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NBA GM on restricted free agent Beal: 'I'm scared of him'


NBA GM on restricted free agent Beal: 'I'm scared of him'

Having lost three straight games and five of six, the Washington Wizards (20-24) need a boost and fast. That's especially true with three straight games on deck against the Rockets, Thunder and Warriors. Bradley Beal, recently back from his latest leg stress injury plus a broken nose, is helping with his shot. In six games since Jan 13, he's sinking 45 percent of his 3-pointers and half his attempts from any angle.

Beal also remains on a minutes limit. Because the leg injuries have become recurring and the fourth-year wing guard is an important part of Washington's future, all know the importance of finding a fix. 

Then there is the important money factor, as in Beal enters restricted free agency this summer. Along with teammate John Wall, Beal is among a select group of players on USA Basketball's working roster ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Two years in a row, he's elevated his game in the postseason. Beal's shooting form is textbook. He won't turn 23 until June. Those are among the positives. The injury concerns, however, may have some around the league concerned about making a long-term investment.

“He’s one of the best pure shooters in the league,” a general manager told Yahoo's Chris Mannix, “but I’m scared of him.” 

With 38 regular season games remaining, their is time to alleviate some of those fears. Beal's agent, Mark Bartelstein, spoke with Mannix about the process.

“It’s been frustrating for Brad because he’s a great competitor and he wants to be there for his teammates, his coaches,” Bartelstein said. “The good news is that we have got this thing figured out.

As for specifics, Bartelstein shared the following, as reported by Mannix:

[Beal] has increased the padding in his sneakers. He has added more vitamin D to his diet. He took a more gradual approach to returning from his most recent injury in December, easing back into things rather than immediately ramping up when he felt healthy. Some shooters don’t elevate much on 3-point shots; Beal does, increasing the impact, a factor that is compounded by the hundreds of jumpers Beal puts up in practice. To that end, Beal has adopted a more regimented program designed to minimize impact as much as possible.

One of the challenges for Beal and the Wizards are his minutes. The leg injuries have typically cropped up when Beal starts playing over 35 minutes on a regular basis. With Washington fighting for a playoff spot, the Wizards will want their best players on the court as much as possible. Yet overdo it and the perimeter threat might not be available at all. That's what can drive fear for those thinking long-term. His All-Star worthy game is what makes Beal so enticing and why the Wizards need him at max capacity as soon as the doctors give the thumbs up.

RELATED: Morning tip: Stay on course or move on to 2016-17 for Wizards?

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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.