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Bradley Beal on Wizards off-season, GM search: Leonsis serious about making changes

Bradley Beal on Wizards off-season, GM search: Leonsis serious about making changes

Bradley Beal cannot predict the future.

That means for his own career path and the next step for the general manager-less Washington Wizards. Yet the two-time All-Star has more insight than most trying to decipher the organization’s next step. Unlike outsiders scrutinizing crumbs of information, Beal speaks with the man running the show.

While the possible All-NBA selection spent a portion of his post-regular season downtime “relaxing,” Beal remains connected with Wizards ownership.

“Staying in the loop with Ted (Leonsis) as much as possible,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington Friday following his latest mentoring event with athletes from the Ron Brown College Prep High School.

Beal processed those conversations with Leonsis and determined the following.

“He’s definitely on thin ice with everybody,” Beal said of Leonsis. “He wants change and he wants it better.”

Leonsis began the process of evaluating the organization after firing longtime team president Ernie Grunfeld one month ago. Consultants were hired. Interviews with potential GM candidates including Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver began this week.

“For [Ted] to go through the process of hiring the search team, I think that in it of itself speaks to the seriousness behind it,” Beal said. “At the end of the day, it’s his team. He’s going to run the team as he says. All we can do is follow. I can just sense he wants a better environment.”

While the speculation focuses on the potential contenders, including Denver president Tim Connelly and perhaps a mystery entry or two, one major unknown is Leonsis’ mindset following the trying 32-50 season. Has reflection led him to seek massive changes in philosophy or subtle tweaks beyond the ouster of Grunfeld after 16 seasons?

The new GM hire will speak volumes. For now, the quiet is the “scary part” for Beal.

“In this business, anything is possible, anything can happen. We can get a new guy in here who has a totally different agenda then we may have (assumed) going forward,” Beal said. “You never know.. Just have to play it is you go and accept the fact that it’s a business, and be prepared for any situation.”

For Beal, 25, that could mean two distinct paths. Remain the driving force on-court of the only NBA organization he’s known or become the centerpiece of a trade should a new voice push for draft picks and younger assets.

He set career-highs in scoring (25.6), rebounding (5.0) and assists (5.5) while playing in all 82 regular season games for a second consecutive and providing true leadership on and off the court. Contending teams would pay a premium his talents. The Wizards might determine they cannot let Beal go regardless of almost any reasonable haul.

Beal possibly earning a supermax contract by virtue of selection to one of the three All-NBA teams would add major financial wrinkle for an organization already paying the injured John Wall $170 million over the next four seasons.

Though Beal delivered a strong campaign, the team floundered throughout and missed the postseason for only the second time in six years.

“I think we let a year go by. We kind of wasted a year,” said Beal, who is one of a small handful of players under contract for the 2019-20 season.

“At the same time, the bright side is we have an opportunity to build up a team now,” Beal continued. “It’s scary to think we have nine free agents and everything like that, but we still have a great opportunity to be able to do something big this summer, make some moves and get some guys in here and try to turn this thing around.”

Beal’s sustained efforts with the students at Ron Brown led to him being named a finalist for the season-long NBA Cares Community Assist Award.

The latest direct opportunity with members of the boy’s basketball and football team took occurred Friday. Beal showed his ball skills at a bowling alley next to Capital One Arena after leading a panel discussion focused on academics held at the team’s practice facility in Ward 8.

Though he primarily avoided basketball talk even when prompted – “I want to stick to the academics and consistency part. Hoops is the easy part.” – Beal emphasized the point of teamwork. In doing so, he circled back to the Wizards’ woes.

“Sacrifice. You can’t go out there shooting the ball every time. You can’t go out there pouting about not getting the ball. You can’t complain about not getting the ball,” Beal said. “There’s only one basketball and five of y’all. The object of the game is to stop them from scoring and we do whatever it takes to score.

“Stop first, then score. That was our problem. We could score 100 points, but we couldn’t stop anybody.”

Defense is yet another angle the next general manager must consider. Beal awaits word on the next hire while remaining prepared for any situation.

Fans can vote for the NBA community assist award via Twitter and other platforms through Sunday.

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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.

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