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Dwight Howard signing with Wizards is proof of John Wall's power as a recruiter

Dwight Howard signing with Wizards is proof of John Wall's power as a recruiter

When Dwight Howard was given the floor to offer opening comments at his introductory press conference this week, he made a point to thank his new teammate, John Wall. The reason why, as Howard expounded on later, is that Wall was a pivotal reason for why Howard signed with Washington.

It wasn't just about their potential fit on the court. Wall helped bring Howard to D.C. and Howard wanted to make that clear.

"Shoutout to John for reaching out to me and asking me about joining this team," Howard said.

Howard, in fact, hadn't really thought about the Wizards much at all when he began contemplating his next step as he proccessed a trade by the Hornets and a looming buyout by the Nets. It was while he was considering his options that he received a message on Instagram from Wall.

"No lie, when I saw the message on Instagram, I really got so happy. I was like 'John just DM'd me, oh man this is crazy!' After that, I really just started to put on my thinking cap," Howard said. "I just thought about all the possibilities. I was like 'man, this could be the best spot for me.'"

If there is one thing clear about the Wizards' offseason so far, particularly their two biggest free agent signings in Howard and Jeff Green, it's that recruitment by NBA stars definitely works. It has been effective for other teams, most notably Draymond Green's recruitment of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, and now it has led to success for the Wizards.

Wall, interestingly enough, has been averse to free agent recruiting in the past. He has said on numerous occasions that he isn't a fan of doing it.

He even said it this past April in his exit interview with the media following the 2017-18 season.

"I think people understand what they'll get if they come here. They've seen our team. They kind of know what it is," he said.

Wall decided to change his tune and the results are undeniable. Howard admitted that it didn't even take much convincing.

"He just said 'do you want to come to D.C.?' It wasn't too much to be said. After he said that, I was like 'bro, I'm with it.' That conversation was like a confirmation for me," Howard said. "Him reaching out, I've never had a guy like John Wall as a point guard, so why lose that opportunity?"

Team president Ernie Grunfeld was surely appreciative of Wall's role in landing Howard. There are strict tampering rules for league executives for when and how they can contact free agents. Wall was able to have a conversation with Howard just player-to-player.

"We always talk to our players and who is available and who can help our team," Grunfeld said. "We realized it was a good opportunity for us to get [an athletic big man]. John did his part in it and he was very happy about it."

Howard liked the thought of playing with Wall and appreciated his communication so much that he says it helped sway him from signing with the Warriors. Golden State ended up doing well for themselves by signing DeMarcus Cousins, but they did reach out to Howard.

Howard, though, liked Wall's pitch better.

"Golden State called and I thought about them. But once John sent me that message, I was like, man. I couldn't tell him at first, but I was like 'man, I'm going to be a Wizard.' That was my mindset," he said.

Perhaps this experience will have an effect in the future on how Wall and the Wizards approach free agency, knowing this method worked out quite well for them.

Tyler Byrum contributed to this report

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Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Wizards’ Isaiah Thomas returns to practice days before season opener

Five weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas returned to practice Sunday and was a full participant.

Originally expected to miss 6-8 weeks in recovery, Thomas is on track to play much sooner than anticipated. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks wouldn’t go as far to say Thomas would be ready for Washington’s season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, but he did seem optimistic that he’d be playing in the near future.

Thomas signed a one-year minimum deal with the Wizards in July. Once healthy, he’s expected to be the team’s starting point guard with Ish Smith and Justin Robinson coming off the bench.

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Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason

Wizards' biggest storylines coming out of the preseason


The Wizards closed their 2019-20 preseason schedule with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, which means up next is the regular season opener on Wednesday night in Dallas. Now that the exhibition schedule is (finally) over, here are five takeaways from what we saw...

Injuries have added up

The Wizards entered this preseason with a lot of things to sort out in their rotation due to the significant roster overhaul they went through in the summer. But injuries complicated things further for head coach Scott Brooks, who wasn't offered anything close to a full cupboard to work with.

The most notable injuries were to Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and Troy Brown Jr. (calf). Both players will be key members of the rotation when they recover, but are each on track to miss the start of the regular season. The same goes for C.J. Miles, who has a foot injury. There is also Ian Mahinmi, who has an Achilles issue, though he is not likely to play a big role on the team this season.

Hachimura looks the part

The early returns on rookie Rui Hachimura have been good. The 2019 ninth overall pick has not looked timid or out of place on an NBA floor. He has shown he can attack the rim assertively and has even made a few threes. Those two areas will be key to watch for him this season; how he can adapt to NBA interior defenders and shooting threes from a longer distance.

Hachimura is a likely starter for the Wizards this season and should get ample shot opportunities. He is going to have a chance to be a focal point of the Wizards' offense and probably a long enough leash to play through his mistakes. As a young player, you can't ask for much more than that.

Also impressive this preseason were Moe Wagner, who was much better than he showed in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Thomas Bryant, who looks like he is going to take another step from his breakout season last year. Bryant is more confident knocking down threes and has been a force on the glass. Don't be surprised if he averages a double-double this season.

Small forward is a question

The Wizards had Brown penciled in to be their full-time starting small forward, according to a person familiar with their plans, but his injury is expected to keep him out to start the season. He did a post-practice workout the other day and wasn't moving very quickly, either due to discomfort in his calf or to be extra cautious in fear of a setback.

Either way, he is still rehabbing and so is Miles. The Wizards also released Justin Anderson, leaving them with no obvious choice to start at the three. At this point, it looks likely they will have to either put someone there that is probably best suited for another position like Hachimura, