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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.

[RELATED: Hannibal's road to Summer League about as unusual as it gets]

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."

[RELATED: John Wall to get huge honor from University of Kentucky]

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.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast - Will John Wall sign the deal?]


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2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

2018 NBA Draft: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The 2018 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday night as the newest wave of potential superstars like DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba and Luka Doncic enter the league. Here is everything you need to know for the big night...


When: 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: ESPN

Wizards draft picks: 15th overall in the first round, 44th overall in the second round

First round order:

1. Phoenix Suns
2. Sacramento Kings
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Orlando Magic
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
9. New York Knicks
10. Philadelphia 76ers
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Los Angeles Clippers
13. Los Angeles Clippers
14. Denver Nuggets
15. Washington Wizards
16. Phoenix Suns
17. Milwaukee Bucks
18. San Antonio Spurs
19. Atlanta Hawks
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
21. Utah Jazz
22. Chicago Bulls
23. Indiana Pacers
24.Portland Trail Blazers
25. Los Angeles Lakers
26. Philadelphia 76ers
27. Boston Celtics
28. Golden State Warriors
29. Brooklyn Nets
30. Atlanta Hawks

Top prospects:

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
2. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
3. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
4. Jaren Jackson, Jr., Michigan State
5. Mo Bamba, Texas
6. Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri
7. Wendell Carter, Duke
8. Trae Young, Oklahoma
9. Collin Sexton, Alabama
10. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Three things to watch...

Will Leonard get traded?

Last year's draft featured some big trades including Jimmy Butler going to the Timberwolves. This year, there seems to be at least a decent chance it happens with Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs. He wants a trade and they have been meeting with him in recent days, perhaps for a last-ditch pitch to remain with the team. If he gets dealt on draft night, it wouldn't be a huge surprise.

Who will the Kings pick?

A consensus has built for Ayton to go No. 1 to the Suns. After that, it's a major crapshoot and whomever the Kings select will produce a domino effect from there on down. Will they take Bagley, the safe pick, or go a riskier route with Doncic or maybe even Porter, Jr.? The best bet at this point appears to be Bagley, but nobody truly knows.

Where will Young and Porter, Jr. go?

The two most interesting prospects in this draft are Young and Porter, Jr. Young was a sensation in college basketball, but is undersized and appears to be boom-or-bust. He could flame out quickly at the next level or be some iteration of the next Stephen Curry. Porter, Jr. played only three games in college due to a back injury and now has hip issues as well. His talent is undeniable, but his injury history represents significant risk.


2018 NBA Draft Preview Series

Wizards Draft Profiles

-- Keita Bates Diop, SG/SF, Ohio State 

-- Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State (VIDEO)

-- Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

-- Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova 

-- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Kentucky (VIDEO)

-- Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA (VIDEO)

-- Kevin Huerter, SG/SF, Maryland (VIDEO)

-- Chandler Hutchinson, SG/SF, Boise State 

-- Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky (VIDEO)

-- Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College (VIDEO)

-- Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky (VIDEO)

-- Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State (VIDEO)

-- Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IGM Academy (Fl.) (VIDEO)

-- Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech (VIDEO)

-- Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton (VIDEO)

-- Gary Trent Jr., SG/SF, Duke (VIDEO)

-- Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan (VIDEO)

-- Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami (VIDEO)

-- Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M (VIDEO)

NBA Player Comparisons

-- Miles Bridges, Draymond Green?

-- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dejounte Murray?

-- Zhaire Smith, J.R. Smith or Gerald Green?

-- Robert Williams, Kenyon Martin?


For more on the NBA Draft, check out our preview special episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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2018 NBA Draft: A list of Green Room attendees

USA Today Sports

2018 NBA Draft: A list of Green Room attendees

The NBA officially announced a list of 20 players invited to the Green Room at the 2018 NBA Draft. Provided that all attend, here's a list of who'll be there.

  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Mikal Bridges, Villanova
  • Marvin Bagley III, Duke
  • Mohamed Bamba, Texas
  • Collin Sexton, Alabama
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
  • Lonnie Walker IV, Miami
  • Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
  • Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
  • Aaron Holiday, UCLA
  • Deandre Ayton, Arizona
  • Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
  • Luka Doncic, Slovenia
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
  • Kevin Knox, Kentucky
  • Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
  • Robert Williams, Texas A&M
  • Trae Young, Oklahoma
  • Chandler Hutchison, Boise State
  • Jerome Robinson, Boston College

There are two players each invited from Villanova, Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky.

The 2018 NBA Draft will be Thursday, June 21 at 7 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It will be broadcast on ESPN and streamed live on WatchESPN. The Wizards have Nos. 15 and 44 picks.