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Wall, Beal close out Knicks at MSG 111-108: Five takeaways

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Wall, Beal close out Knicks at MSG 111-108: Five takeaways

NEW YORK -- With the Knicks in turmoil, a day after firing coach Derek Fisher and on their worst losing stretch of the season, the Wizards did what has become the norm for them at Madison Square Garden -- win.

Back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench over the weekend in a back-to-back, Bradley Beal (26 points) sparked the Wizards (23-27). John Wall posted his 29th double-double (28 points, 17 assists, five rebounds, one turnover), Jared Dudley (14 points), Marcin Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Otto Porter (13) responded in the 111-108 victory Tuesday.

Carmelo Anthony (game-high 33 points, 13 rebounds) led all scorers and Kristaps Porzingis (20) was a second-half spark for the Knicks after he'd scored just four points in the first two quarters. Starting point guard Jose Calderon failed to score.

The Knicks (23-32) erased what had been a 16-point deficit to take an 89-88 lead in the fourth quarter until Beal returned. Wall found him immediately for a three-point shot and then Porter for another for a 96-92 lead.

Beal hit another three-point shot and then doubled Anthony to force a turnover late and that led to Wall's jumper to put the game away. The Knicks have lost 10 of 11.

Still, the Wizards made it more interesting than it should've been after Beal missed two crucial foul shots. Langston Galloway (14 points), who hit a desperation three-pointer over Porter to cut the score to 107-106 with 8.5 seconds left, missed a wide-open look at the buzzer to force overtime.

Wall made all four of his foul shots down the stretch. 

  • The Wizards, who entered fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting, made 10 of their first 12. Robin Lopez's jump hook in the lane cut the deficit to 47-41 but immediate threes from Porter and Beal stretched it back to double-digits by half 63-50. They shot 16 of 26 from three-point range for the game, a season high for makes.

  • Like he did in Charlotte, Dudley opened on fire with his shot. He made 5 of 5 in the first half, including four three-pointers. The five field goals put him at 2,000 for his career. Like Charlotte, a game in which Washington lost by blowing a 19-point lead, offensively he wasn't a factor in the second half as he clanked his open looks and didn't score.

  • As has been typical for the Wizards coming out of the locker room for the third quarter, they were flat. They weren't able to get clean looks, missed badly on the ones they took and allowed the opponent to step into their comfort zone. Porzingis buried consecutive threes to trim the deficit to 65-60 less than three minutes in. Then he fooled Dudley, who was anticipating a hand off to Anthony on his curl cut, turned baseline and threw down a nasty, one-handed dunk to wake up the crowd. The score was tied at 83 going into the fourth. Coach Randy Wittman went to a small lineup of Wall, Porter, Beal, Garrett Temple and Dudley which allowed them to pull away late.

  • Anthony hit a three and Afflalo was given a basket on a drive and was about to take a foul shot to complete a three-point play that could've trimmed the deficit to 106-104. But the officials went to the Replay Center which determined that Beal was not in the restricted area therefor it was a charge on Afflalo. The basket was erased. With the score 107-103, Beal committed a turnover with less than 30 seconds left but was able to steal it back on a pass from Galloway to Anthony.

  • Kris Humphries made his first appearance since Jan. 3, when a right knee injury kept him out. He played the last 40 seconds of the second quarter and again with 1:36 to close out the third. Humphries pulled out the chair from Kevin Seraphin on defense which led to the former Wizards center falling and causing a turnover. Humphries' only three-point shot was errant on Wall's drive and dish for their final attempt of the third. Rookie Kelly Oubre played seven minutes in the first half. He hasn't been on the court for more than eight minutes in almost a month. 

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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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