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Morning tip: Jason Smith's injury is a big deal for Wizards

Morning tip: Jason Smith's injury is a big deal for Wizards

Just as Jason Smith started to play his best basketball off the bench for the Wizards, making both of his shot attempts in a 122-108 win over the Detroit Pistons, he limped off the court after a collision. He's questionable going into today's game vs. the L.A. Clippers.

Smith appeared to bump knees but it turns out it was a right hamstring injury. That's better than the worst-case scenario from a 30-year-old who has had a history of knee injuries. The last one came in 2014. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee to end his 2008-09 season before it began. 

Overall, the bench has played so much better and it goes beyond the 30 points they combined to score led by Marcus Thornton's 11 vs. Detroit. They're maintaining leads and even extending them. They're getting quality looks in the half-court and not heaving up prayers to beat the shot clock. That includes Smith on the pick-and-pop action.

“Unfortunately Jason tweaked his hamstring. Don't know how long that will be. We'll see how it feels," said coach Scott Brooks after Friday's game. "We'll wait to the next day to really see how he feels and we'll go from there but I think our bench is doing a good job. We're still missing Ian (Mahinmi) but I think Trey (Burke) is finding a nice little roll. Marcus has done a good job. Kelly (Oubre) is really growing up in front of our eyes and that's what you want your young players to do. By challenging him every day. We're going to keep doing that, you're going to see growth. There is going to be spikes and there is going to be a little dropoffs. We're going to try to eliminate those dropoffs as much as can and just keep him growing and becoming a better defensive player. I think his offense is going to get better.”

Mahinmi, Brooks indicated before Friday's game, hasn't practiced with the Wizards and they'll have to see him do that before he has any chance to return from tendinitis in his right knee. They didn't practice Saturday which means Mahinmi won't play Sunday. If they do not have Smith, who at 7-0 is a forward/center, that could force rookie Daniel Ochefu into the rotation unless Brooks opts to go with  more small llineups. Starting center Marcin Gortat already is playing a career-high 35.4 minutes per game. Kelly Oubre (concussion) is out, too.

Smith's mid-range shot has started come come along. He was 5-for-9 for a season-high 12 points and seven rebounds in Wedneday's 109-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. 


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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.


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A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

A timeline of Tommy Sheppard's moves as interim Wizards GM

The Wizards are naming Tommy Sheppard their permanent GM after he served in the role on an interim basis since April 2. 

Let's take a look back at the moves which earned Sheppard the long-term GM job:

April 2: The Wizards fire GM Ernie Grunfeld. Tommy Sheppard takes over the role on an interim basis. 

June 20: The Wizards select Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura with the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Later in the evening, Washington acquires Jonathan Simmons and the draft rights to Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield from the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons was placed on waivers on July 7.

July 5: The Wizards acquire Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones, and a 2022 second-round draft pick as part of the deal which sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. 

July 6: The Wizards trade Dwight Howard to the Grizzlies in exchange for C.J. Miles and acquire Davis Bertans from the Spurs in a three-team deal with Brooklyn and San Antonio, sending the draft rights of Aaron White to the Nets. 

July 7: The Wizards re-sign center Thomas Bryant on a three-year deal and trade guard Tomas Satoransky to the Bulls for a 2020 second-round pick.

July 9: The Wizards sign guard Ish Smith to a two-year deal.

July 10: The Wizards sign guard Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal.