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Morning tip: Wizards sacrifice again for Kevin Durant

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Morning tip: Wizards sacrifice again for Kevin Durant

For the last week, the Wizards were dead set on Paul Pierce's return to give it another run before retiring and becoming a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. But in the end, they made the same decision regarding him as they did a year ago with the player he'd replaced in Trevor Ariza.

Both are different players at different points of their career, but the reasoning for letting them go quietly to the Western Conference was the same: The Wizards refuse to compromise their position to make a run at Kevin Durant in 2016 free agency, CSNwashington.com has confirmed with multiple persons with knowledge of the situation.

Ariza was a free agent and wanted $10 million for the next four seasons. He took $8 million per to join the Houston Rockets where he doesn't pay state taxes which makes it essentially the same deal. The Wizards offered Pierce, who will be 38 when the season begins, two years with just the first guaranteed and the second a team option at the veteran mid-level exception of about $5.5 million. Instead, Pierce took a three-year deal from his hometown Los Angeles Clippers -- the first two guaranteed -- which when aggregated is higher salary.

The Wizards weren't locking themselves into such a deal and made the prudent decision to allow Pierce, who they'll always revere for what he did last season in bringing them to the cusp of the Eastern Conference finals, to walk. Pierce knew that with a team option in Year 2 of a new deal in Washington likely wouldn't have been picked up. The Wizards got word from Pierce at the same time the rest of the country, early Wednesday evening on the first day of free agency.

They huddled late at offices in Verizon Center with an eye on Plan B with a pair of trade exceptions, a mid-level exception and a bi-annual exception available to retool:

  • A stretch 4: This remains their No. 1 priority. The problem here is there aren't many options on the open market.

  • A combo guard is the next need on the list, with Rodney Stuckey among those on the short list. However, he'll require the mid-level which is the larger of the exceptions at roughly $5.5 million.

When Pierce didn't immediately tell the Wizards that he was returning, the writing was on the wall. There are no hard feelings towards him because they can't fault him for wanting to play at home with coaches (Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell) he already had close relationships with before coming to Washington.

Pierce wasn't going to do much to help the Wizards during the regular season anyway because he paces himself and has to nurse aches and paints. They won just two more games than the previous year without him (46) but Pierce's boldness and big-shot making in the postseason was magical.

They swept the Toronto Raptors behind Pierce's daggers from long range to steal home-court advantage. They took the lead after three games in a second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks because of his game-winning shot. 

That, however, is where it ends. The responsibility for this now will rest on the shoulders of John Wall, the leader and $80 million designated max player, and his backcourt mate Bradley Beal who is in line for a hefty extension. Otto Porter is now on the clock at small forward, unless someone else is acquired this summer. Kelly Oubre, the Wizards' first-round draft pick last week, will be given time to learn but if he figures it out sooner rather than later that'll be all the better. 

Just as it was during the February trade deadline -- and it will be for this upcoming one -- every move that the Wizards make or ignore is with Durant 2016 in mind. That means no long-term contracts. No marginal players making $7 million and up for multiple years to come will be accepted in transactions that might help them now but infringe on their cap situation for 2016-17. Unlike the Sacramento Kings, who change their vision at the owner's whim every week, the Wizards prefer a unified vision and will see it through whether or not a game-changing superstar is at the end of that rainbow.

If they can land the NBA's most lethal-scorer in Durant when he becomes a free agent from the Oklahoma City Thunder, would it matter that they whiffed on Ariza and Pierce? This is the long game and it has another year to play out before drawing any real conclusions. And going 1-for-3 in this situation would be a home run.

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Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly sat down with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis about the head front-office opening on Friday.

On Monday, NBC Sports Washington confirmed that he decided to stick with his role as president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets

A day later, he spoke to the media at a press conference and answered questions about his meeting with Washington.

Clear in Connelly's comments were his respect for Leonsis, but commitment to continuity in Denver. 

"I had a really nice conversation with Mr. Leonsis and his staff. He's a fantastic owner, I think a real visionary. I was really impressed by who he was and his thoughts for the team. That team's going to be special quickly under his leadership. We just had a conversation and not much more than that."

As for the reason for the discussion with Leonsis, Connelly said it came down to his love for the franchise. 

"I spent 14 years there. Certainly it's where I'm from, it's where my wife's from, so I just wanted to have the conversation because I care about the organization," he said.

"I'd never had an audience with [Leonsis], so to have that conversation and exchange of ideas, you know, it's flattering." 

Ultimately, however, the Baltimore native emphasized that Washington couldn't entice him away from the franchise he'd spent the last six years building. 

"Loyalty and patience is such a rarity in professional sports and that's here in spades. Those things matter to me," he said. "I had a hard time envisioning myself elsewhere."

With Connelly out of the picture, the list of candidates for the Wizards front-office opening is narrowing. Currently, Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver remain in the conversation. 

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The Wizards' GM search was kind of a mess, but the NBA has much bigger drama right now

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The Wizards' GM search was kind of a mess, but the NBA has much bigger drama right now

So, the Wizards' search for a GM kind of turned into a mess. 

We thought Tim Connelly was set to take the job of President of Basketball Operations. All signs pointed to him being the guy from the beginning. All reports said this was going to happen.

Then, he turned it down

The thing with the NBA though is there always seems to be someone else that says "hold my beer" when you think you've seen all the drama. 

Sure, fans are disappointed that Tim Connelly decided to stay with the Nuggets, but people turn down jobs all the time. Everyone wanted him to be the guy, but it didn't work out.

Things could be a lot worse.

Always remember, at least you're not a Lakers fan. 

First, there was Magic Johnson eviscerating the organization on First Take.

Then, conveniently enough, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had to face the media while introducing his new head coach that clearly wasn't anything near his first choice, on the same day. He did all this while faking a smile with us all knowing he was fuming inside. 

 

The Lakers continue to be the most dysfunctional team in the NBA, and just can't seem to get out of their own way. Now granted, if Magic really wasn't ever around the organization, it's understandable that people might be upset. We've all worked with that person that just always seems to be out of the office. 

That being said, the airing of the dirty laundry, the hiring of their tenth (?) choice at head coach, and the terrible disaster of a 2018-19 season all put together continues to sink the Lakers father and farther down the respectability list.  

Not to be outdone though, #NBATwitter made sure to bring us another round of Kevin Durant social media drama, going after Fox Sports' Chris Broussard. 

Followed by some random guy named "Kam".

This is the thing about the NBA, it's reality TV when you're not watching games. Some love it, some hate it, and most refuse to admit that deep down you can't get enough of it.

So just remember Wizards fans, you might not be getting Connelly, but at least the Wizards aren't fighting with random fans on Instagram. And that, in this week's rankings of the NBA's greatest soap opera-inspired drama, is some great offseason news.

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