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Utah's Delon Wright on point with Jerian Grant comparisons


Utah's Delon Wright on point with Jerian Grant comparisons

The similarities between Utah's Delon Wright and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant extend beyond being NBA Draft prospects.

The four-year players - - a rare classification for touted prospects in this era -- dueled Monday during the Washington Wizards' first pre-draft workout this year.

Both led their teams to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this season. Both will turn 23 before the start of their first NBA campaign.

The point guards are listed at an impressive 6-foot-5. That size allows them to scan the court for shooters, create space for their own offense and defend big guards if needed.

Each has been around the pro game for many years. The son of ex-Bullet/Wizard Harvey Grant, Jerian's NBA pedigree is well known in these parts. Wright's, perhaps less so. His older brother, Dorell, a forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, just completed his 11th season in the league.

As is the case every season, the Associated Press selected All-Americans. Only two point guards were picked among the nation's 10 best players. Grant was named to the first team, Wright the second. Filling up the box score certainly helped both. Wright, who led Utah to a round of 32 NCAA Tournament win over Georgetown, averaged 14.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

Most notably this June, both are projected first-round picks. Depending on what the Wizards desire with the 19th overall pick, either could land in Washington, which is where the pair battled head-to-head.

"It was fun. I watched a lot of him on TV this year. They compared us pretty much the whole year," Wright said. "Being seniors, guards. It was fun to finally play against him."

The Los Angeles native spoke shortly after a lengthy session on the Verizon Center practice court that included 3-on-3 full court action against Grant and individual work on his 3-point shooting. Wright's defensive length likely becomes his best asset as a rookie. He noted a high comfort running pick-and-roll sets, a favorite play under Wizards coach Randy Wittman.

What teams want to know is whether Wright can hit the perimeter shot.

"That's the main concern. Teams want to see if I can make the NBA 3's since the line is a little further back. If I'm struggling shooting or it looks natural," conceded Wright, who previously visited with the Pacers, Lakers and Bulls.

The workout mirrored his two-year career at Utah, which began after transferring from City College of San Francisco. Wright sank 36 percent of shots from beyond the arc as a senior after a dismal 22 percent the previous season. Oddly, Grant's 3-point numbers went the other over his final two seasons.

During a drill coming off screens before flaring out to either wing, Wright missed plenty of shots. When he moved to the top of the key, the 3-pointers fell one after another.

"At the beginning of the workout I didn't shoot good at all. Terribly, actually," Wright said. "But I thought at the end of it, I shot it pretty well. Better than probably what people thought of me."

Like Grant, Wright comes across during interviews as mature and thoughtful, traits often found in leaders. The Utes went 47-21 over the last two seasons after going 15-18 the campaign before Wright joined the program.

If he joins the Wizards, Wright becomes part of a loaded backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington needs a long-term backup for Wall, along with a perimeter shooting big man and wing depth.

"Coming in, trying to not have too much drop off if John Wall comes out of the game," Wright said of his potential role. "Maybe play with him. I can be interchangeable that way. I can play the two."

Same goes for Grant, who likely lands among the top 20 picks. Wright's draft range veers more toward the bottom of the round. At this point, he's not thinking about such things, especially one month out. Instead, Wright is following advice from Utah coach and former NBA player Larry Krystkowiak.

"For the most part he's telling me to enjoy the process," Wright said. "You only go through this one time."

At least for one day, he went through the process with Grant. The comparisons will take place regardless.

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

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WNBA Finals loss only more fuel for Elena Delle Donne, Mystics heading into 2019 season

For Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics, last season's heartbreak in the WNBA Finals is only fuel for another potential postseason run in 2019. 

"That's something I don't think I'll ever let go," Washington's star forward told Chris Miller on the latest episode of the Wizards Talk podcast. "It's always tough when you get to that Finals and you can't finish it off. But I think it's something that can fuel you. You don't want to let it just bring you down and depress you and make it so you can't get over that hump."

"If you use it as fuel and motivation, it can help you get better. I think that's what we're all gonna do."

The Mystics reached their first WNBA Finals in franchise history in 2018 but ultimately lost to the Seattle Storm. Delle Donne, recently named in WNBA.com's GM survey as the favorite to win league MVP, is back for her third season in Washington and headlines a strong team that has the talent to compete for the title again.

Her status for Saturday's season opener against the Connecticut Sun is up in the air due to a left knee injury, but Delle Donne believes the Mystics will have another great season given the continuity on the roster from last season and the return of All-Star forward Emma Meesseman. 

