local basketball story right now. All kinds of future narratives may change depending on what happens over the next few weeks.

That doesn't change the interest in a certain big picture angle, one thats been over-discussed for months yet isn't going away anytime soon. At least not until Kevin Durant tells the world his future plans. 

As for Durant's immediate future, that became a bit clearer this week for the Oklahoma City Thunder forward with the hiring of former University of Florida coach Billy Donovan.

MORE NBA: WIZARDS HAVE SCHEDULE, BUT NO OPPONENT, YET

"When you don't have a coach, it's a lot of uncertainty in the building," Durant said Thursday during a phone interview with ESPN. "But coming into the practice facility today, I felt like it was a next step for us. It was an exciting feeling for everybody that was there at the gym today to learn that we got Billy as our coach. We're excited, so we're looking forward to it."

Donovan replaces Scott Brooks, who coached the Thunder the past seven seasons, including a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals. Durant's injured foot, which is arguably the main question regarding the high-scoring forward's future, and other bumps and bruises throughout the roster derailed Oklahoma City's 2014-15 season, leaving the Thunder just outside the playoff picture. 

Durant is slated to enter free agency in the summer of 2016, meaning Donovan essentially has one year to make the case for the D.C. native to stay in Oklahoma City. Donovan alone won't be the decisive factor, but the two-time college basketball national title-winning coach with no NBA coaching experience and no connection to his star player is certainly a new variable.

During a Wizards/NBA podcast this week, one side declared KD2DC dead because why would Donovan take the job if there weren't assurances his stars - including 2017 free agent Russell Westbrook - were staying put. The other side countered that Donovan has flirted with the NBA before and now had the opportunity to coach two of the best players in the NBA. Typically coaches in Donovan's spot wind up hoping they can help turn a rebuild into a contender. Therefore, Donovan's risk is a worthy gamble, but doesn't mean Durant's made any decision. Home is still home, after all. 

Donovan will be introduced as the Thunder's coach on Thursday.

Other thoughts from Durant during his interview:

Donovan's lack of NBA experience: "I wouldn't say it matters. If you know how to coach a team, that's all that matters. He's been at one of the highest levels of basketball and won a title. That's tough to do. So you can't just downplay what he's done in the college ranks and just automatically say he's not going to be great in the pros. He produced a lot of pros, and they all love him."

Limited exposure to his new coach: "I met him one time out in Vegas. He was there for USA Basketball. And I've heard good things about him. I'm sure we'll click pretty quickly. But I don't have a relationship with him. I don't know him. He didn't recruit me at Florida, so I don't really know him too well."

Getting his own 411 on the former Florida coach: "I reached out to Chandler Parsons and Mike Miller, and they just told me great things."

Possible growing pains with a new relationship: "It's going to take some time. I think just for him over the summer is big for him to get to know more guys. Obviously he's watched us before and knows what our strengths and weaknesses are as players.

"But I know he's going to do a good job because from what I've heard he works extremely hard, his attention to detail is one of the best and everybody's been telling me he's an NBA coach coaching in college. So I'm excited. I'm very excited to learn from him and get better from him and try my best to do whatever he tells me to do. I can't wait to get started."

Quick Links

Wizards likely to sign free agent Okaro White to fill 14th roster spot, per source

usatsi_10442527.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards likely to sign free agent Okaro White to fill 14th roster spot, per source

The Wizards are set to sign free agent power forward Okaro White to fill their 14th roster spot, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Washington needs to add a 14th player to reach the league roster minimum after they waived guard Chasson Randle on Nov. 11. Technically, they have until Nov. 25, per league rules which allow teams to carry 13 players for 14 days.

White, 26, has played two NBA seasons, both with the Miami Heat. He was undrafted out of Florida State University and has also spent time with the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs despite not appearing in regular season games with them.

White has played 41 total NBA games. He has career averages of 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Though White will get an NBA roster spot, he could see time with the team's G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. At the NBA level, he gives the Wizards another big man, which could come in handy depending on how long Dwight Howard is affected by his piriformis muscle injury.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Some of those dings were justifiable. He complained about his lack of offensive touches received in latter seasons. His candor or choice of words played a part in certain flare-ups, including a tweet last season about a "team" win during a stretch with John Wall sidelined that started. That former controversy appears quaint by this week's standards.

Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with his former pick-and-roll partner soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: