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No harm in Wizards curbing constant fouling


No harm in Wizards curbing constant fouling

There is little reason for concern over the actual result in the Wizards 100-88 loss at Charlotte on Sunday, a game in which Washington played without several key contributors and represented the first of eight preseason contests. However, there were two specific points coach Randy Wittman took from the opener and emphasized during Tuesday's morning practice session.

"Fouling. Fouling, No. 1. Ball movement, offensively, No. 2," Wittman said. "We held the ball a little bit too long. Each of us. Instead of making quick decisions. Those probably, two things are the things that we really concentrated on today."

Take a look at the final box score and it's not surprising the coach singled out those areas; offensively the Wizards shot 33 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers. Whistled for 41 fouls -- five each from forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton -- the Wizards put the Bobcats on the free throw line a whopping 46 times.

"Young guys that are aggressive have to learn how to play aggressive," Wittman said of his second-year forwards. "There is a way to do it. Thats a teaching process that were going through. Both of them. Chris had five fouls in the game too and realistically, three of them for both of them couldve been prevented. Dumb fouls. Four seconds left on the clock in the quarter and Chris fouls 94 feet from the basket, trying to steal the ball at the end of the quarter. Those kind of things, weve got to eliminate, all of us. Just not those two guys, those kind of fouls."

This type of adjustment, Wittman said, is all about experience and communicating.

"Its looking up at the clock and that usually, I lay that on our point guard. Our point guard has to know time situation every minute of the game. Theyve got to know, weve got two fouls to give, or were in the bonus. And tell the bigs, we cant afford any stupid fouls here. Were in the bonus. Thats communication. That was something that was lacking in Charlotte."

Vesely's international background works against him at times, like when he picked 10 fouls in a single game during the Las Vegas Summer League.

"In Europe, you can be more physical. As you can see in games, he's in foul trouble a lot," guard Shelvin Mack said. "He's still trying to adjust to it, but he has the right attitude, staying positive trying to get better every day."

Singleton's aggression also led to nine rebounds in 15 minutes of action. Not having Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Booker on the court led to the Wizards primary starting small forward last season receiving time at power forward against Charlotte.

"We were shorthanded," Wittman said. "We played him some last year that. Kind of gives us the ability to stretch the floor out. We did that a lot last year at the end to spread the floor out with him at the four. John handled the ball on the floor with four other bigs just spread around, so obviously with Booker, Okafor and Nene all out, it gave us a good opportunity to look at that."

Wittman also continues to look at the point guard position with John Wall out of the lineup. Jannero Pargo returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out the last few days including Sunday's game with an abdominal strain, a game in which Mack tallied seven assists without a turnover and A.J. Price was part of the first unit's offensive struggles. Still, more time is required before coming to any rotation conclusions.

"Not really. Well see that more in games. This game is played five-on-five and well see that, as we see these last seven games of the preseason and really get a better feel for that," Wittman said. "Im still evaluating that spot and well continue to do that.

The Wizards wrap up the George Mason University part of training camp Tuesday night with an open practice and a performance by recording artist Wale. Wittman drolly stated enthusiasm for the concert portion of the open practice ("Just cant wait"). Whether he's the kind of guy that has Wale on his IPod or not, the coach obviously is focused elsewhere.

"Camp goes through October. Its the closing of George Mason. We had a good week of practice. Weve got things weve got to do better, obviously through our Charlotte game. We worked pretty good on that today. And then tonight, well put more together in game-like situations, scrimmaging and see if we made any progress from Sunday night Charlotte."

Notes...Trevor Booker remained sidelined with left hamstring soreness...As for Nene, who has yet to practice because of plantar fasciitis, Wittman did not have update on that front. "All do is each morning, I come in, I ask the trainer who I got, who dont have. And thats all I can worry about right now. I write down who I got and we formulate a practice plan and we come out here. And Ill come back tonight and see who I got and who I dont got. Thats my update."

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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.