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Wizards' late rally fails in 94-91 loss to Raptors: Five takeaways


Wizards' late rally fails in 94-91 loss to Raptors: Five takeaways

The last time the Wizards met the Toronto Raptors, Cory Joseph hit the game-winning basket from the corner. Wednesday, with two chances on clean looks from deep to send the game into overtime, the Wizards misfired as they lost to their nemesis again to end 2015 with a 14-16 record.

Otto Porter (20 points, nine rebounds) and John Wall (19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, five steals) each had open looks that didn't go down as time expired at Air Canada Centre.

Out of a timeout, Jared Dudley (17 points) knocked down a corner three on a feed from Wall to pull the Wizards to 92-91 with 40 seconds left in a game they hadn't led since it was 13-12.  After DeMar DeRozan, who shot 9 of 24, missed on Toronto's next possession Dudley had another chance with an open three but missed.

DeRozan (34 points) tied his season high as he made 15 of 15 free throws. The next highest scorer for the Raptors (20-13) was Terrence Ross (14 points) off the bench. Kyle Lowry (11 points) was held to 2 of 12 shooting and had six turnovers.

  • The defense that was lacking in Monday's 17-point loss to the L.A. Clippers was back for Washington. Toronto only shot 28 of 82 (34%), including 6 of 24 on threes (25%). Where the Wizards were lacking was defensive rebounding. They allowed the Raptors to grab 15 offensive boards which was why they had a 39-17 edge in free-throw attempts. Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas each had five offensive rebounds.

  • Porter returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 16 when stiffness in his left knee was a byproduct of a deep thigh bruise. His production what the Wizards need with Bradley Beal out. In particular, he was 3 of 5 from three which has been his Achilles heel all season. He's 6 of 10 in two games since returning. Porter had been shooting less than 30% from long range.

  • Gortat picked up his fourth foul on an offensive rebound by Biyombo with 4:15 left in the third quarter and sent him to the foul line. What had been a one-possession game when the Wizards came out of halftime with an 11-2 run, was back to 64-55. Gortat shot just 5 of 15 en route to 12 points and nine rebounds. But only two points and three rebounds came from him in playing 16-plus minutes in the second half. 

  • That Garrett Temple is 6 of 24 shooting in his last three games and Kelly Oubre is 3 of 9 is to be expected. Oubre, a rookie, has seen his time dwindle with Porter's return, which it should as long as Porter continues to play well. It's harder to get into a rhythm when playing spot minutes for a 19-year-old. Temple's offensive outbursts are complementary to the offense, not the focal point for the Wizards so he's not going to drop 20 a night each time. But he was key in the poor shooting performance by the Raptors' backcourt (11 of 36).

  • Lowry is one of four guards ahead of Wall in the All-Star voting in the East. No doubt Wall had extra motivation to play better -- and he did -- and late in the game he was matched with DeRozan and defended him perfectly. Wall, however, was called for a foul on what looked like a clean block of DeRozan on a jump shot. The foul shots made the score 92-88.

[RELATED: Do Wizards stick with Kelly Oubre over Otto Porter?]

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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.