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Wizards notebook: It's the final countdown


Wizards notebook: It's the final countdown

Wizards coach Randy Wittman has made it clear he intends on sticking with the "mix and match" approach over the final two preseason games rather than establishing a set lineup or rotation. With no John Wall (knee), Nene (foot) or Kevin Seraphin (calf), it's not as he has much of choice - though he probably wished he did seeing as the Wizards are set to take on NBA powers Miami and San Antonio.

"There are injuries. There is not much I can do," Wittman said following Tuesday's practice, one that also did not include Bradley Beal (ankle). "I don't know if Bradley is going to play tomorrow. That's going to change things. We're not going into tomorrow's game or Friday's game with this as our starting group."

(For all those craving hoops, both games are televised on Comcast SportsNet, including tonight's matchup against the Heat starting at 8:30 p.m.)

Then again, the Oct. 30 regular season opener at Cleveland is rapidly approaching so it's hard to fathom the coach not favoring those he intends on using when the games turn real (there is another argument that Wittman might want one final look at certain players before having to make roster cuts. Also a valid stance).

Even factoring in Wall's projected month-long regular season absence, Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo may well be battling for one spot. Both have only partially guaranteed contracts and the Wizards may need another roster slot for a big man if Nene and Seraphin are not ready to answer the bell in the near future. Though Pargo has started two games while Mack has only come off the bench, the 33-year-old did not see the court in Saturday's win at Milwaukee.

Final cuts are due October 29 at 5 p.m. Don't expect much if any movement from the locals before then.

"We're running out of bodies," Wittman said when asked if any cuts could come before completing both games. "We've got to maintain a chance to get stuff done practice wise."

Regardless of who is out in the court, the Wizards realize they must take advantage of these final fine-tuning situations.

"Clean up our defense and offense. Coach put in some new plays and we want to go out there and execute them versus other teams," guard Jordan Crawford said. "On defense, get back on transition, [grab] loose balls."

Preseason or not, facing the reigning NBA champs and the defending Western Conference regular season champions presents a viable measuring stick.

"it's a great challenge to see where we're at,' Crawford said. "You know they're going to play the right way."

* Beal was more spectator than participant during Tuesday's final practice before the Wizards headed out to Kansas City for Wednesday's meeting with Miami. The rookie took a tumble toward the end of Monday's session and gave those on hand a brief scare before hoping up and walking off with only an apparent minor ankle tweak.

"He's sore so we held him out," Wittman said. "Not very much swelling, so that's always a good sign. We'll see [Wednesday]. Obviously, we'll have to gauge what the improvement was from today to tomorrow during shootaround, see if we give him any time on the floor."

Asked how about how he was feeling following the previous day's nasty spill, the coy 19-year-old initially responded, "What happened yesterday?" before coming clean.

"I'm fine, just tweaked it a little bit. Coach held me out today, but I was able to shoot and stuff. I can still run some. I'll keep icing it and hopefully I'll be able to go [Wednesday].

If Beal is able to go, he'll likely square off against Miami's star guard Dwyane Wade. Still working his way back from offseason knee surgery, the perennial All-Star sat out the Heat's Tuesday night game against Charlotte but is expected to face the Wizards, the Sun Sentinel is reporting.

Earlier during training camp Wizards forward Martell Webster made a favorable comparison between the two wing guards.

"[Bradley] says he wants to compare himself to Ray Allen, but he has a little more flash than Ray Allen,” Webster said. “I’d say he has a little of The Flash – [Dwyane] Wade – in him.”

We'll see if the initial side-by-side comparison comes Wednesday or when the teams first meet during the regular season, Dec. 4 at the Verizon Center.

*Tuesday marked guard Crawford's 24th birthday -- and made for a perfect excuse for some mild and musical rookie hazing.

"We made the rookies sing today for Jordan," said Cartier Martin, noting that even those second-year players who missed out on last year's training camp due to the league's labor issue were tasked with performing.

So, how'd they do?

"They weren't too vocal, man," Martin said. "We might have to get them to do it again. Depends on how JC feels once we get to Kansas City."

Asked at the end of his media session for his take on his young players singing ability, Wittman paused, and then thought better of offering an opinion. "No comment," the coach said.

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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.