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Mack positively on point

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Mack positively on point

After all that went on this past offseason, nobody could blame Shelvin Mack if his usual upbeat demeanor turned sour.

By his own admission the rising second-year point guard's summer league experience "didn't go the way I planned."

Days later after that Las Vegas experience, the Wizards decided not to roll the dice with only Mack and John Wall directing the offense and added A.J. Price. Once Washington learned Wall would miss two months with an injury, another veteran, Jannero Pargo, joined the mix. Suddenly Mack's role appeared uncertain, perhaps his roster spot as well.

That's why most would understand if Mack showed up to training camp down and dejected.

One look at the former Butler University star's Twitter account would let you know that's just not his style.

Not the most prolific of tweeters, Mack's timeline is peppered with the simple message "Think positive." His most recent sunny side up tweet went out to his followers the morning of the Wizards final day of practice at George Mason University. Just don't think the 22-year-old is one of those naive types who doesn't grasp the adult world he now occupies.

"It's a business. Have to stay positive. Every year someone's coming in the NBA, someone's going out," Mack said. "Same thing with the Miami Heat. They got some new players this year even though they won the championship last year. You try and get better. They feel like guys coming in are making the team better that's what we need for our team."

Plus, as the Wizards have harshly learned before even opening training camp, injuries do occur, which leads to opportunity for those prepared to grab it.

"Something is going to happen, like John getting hurt," Mack. "We didn't want that to happen, but it did so it provides an opportunity. Just staying positive, you have the best chance to take advantage of the opportunity instead of staying negative. When you're down, you're not ready for the opportunity and it slips by."

One early opportunity came Sunday in Charlotte. With Wall and Pargo sidelined, the point guard responsibilities fell to Mack and Price, who was part of a starting unit that struggled mightily offensively. Playing with the second unit, Mack doled out seven assists. He did so with nary a turnover. The rest of the team coughed the ball up 20 times.

"You can tell hes got a year under him," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I can see a little more confidence. Definitive running this play, running that play. Thats from being here, I think. Thats a good thing to see."

Mack definitively running this, that or any play was not always the case during the games in Vegas where charitably it could be said his transition from playing off to on the ball remained a work in progress. Not allowing memories of those games to linger, Mack stuck around in Las Vegas where he participated in long time NBA assistant coach Tim Grgurich's skills camp - and where he put himself back on a positive path.

"It helped me out a lot," Mack said. "Summer league didn't go the way I planned. Two weeks later, I had a chance to play against another level of NBA talent at the Grgurich camp. I played well out there. They did a good job of breaking down the point guard position, helped me with the little things. Little pocket passes, just taking care of the ball. I carried it on over to the preseason when we got here in September. I've continued to build on it."

As for where he picked up his half-glass full outlook, Mack says "in college with (Butler) Coach (Brad) Stevens. He comes with a positive attitude every day. It builds, it makes everyone around you happy. If you're thinking positive, the next guy will think positive. If you're like "oh why did I miss that shot", they're going to think the same thing when they have the opportunity."

Considering the Wizards doom and gloom play in recent years, keeping around those who know how to turn frowns upside down might be wise. Considering the Wizards point guard concerns with Wall out of the lineup for the season's opening month, having this decisive version of Shelvin Mack around might not be so bad either.

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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

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Tim Connelly won’t take top Wizards job, to stay in Denver

There won’t be a Tim Connelly reunion with the Washington Wizards after all.

Connelly passed on the opportunity to become the Wizards President of Basketball Operations, and instead will remain in the same capacity with the Denver Nuggets, a source confirms to NBC Sports Washington. ESPN first reported on Connelly's decision.

Washington received permission to meet with Connelly late Thursday evening. He left the NBA Combine in Chicago and flew to Washington Friday for a discussion with Leonsis, a source told NBC Sports Washington. On Friday, Connelly reportedly received the offer to fill the front office vacancy created by the firing of Ernie Grunfeld on April 2.

While the interest in the Wizards was genuine from the Baltimore native, Catholic University alum and former member of Washington's front office, Connelly could not leave the "stable" situation with significant promise in Denver, a source told NBC Sports Washington.  

Connelly, 41, was named Denver’s general manager in 2013. The Nuggets won 54 games and finished the 2018-19 regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The roster, headlined by All-NBA center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray, is the second-youngest in the NBA. "Tough to give that up," the source said. "Too much to risk."

The Wizards are coming off a polar opposite campaign that ended with a 32-50 record. Significant uncertainty exists going forward with five-time All-Star John Wall expected to miss a large chunk of the 2019-20 season as his four-year, $170 million supermax contract extension kicks in.

Leonsis began a deliberative search process for a new President of Basketball Operations after dismissing Grunfeld, who held the position for 16 years.  While other candidates were interviewed during the process, including interim GM Tommy Sheppard, Connelly’s name was linked to the opening almost from the start.

Connelly considered Leonsis' handling of the discussions first class, according to a source.

Sheppard, former Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver are the other known primary candidates.

In April, NBC Sports Washington first reported Connelly considered the Wizards his “dream job,” according to sources. The Catholic University alum began his NBA career as an intern with Washington in 1996 before holding various full-time front office positions under Grunfeld. He left for New Orleans in 2010.

The Wizards face significant challenges before re-entering contention in the Eastern Conference. With Wall injured, two-time All-Star Bradley Beal is the only healthy returning starter. 2018 first round pick Troy Brown Jr. is the only other valued long-term asset beyond the ninth overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft,

More than half of last season’s roster is entering some form of free agency. Washington could have limited salary cap space depending on which players return.

