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By the numbers: Wizards produce with smaller lineup, Porter on court


By the numbers: Wizards produce with smaller lineup, Porter on court

Big or small

The Wizards became a different team in the postseason when coach Randy Wittman starting using Paul Pierce at power forward with Otto Porter at the other forward slot, leaving just one true big man on the court. Once again in Game 5, that look outperformed the standard pairing of Nene and Marcin Gortat.

Pierce and Porter played 20 minutes together Wednesday night, one of 12 two-man combinations to receive at least 20 minutes. Their plus 22.3 net rating dwarfed all others.

Gortat and Nene were on the court together for 16 minutes. Their net rating, minus 25.3.

Washington's biggest issue defensively remains dealing with Paul Millsap and Al Horford because they have the size to overpower smaller defenders inside but the skill set to make bigger opponents suffer outside. The numbers - and the coach's perception - continue to indicate the Wizards are better overall going with the smaller group. 

Two sides of Otto Porter

Part of what has made the second-year forward a postseason revelation involved his scoring punch, including his 3-point shooting. But after sinking 11 of 24 from deep during the first six playoff games, Porter is just 1 of 6 over the last two games and 4 of 17 overall. He didn't just miss bombs; Porter went 2 of 7 on layup attempts. Considering the Wizards aren't going with a particularly deep rotation at this point, they need contributions from everyone, but perhaps especially from those secondary options like Porter, who are often left open as the defense focuses elsewhere. It's expected that John Wall and Bradley Beal will get theirs. When Porter makes buckets, the offense goes to another level.

While some players see their overall game dip when the shots aren't falling, Porter's remains helpful. He grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in Game 5. His net-rating of plus 7.1 (points scored/allowed over 100 possessions) was easily the highest among the six Wizards to play at least 28 minutes. The 6-foot-8 forward's length continues to bother shooters. His fill-in-the-gap style makes for a great fit with the team's established pieces. Simply put, when Porter plays, the Wizards are better.

Case in point, NBA.com John Schuhmann looked at players in the playoffs with the largest on-off court net rating differential. Heading into Wednesday's games, Golden State's Draymond Green is the clear leader on a list with notables like Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. Look who checks in at seventh.

Just the facts

From Elias:Teams leading 3-2 in best-of-7 series: 234-41 series record (85.1%). This includes the first round of the 2015 playoffs.

If Wizards win, the will play the first Game 7 in franchise history since 1979 (Eastern Conference Finals at San Antonio, won 107-105)

Home Sweet Home?

The Wizards need a win Friday night at the Verizon Center to stay alive --- and snap a six-game losing at home in elimination games

2014 East Semifinals Pacers GM 6 - Loss
2008 East 1st Round Cavaliers GM 6 - Loss
2007 East 1st Round Cavaliers GM 4 - Loss
2006 East 1st Round Cavaliers GM 6 - Loss
2005 East Semifinals Heat GM 4 - Loss
1997 East 1st Round Bulls GM 3 - Loss

Clank City

Washington shot 23.5 percent (4 of 17) on 3-pointers in Game 5. That's its lowest shooting percentage since March 2 (21 games). 

(H/T CSNwashington.com researcher Rich Goldberg

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.


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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.