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Takeaways from the Wizard's impressive road win over Bulls

Takeaways from the Wizard's impressive road win over Bulls

This time the Wizards had John Wall and Bradley Beal for their game at the Chicago Bulls, and while it didn’t seem to matter much early they woke up after a terrible first quarter to pull out a 107-97 win on Wednesday at United Center.

John Wall (23 points, nine assists, six rebounds, three steals) led the way as the Wizards (13-15) drew even in the season series 1-1.

Bradley Beal (21 points, five assists) contributed as well as Marcin Gortat (14 points, 11 rebounds) for the starters. Markieff Morris (eight points, 11 rebounds) helped close what had been a wide rebounding gap after the first quarter. 

The bench combined to score 32 points, led by Marcus Thornton (10 points), Sheldon McClellan (seven), Trey Burke (six) and Jason Smith (six). The Wizards have won six of their last eight games and have a chance for a winning road trip if they can beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

Chicago (14-14) led most of the first half. They jumped out to a 33-22 lead after the first quarter when it made 15 of 24 shots (62.5%).

Jimmy Butler (20 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) led the Bulls along with Taj Gibson (17 points, 11 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (19 points) and Doug McDermott (10 points).


--The bench, which has been under fire all season, came through again for the Wizards. Thornton hit a difficult corner jumper with the shot clock winding down, Burke finished drives to the basket vs. Gibson and Jerian Grant as the Wizards put together a 6-0 run for a 91-85 lead with 7:16 left. 

--The Wizards only had six transition points in the 106-95 loss to Chicago last month. With Wall, who revived a struggling offense by injecting pace into the game, they had a 32-16 edge on the fast break.

--Otto Porter (eight points) only played 12 minutes and couldn’t play in the second half because of back spasms. He was replaced by McClellan, who’d recently returned from a D-League stint.

-- McClellan played 19 minutes and played his most time on the court since Nov. 16 when he was on the court for 21 minutes in a loss at the Sixers. He hadn’t played in the Wizards’ last 11 games.

-- Morris hadn't been a factor since his 23 points and nine rebounds in the upset of the Clippers over the weekend. He was 2-for-9 in the loss to Indiana on Monday and picked up his third foul on a cheap reach-in in the last minute of the first half in this one. But he asserted himself late with a strong move and finish over Nikola Mirotic and the help of Gibson. Then Morris had the ball in transition and gave it up to Beal on a nice look that drew a foul for two made free throws. The Wizards took at 95-87 lead which was their largest at that time.

-- Rajon Rondo hasn’t fared well for Chicago in this matchup. Their starting point guard 0-for-6 when Wall didn’t play in the first meeting and failed to score. He had 10 assists but only had three  points on 1-for-10 shooting tonight.

-- The Wizards only had 10 turnovers, five fewer than the Bulls who allowed nine more points off of theirs (19).

-- Wall picked up his eighth technical foul of the season, putting him halfway to the threshold of a one-game suspension. Upset that he was assessed a blocking foul on Gibson that he thought should've been a charge, Wall jumped up and complained at 2:47 of the second quarter. Wall is now tied with DeMarcus Cousins, his teammmate at Kentucky, of the Sacramento Kings for most technicals in the league. Each technical Wall gets is $3,000 until he reaches 11. Then it increases to $4,000 each. So far, Wall has shelled out $19,000 in fines for the technicals. If he reaches 16, he'll be hit with an automatic one-game suspension by the league office. 


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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.