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Markieff Morris and Dolph Sand: an odd couple friendship within the Wizards' organization


Markieff Morris and Dolph Sand: an odd couple friendship within the Wizards' organization

After each game at the Verizon Center, Wizards forward Markieff Morris takes his time getting dressed, often in clothes that read F.O.E., or 'Family Over Everything.' He brushes his short-trimmed hair and his bushy beard and turns from his locker to meet the media. Each time he makes that turn, a 75-year-old man in a suit with a big grey mustache steps forward to make the same announcement:

"No. 5 in your programs, but No. 1 in your hearts: Markieff Morris."

Win or loss, Morris often can't help but smile and the same goes for the reporters waiting with their questions. A 6-foot-10, 27-year-old man covered up to his neck in tattoos goes from NBA enforcer to willing media messenger with refreshing honesty and frequently a sense of humor his reputation wouldn't suggest.

"No. 1 in your hearts… I've heard that about 80 or 90 times," Morris said with a grin.

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That humor is a big reason why Morris and Dolph Sand, an assistant to Washington's public relations department for 45 years, have learned to like each other. Sand has been a part of the Wizards since they were the Bullets and regular participants in the NBA Finals. He's seen all sorts of players come through the locker room doors from Wes Unseld to Chris Webber to Michael Jordan to Gilbert Arenas. 

Sand was around when the Bullets won the NBA title in 1978. He was given a championship ring, one that he gifted to his son.

"It's a great feeling to talk to somebody who's been through it all," Morris said. "He's been through the ups and downs. He's seen the last time we won. For him to be here right now is special."

Along the way, Sand has encountered plenty of people, many of them good-natured, but also some who have made his job more difficult than it needs to be. Some players leave early after games or complain that they're tired when media requests are made. Not Morris. Sand has never heard 'no' from the Wizards' big man.

"It means a lot," Morris said of Sand's opinion. "He's seen so many players come through the organization. Whatever was said about me before I came here was completely false. Once people give me the chance, they see the real person that I am."

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Over the last five decades Sand has worked with all sorts of personalities. What he appreciates about Morris is his positivity and willingness to have fun. The feeling is mutual.

"It's cool, man. I call him the 'King of D.C.' He's a great guy," Morris said. "He's been around a long time. He's a good dude, man. He's always positive. He's always talking about me. That's my guy."

Morris was close with VP of communications Julie Fie during his days with the Phoenix Suns. He has formed a similar reverence for Sand, a retired employment lawyer with still-active bar memberships in D.C., Virginia and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"He's just like a grandfather. He controls it all," Morris said. "He just sits in the same spot every time we come in. He get shown the most respect. All the players respect him to the utmost."

In his time with the Bullets and Wizards, Sand has accrued some interesting stories. He's done everything from PR to working the scorer's table and running the 24-second shot clock on game nights. That role he did not enjoy in part because coaches and players would yell at him for mistakes. Sand's claim to fame in that department is helping call in scores on Feb. 26, 1987 when 7-foot-7 Bullets center Manute Bol set an NBA record with 15 blocks.

Sand also remembers specifics from the 1970s run when the Bullets reached the NBA Finals four times in nine years. He still wonders what could have been in 1975 when the Bullets reached the Finals as a better seed than the Warriors, but had to play two of their first three games on the road. 

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That was due to scheduling conflicts in both the Warriors' primary and backup arenas, the Oakland Coliseum and the Cow Palace in Daly City. One was hosting an ice skating event and the other a karate tournament. Neither were moved for the NBA Finals. The Bullets were swept.

This past season the Wizards won 49 games, their division and reached the seventh game of the second round of the NBA Playoffs, all things they hadn't done since the 1970s. Few have seen all the days in between, but Sand has.

Morris was a big part of the 2016-17 success as their starting power forward. It was his first full season in Washington, where he now feels at home after a turbulent time in Phoenix. He has his mother, Angel, who lives close by in Clinton, Md. and a lot of friends now with the Wizards, Sand included.

"Me and Dolph, it's special. I feel like I've known him for a while for some odd reason. I don't know why," Morris said.

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Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to Spotrac.com, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.


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UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

USA TODAY Sports Images

UNC's Coby White talks Wizards workout, North Carolina and John Wall's legendary mixtape

In Tuesday's Wizards Talk podcast Chris Miller sat down with point guard Coby White, a projected lottery pick from the University of Carolina. 

On Monday, the Wizards worked out White and college teammate Nassir Little in the franchise's highest-profile workout this year. Despite being projected higher than No. 9, White was enthusiastic about the opportunity. 

"These mock drafts are cool, but it's not the real deal," explained White. "If I was to slip and Washington were to select me, I'd be in a great place."

White's passion combined with his impressive skill set enabled him to become the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school history. Growing up he followed John Wall, as did every hooper in North Carolina, and he still remembers Wall shredding apart defenses on his legendary high school mixtape. 

"His mixtape was lit," professed White. "The style he played with was uncomparable to anyone else."

What many people don't know about White was that growing up, his dream school was Duke. Once he got to Chapel Hill, however, Roy Williams, his teammates and UNC's winning tradition won him over in a heartbeat. 

"They didn't care how much you had coming in, Coach Williams never promised me playing time," said White. "He just promised me 'I'll be the hardest coach you ever had and I'll try my best to make you the best you can be.'"

At Thursday draft, White's life will be changed forever once he hears his name called and shakes Adam Silver's hand. For Wizards fans, hopefully, that won't happen before the No. 9 pick