Quick Links

Wizards fall apart in fourth quarter


Wizards fall apart in fourth quarter

In their first three games, all losses, the Wizards showed flashes of dominance and glimmers of hope before falling apart in the final minutes.

Friday night at Verizon Center the Wizards took a significant step backwards, falling apart early in the fourth quarter and turning a close game into a lopsided 101-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The defeat dropped the Wizards’ record to 0-4 heading into a three-game road trip that takes them to Indiana Saturday night, Charlotte on Tuesday and Dallas on Wednesday. Last season the Wizards went 0-8 before they recorded their first victory.

The game ended with tempers flaring and Wizards rookie Bradley Beal and Bucks guard Brandon Jennings ejected.

With 23.7 remaining and the Bucks leading 99-90 Bucks guard Monta Ellis was cruising in for an uncontested layup when Bradley Beal caught him from behind and knocked him to the floor with a hard foul, along with Trevor Booker.

Ellis landed on a female attendant on the floor and Beal quickly extended his hand to Ellis to lift him off the floor. That’s when Jennings arrived and pushed Beal from behind onto the floor in retaliation for the flagrant foul.

Players pushed and shoved and Beal and Ellis, each of whom finished with a game-high of 22 points, were escorted to their locker rooms.

It was an ugly ending to an ugly finish for the Wizards.

Trevor Ariza [15 points] and Emeka Okafor [11 points] awoke from their early-season slumber and Bradley Beal added a season-high 22 points, but the Wizards could not recover from a horrid five-minute stretch to begin the fourth quarter.

Trailing 75-72 after three quarters, the Wizards missed their first seven shots of the fourth quarter and watched the Bucks, who lack a strong inside game, extend their lead to 85-72 with very little resistance.

The Wizards did not get on the scoreboard in fourth quarter until just under 7 minutes remained when Beal sank a pair of free throws. That sparked an 8-0 run but the Wizards never drew closer than five points.

After three straight games in which his bench outscored his starters by a 161-103 count, Wizards coach Randy Wittman had to weigh the option of replacing struggling starters Okafor and Ariza with Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton.

He didn’t and his two veterans rewarded his patience.

Ariza and Okafor each scored six points in the opening quarter and the Wizards hit their first six shots to open up a 12-0 lead with their best start of the season.

That lead grew to as much as 14-3 before the Bucks went on a 17-2 run and took a 56-47 lead into the half.

Quick Links

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

Getty Images

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.


Quick Links

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.