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Wall pays visit to Simon Elementary

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Wall pays visit to Simon Elementary

The small gymnasium inside SimonElementary School on Mississippi Avenue inSoutheast D.C. buzzed with frenetic energy asthe clock ticked toward 9 a.m. Friday morning.
Parents lined the walls, cell phones in hand, and nearly 200students wiggled on the floor, anticipating the arrival of Wizards superstar JohnWall.When the gym doors swung open and the 6-foot-4, 205-pound guardentered the room, a thunderclap of cheers filled the gym.
It means everything to these kids, said Tyrone Pittman, whois in his first year as in-school suspension coordinator at Simon Elementary. Theyget to see someone just like them who is very successful taking the time out ofhis busy schedule to talk to them.Hes dressed in a pair of shorts, tennis shoes. It makesthe kids feel so comfortable that they can walk up to him, touch him and be apart of him.
Wall, 22, serves as an ambassador forBOKS Build Our Kids, a non-profit program in which schools provide studentswith 45 minutes of physical activity before starting their classroom schedules.
Wall signed autographs for thestudents but did not take part in their activities. Later on Friday he revealedhe has a stress injury to his left kneecap that will sideline him until the endof November.Wall, who grew up in Raleigh,N.C., participated in a similar BOKS programlast month at his hometown Hunter Elementary School andsays he wishes he had an early morning BOKS program when he was growing up.Sometimes you come in to school droopy, lazy, Wall said.I used to have to use chocolate milk at lunch time to get me energized. Thatwas too late during the day.When I was in middle school and high school I took P.E.class first so I could have fun and play some basketball. With BOKS youre havingfun and your bodys moving and youre enjoying yourself with your classmates beforeyou sit down for a long period of your day.Wall said it is imperative that kids today have a positive experiencewith school.The area where I grew up was a toughneighborhood, he said. Some of those kids see some bad things when theyre walkingup and down the street or at the playground playing. It was great to bringBOKS back there to Hunter. Now its great to bring it to D.C. Thats why Imhere.Pittman said the kids at Simon spent the past week learningmore about Wall and the path he took to the NBA.These kids also have challenges coming to school every day,but theyre here every day, Pittman said. This program keeps these kidshealthy, keeps them educated and its fun. And when you get a guy like JohnWall to drive it home it says it all.Clarence Barnes, 48, has three children at Simon Elementary son, Makel, 10, and daughters Janiya, 7, and Beatrice, 5. He spent the morningwatching his kids running circles around the Wizards star.This is a lot of fun, he said. Im happy to see someonetrying to give back to the community. When they see someone from the sportscommunity come to their school, it means a lot to them.

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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. 

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