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Morning tip: How resilient are Wizards? They're about to find out

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Morning tip: How resilient are Wizards? They're about to find out

Early in the season, John Wall and Bradley Beal were handling a disproportionate amount of the workload for the Wizards as they won three of their first four games. Now, they don't have to as coach Randy Wittman seems to be making the right adjustments with his bench.

But this week is the first serious test of the Wizards' resolve. They will have four games in five days, starting with vs. the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. They have Thanksgiving off and then another back-to-back set, on the road at the Boston Celtics on Friday and vs. the Toronto Raptors on Saturday at Verizon Center.

Not one of these games will be a walkover, especially the Celtics who already beat the Wizards (6-4) by 20 points in their first meeting. 

Wittman summed it up best after his team erased an 11-point deficit in the second half to beat the Detroit Pistons 97-95 over the weekend: "I thought our bench saved the day, twice for us. They were huge. Eighty-two game season that's what it takes. It's good to have strong bench play. Our bench isn't going to play good (every night) and our starters are going to save the day."

Wall and Beal combined to score 91 points in their first two wins. During this current three-game win streak, however, Wall has scored a total of 42 points. Beal, who was out with a left shoulder contusion until coming back against Detroit, only contributed seven.

While Otto Porter has increased his output during this streak (15 points, 47.2% shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals) and Marcin Gortat is averaging near a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds), it's the bench production that's eye-catching:

  • Nene is averaging 11.7 points on 62.5% shooting (15 of 24), 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in just 19 minutes

  • Jared Dudley is averaging 9.0 points on 67% shooting (8 of 12), including 75% on three-pointers (6 of 8) and 4.3 rebounds

  • Garrett Temple is averaging 8.7 points and shooting 46% on three-pointers (6 of 13), 80% on free throws (8 of 10)

  • Ramon Sessions is averaging 8.7 points, 5.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds and has been to the foul line 17 times

This offensive spike also is a product of their defense, which has allowed them to get into the open court and get quality shots using pace and space. Drew Gooden and Gary Neal, for the moment, have taken a step back in the rotation.

To make it through four games in five days, this is where the play of the bench escalates of importance. Ideally, the starters will hand them leads instead of deficits.

MORE WIZARDS: NBA finds officials erred on Porter's violation to end Wizards-Pistons

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Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

Potential coaching staff changes rocket into discussion for Wizards

We can begin free agent watch with the Washington Wizards way before July 1.

This isn’t about players. Coaching changes can happen whenever.

News broke Saturday out of Houston that the Rockets would not retain associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Considered one of the league’s top defensive minds, Bzdelik’s relationship with Scott Brooks along with comments made by the Wizards head coach at the NBA Combine makes this transaction interesting.

Bzdelik, 66, gave Brooks his first NBA coaching job when the then Denver Nuggets head coach hired the former player in 2003.

"I'm thankful for coach Bzdelik," Brooks told the Houston Chronicle in 2016.  "He gave me my first NBA coaching start. One of the best coaches I've ever been around. He has great understanding of the game, both ends of the floor.”

Fast forward to Thursday inside Chicago’s Quest Multisport facility. Amid 5-on-5 games involving 2019 draft prospects, players holding court with media members and the general convention vibe that comes with the NBA Combine, Brooks spent a few minutes chatting with reporters.

Among the non-draft or general manager search topics, whether any changes to the coaching staff were forthcoming.

"I’ve talked to Ted. I definitely talked Ted,” Brooks began his reply, referencing Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. “I have a lot of respect for our organization. I have to get better, first and foremost…Will the staff remain the same? Every year, staffs change. Every year staffs change. We're probably going to make some changes. I don't know if it's for sure. Everything is still up in the air.”

Brooks also noted change could come from members of his staff seeking opportunities elsewhere. Tony Brown, Brooks’ lead assistant during his three seasons with the Wizards, became a coaching free agent following Washington’s 32-50 season, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller.

Two days after Brooks’ comments came news of Bzdelik’s exit in Houston.

Bzdelik, a former Bullets assistant from 1988-94 and three-time college head coach, retired following the 2017-18 season. He returned to the Rockets in November following Houston’s slow start. The associate head coach is credited with guiding the team’s defensive improvement as the Rockets rose up the Western Conference standings.

The Houston Chronicle reported Bzdelik, whose contract expired after this season, remained uncommitted to returning. The Rockets announced Saturday they would not renew his deal.

The Wizards do not want a repeat of their defensive struggles. Only the Atlanta Hawks allowed more points per game than the 116.9 Washington surrendered last season. The Wizards ranked 28th in opponent field goal percentage (48.0) and 27th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.0).

It’s unclear how the Wizards fix those defensive concerns based solely on personnel. The current roster with five healthy players does not include any forwards or mobile big men. Point guard John Wall is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season following February’s surgery for a ruptured Achilles. Wall, an erratic defensive presence in recent seasons, was previously selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team in 2015.

Coaching strategies could become the primary driver of change on the defensive end. The man who brought Brooks into the coaching fraternity would make for an obvious addition if both sides are interested.

"The accountability that [Jeff] taught me with the coaching staff and the players is second to none,” Brooks told the Chronicle in 2016. “I learned about work. I learned how to transfer my playing career into a coaching career with his help."

News of the next front office leader likely comes before coaching staff tweaks.

Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly was offered the same position with the Wizards Saturday after Denver granted Washington permission to meet. In the interim, the Wizards sent a contingent of scouting personnel along with Brooks to Chicago as the team conducted player interviews and watched scrimmages.

“Ted is going to make a decision and I trust that I going to be the best for the program moving forward,” Brooks said Thursday. “As of right now, (interim GM Tommy Sheppard) is doing a great job leading the group. We all feel comfortable with what’s going on. Hopefully, things work out and we move forward as an organization. We all have to get better, myself included.”

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Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

Five things to know about Wizards general manager search candidate Tim Connelly

The Washington Wizards have reportedly offered their vacant general manager position to Tim Connelly. The news was first reported by the Athletic.

Here are five things to know about him...

1. Connelly is a Baltimore native who transferred to Catholic University in D.C. during his junior year in college, graduating from there in 1999. 

2. Connelly began his NBA front office career with the Wizards, starting as an intern in 1996. He spent a decade with the organization, holding such roles as assistant video coordinator, head scout, and director of player personnel. 

3. After leaving the Wizards, Connelly spent three seasons serving as the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. 

4. Connelly joined the Nuggets organization in 2013 as the executive vice president of basketball operations. He was promoted to President of Basketball Operations in 2017. Connelly has been part of a Denver front office that has drafted the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris over the last five years. 

5. Connelly has six siblings, including four brothers: Joe, Pat, Dan and Kevin. All four of them have also worked in basketball in some capacity, Joe, Pat, and Dan all following Tim into the NBA ranks. 

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