"We feel great. We've got our core back," said Delle Donne. "And to be able to add a superstar like Emma to that roster is pretty scary. Especially with her style of play and the way that our team started playing last season, where it was such positionless basketball. Spreading the floor, just spreading it, making it easy for one another to attack, get some threes. She's just gonna add so much to that."

NBC Sports Washington will be broadcasting 10 Mystics home games during the 2019 WNBA season. For the full regular season schedule, click here.


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Wizards GM reset: Blazers' Neil Olshey, Warriors exec potential targets?

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Wizards GM reset: Blazers' Neil Olshey, Warriors exec potential targets?

The Washington Wizards remain without a President of Basketball Operations since firing Ernie Grunfeld April 2. While several candidates met with owner Ted Leonsis, including Denver’s Tim Connelly, the pursuit continues though largely in silence.

The vibe coming out of the organization is that of patience even with the fan base growing restless as the June 20 NBA Draft looms and prospect workouts starting a week or so out.

There have been no reports of candidate interviews since Washington met over the weekend with Connelly. Speculation and logic have the Wizards considering candidates beyond the previously reported group already brought in for interviews.

We can connect some dots and land on one executive whose team is still in the playoffs: Golden State assistant general manager Larry Harris.

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations, the architect behind the Portland squad that reached the 2019 Western Conference Finals.

Before we explain both scenarios, one more thought on Connelly specifically the pursuit and big swing.

While Connelly wasn’t the first candidate meeting, it’s clear the Wizards waited for him. The 54-win Nuggets were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs May 12. Connelly flew to Washington for a meeting with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis five days later.

The Baltimore native sincerely weighed a contract offer from the Wizards before choosing to remain in Denver, sources told NBC Sports Washington.

The Wizards previously interviewed former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver and Wizards interim front office leader Tommy Sheppard.

While all three are considered credible candidates, none is an active GM or team president. None represents a big swing, the kind Leonsis hinted he would pursue in his first comments after dismissing Grunfeld.

“One thing I will say: I think this is the best job in sports,” Leonsis said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any issues in attracting really, really great people.”

Olshey, 54, began running Portland’s front office in June of 2012. Over the next 12 months, he drafted guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and hired head coach Terry Stotts. The quartet created the culture that fueled the current streak of six consecutive playoff appearances.

The 53-win Blazers advanced to the franchise’s first WCF appearance since 2000 before losing the series to Golden State 4-0.

It's uncertain the level of pursuit for Olshey from Washington, but the Wizards could face another uphill climb trying to lure the proven executive considering the similar contractual and team success to Connelly's situation. 

The general interest in Olshey began several weeks back, but the Wizards had yet to ask the Blazers for permission to interview Olshey as of Wednesday according to a source. Portland's season ended Monday with the Game 4 loss to Golden State. 

Olshey agreed to an extension in 2017 that carries his contract through the 2020-21 season. Sources believe he is open to considering other options including Washington after seven years with the Blazers.

Reporting from Portland has the franchise likely to be sold following the 2018 passing of team owner Paul Allen. 

Lillard received All-NBA honors Thursday and with it a supermax extension for four-years, $191 million dollars. If offered and signed, the contract would put constraints on Portland's salary cap structure.

As for Harris, the former Bucks GM joined the Warriors in 2008 as an assistant coach before eventually moving into the front office. He was named assistant GM in 2016.

ESPN reported Harris interviewed for the Pelicans opening in April before the NBA Playoffs began.

Note the familiar names. Gersson Rosas, who subsequently became the Timberwolves President, also interviewed with the Wizards.

The connection with the Wizards and Pelicans is Mike Forde, an outside consultant who helped both teams during their respective searches.

It’s no leap imagining Forde pushing the Wizards to meet with an executive who just spent the past five years in the NBA Finals (The Bucks never finished above .500 in five seasons with Harris, however). Waiting could mean until after Game 4 of the NBA Finals (June 7). Going the full seven games means June 16.

Another front office headliner still in the postseason is Toronto’s Masai Ujiri. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. Expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement, according to a source.

For now, Sheppard runs the show. He led the Wizards’ contingent at last week’s NBA Combine in Chicago. As for Ferry or Weaver, as of Wednesday it was considered unlikely either heard from Washington since the organization ramped up the pursuit of Connelly or learned of the Denver executive's decision, according to sources familiar with the situation.

 For now, all anyone on the outside can do is wait patiently just like the organization and see which name bubbles up next.