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Wall's game must be on point for shot at making Team USA


Wall's game must be on point for shot at making Team USA

John Wall remains officially part of the USA National Team. That means he'll participate in next week's training camp in Las Vegas, which is all about getting a sense about who wants in for the 2016 RIo Olympics. 

Looking at the star-studded and deep roster, we get a sense that it won't be easy for the Washington Wizards All-Star point guard to make the team.

That applies to most of the 34 players expected in Vegas. By next summer, that group gets whittled down to 12. Feel free to pen in players like Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Kevin Durant assuming good health and a desire to play. Fingers crossed for all, but the games are a full year away and lots can happen over 300-something days. Don't forget, some of these guys will be just coming off franchise-altering free agency decisions (wink, wink).

Anyway, for our purposes, let's just focus on the point guards.

Seven are on the current roster (current is a key word, because additions and subtractions will happen before determining the final roster). That list includes two-time Olympic gold medalist Chris Paul; 2014 World Champions Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving; 2012 Olympian Russell Westbrook; Wall, Mike Conley and Michael Carter-Williams. 

Damian Lillard recently announced he would pass on showing in Vegas. Derrick Rose, a member of the 2014 squad, is not on the 2015 roster. James Harden handles the ball plenty, but he's not a point guard by positional definition. Neither is Wizards shooting threat Bradley Beal, who is also headed to Las Vegas.

Barring a change in roster construction -- and one that would make little tactical sense -- Team USA will have at least three point guards. 

2014 World Championships - Curry, Irving, Rose

2012 Olympics - Paul, Westbrook, Deron Williams

2008 Olympics - Jason Kidd, Paul, Williams

If Curry, the best perimeter shooter in the world, and Paul, the consummate floor leader, are willing and able, they're going for gold. Period, end of story.

That leaves Irving, Wall and Westbrook plus newbies Conley and Carter-Williams, who has zero percent chance of making the team. The other four, that's different. All have positive qualities.

Irving is the shooter and dynamic scorer who also played for Coach K in college.

Wall is the passer with blinding speed few in the world can match.

Westbrook is the athletic freak not intimidated by any scenario.

Conley is steady dual threat who likely signs a max contract with a team next summer.

It's possible Westbrook makes the team as a wing guard, but regardless, this won't be a slam dunk for any of the four, including Wall, who wasn't thrilled about being cut in 2014.

"You want to make every team you try out for," Wall told CSNwashington.com last summer. "When you don’t, it’s more motivation for me. Not even (against) just those (Team USA point guards), but the NBA, period. I guess I’m overlooked again. I guess have to prove myself one more time."

The now two-time All-Star did just that with a spectacular 2014-15 campaign. It will likely take another starry campaign and then some to overcome this impressive group -- and that Irving/Krzyzewski connection -- for a trip to Rio with Team USA.

MORE WIZARDS: Ranking offseasons in the East: No. 7, Magic

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

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Washington Wizards hire assistant coach Michael Longabardi to Scott Brooks coaching staff

The Wizards sought to add an assistant coach with a strong defensive track record this offseason and they did just that Saturday evening by hiring Michael Longabardi, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. 

Longardi, 46, has spent the last three seasons as a defensive coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers' staff. He was initially hired by former Cavs' head coach Tyronn Lue in 2016 when the team claimed their first championship in franchise history. 

Before joining the Cavaliers, Longabardi held assistant coaching roles with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and most notably the Boston Celtics, in which he and Lue served under head coach Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau from 2007 to 2013.

Longabardi was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Xaverian High School, a private Catholic school. He then went on to play basketball at Newberry College where he earned the nickname "Mr. Defense."

Just a day after reports broke that Tommy Sheppard would be promoted to a permanent general manager position, the organization is making yet another move in hopes of improving overall culture and team defense.


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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.