The situation requires the kind of roster-shaping creativity Connelly demonstrated in Denver. The Wizards now must look elsewhere for their new front office leader.

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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Combine rankings shakeup

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2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Post-Combine rankings shakeup

The 2019 NBA Combine has come and gone. Impressions made will linger. 

Before revealing the updated and expanded 2019 NBA Draft Big Board, we dive into news and notes coming out of three days in Chicago.

Also, check out insight into the Wizards options with the ninth overall selection and the latest NBC Sports Washington NBA mock draft.

*Based on conversations with six NBA teams and other league sources, here’s a list of players that stood out during the two days of 5-on-5 scrimmages. Note projected lottery and first-round selections largely did not participate other than Tennessee’s Grant Williams:

Nic Claxton -- The 6-foot-11 center entered the Combine outside of first-round projections. Now the sense is “late first” assuming he remains in the draft after Claxton’s impressive defensive work protecting the rim and switching on the perimeter when needed.

Tremont Waters -- The small point guard tested the NBA Draft pool after leading LSU to the Sweet 16. That looks like a savory decision after a team source declared the one-time Georgetown recruit as the best player during Thursday’s action. The 5-foot-11 Waters splashed 3-pointers off the dribble, showed quick hands defensively and posted a 40-inch vertical.

Jalen Lecque – The Brewster Academy product/NC State recruit received the most praise from various sources, though the unknown with the high schooler likely played some part. The 6-foot-4 guard with a 43-inch vertical leap received lofty athletic comparisons -- his nickname is “Baby Westbrook” -- and his skill in spots matched the hype. The 18-year-old skipped the second day of scrimmages after receiving positive feedback from teams, ESPN reported. There’s a rung to climb before the first-round talk, but scouts certainly took notice.

Luka Samanic -- The 6-foot-10 forward “made friends” within the scouting community after flashing his smooth athleticism, steady shooting stroke and hoops smarts during Thursday’s session. Samanic entered the Combine outside the top 30-35 selections. That probably won’t be the case soon.

Isaiah Roby -- Hey, an upperclassman. The 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan made noise with his full-court skills and defensive versatility. According to one source, Roby would stay in the draft if a top 40 selection. How teams decipher his limited shooting numbers last season -- 33 percent on 3-pointers, 68 percent from the free throw line -- could determine which side of that projection he falls.

Others: Brian Bowen, Darius Bazley, Devon Dotson, Cody Martin, Tacko Fall, Jordan Bone

*The trend of top prospects sitting out the scrimmages went up another level to the chagrin of NBA teams. Williams was the only top-35 on ESPN’s pre-Combine list to scrimmage. That the SEC Player of the Year struggled with his shot and perhaps slid a tick won’t help the argument that players should play. “Agents control things,” one NBA general manager mused. “What can you do?”

*The Wizards met with several prospects potentially available in the 31-40 range, another sign of the franchise’s intentions to buy into the second round. That group includes Oregon forward Louis King.

The 6-foot-8 forward offers a 7-foot wingspan. The 39 percent 3-point shooter at Oregon was one of the top “on the move” shooters from 15 feet during non-game shooting drills in Chicago.

“This is great exposure for people that declared for the draft,” the Ducks’ leading scorer told NBC Sports Washington. “I felt like helping my team get to the Pac 12 championship and the (NCAA Tournament’s) Sweet 16, having a lot of confidence in my game, I was ready for the league."

*We can probably remove Ty Jerome from that early second-round grouping. One source put his draft range at 18-22 based on teams interviewing the Virginia guard -- I’ll note Jerome stood out in our 1-on-1 interview -- and reviewing his shooting prowess.

*As for the overall first round, here’s a rough look based on tiers.

We start with Zion Williamson, then Ja Morant with maybe RJ Barrett. From there think 4-9 with that group perhaps expanding or decreasing by a player or two. Then we go 10 to early 20’s. While there’s always the chance a single player stands out for a specific team, the sense from Chicago is this large group makes the idea of trading down from say 9 more hopeful than likely.

2019 NBA Draft Big Board

1. Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. RJ Barrett, SG, Duke

4. De'Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

5. Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

6. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

7. Coby White, SG, UNC

8. Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

9. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, International

10. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

11. Bol Bol, PF, Oregon

12. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

13. Rui Hachimura, PF, Gonzaga

14. Nassir Little, SF, UNC

15. PJ Washington, PF, Kentucky

16. Goga Bitadze, C, International 

17. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

18. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Va. Tech

19. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

20. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky

21. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia 

22. Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky 

23. Cameron Johnson, PF, UNC

24. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee 

25. Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

26. Luka Samanic, PF, Croatia

27. Carsen Edwards, SG/PG, Purdue

28. Nicolas Claxton, C, Georgia

29. KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

30. Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas

31. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

32. Admiral Schofield, PF, Tennessee

33. Luguentz Dort, SG, Arizona State

34. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

35. Mfiondu Kabengele, PF, Florida State

36. Eric Paschall, PF, Villanova

37. Isaiah Roby, SF, Nebraska

38. Jalen Lecque, SG, USA 

39. Louis King, SF, Oregon

40. Tremont Waters, PG, LSU 

41. Jalen McDaniels, PF, San Diego State

42. Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

43. Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

44. Darius Bazley, SF, USA 

45. Brian Bowen, PF, USA

46. Naz Reid, C, LSU

47. Jontay Porter, C, Missouri

48. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

49. Shamorie Ponds, PG, St. John’s

50. Cody Martin, SG, Nevada

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