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Wall on Webster: He’s a different guy -- and we needed him


Wall on Webster: He’s a different guy -- and we needed him

Teammates since 2012, but John Wall hasn't played a live NBA game with Martell Webster since last season. That's not happening any time soon and if it does in the future, it's likely not on the same side.

The Wizards announced Monday they waived the veteran forward and signed center Ryan Hollins. Webster had season-ending hip surgery in November.

"That’s very devastating," Wall said of Webster no longer part of the roster. "[He's] somebody that will always be like my brother. Somebody that came and helped us in a big year for us (in 2013-14). He’s proven what he can do when he’s healthy when he came to us. One of those players you wish he could stay healthy."

Webster provided 3-point shooting during his first two seasons with the Wizards, serving as one of the primary options for Wall, a pass-first point guard. However, back surgery, the third on his medical chart, before the 2014-15 season limited his availability. Despite some initial optimism, Webster never could get his body right heading into the current season.

"It was a tough last two years injury-wise," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Webster, his starting small forward for most of the 2012-13 season. "He did everything he could to try to get back to playing. Had one of the best summers I’ve seen. He came here in the best condition that I’ve seen. And then basically right off the bat gets hurt again."

If only Webster suffered an injury, perhaps he remains with the team. On Saturday against Toronto, five of Washington's 15 players were unavailable, including big men Nene (calf) and Drew Gooden (calf).

"It’s tough but we needed a spot with five guys down," Wittman said. "We needed to get bigger moving forward so it was a decision that needed to be made for the team. We’re still going to support Martell, be there doing what we can to help him in his rehab moving forward. That won’t change.”

Wall added said of Webster, "This year he came in with a great mind-set and better shape than from last year when he wasn’t in the rotation. He tried his best to all type of workouts to try to get to playing. When he went down it was kind of tough because you’re like, we need a position, a body. It’s tough to see him go. He helped us that one big year. He was going to be a big part of what our team needed."

Part of what Webster provided throughout his run in Washington and particularly those first two seasons wasn't about X's and O's unless the "O" stood for oddball. From changing hairstyles to humorous comments to simply viewing the world from a different lense than most -- and not being shy about letting you know that -- Webster, who turns 29 in December, helped keep the locker room mood light.

“He’s a different guy," Wall said. "We all accepted him. It was great for our team. He was who he was. He wasn’t trying to be anybody different.”

[RELATED: Antawn Jamison excited to join Wizards broadcasts]

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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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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.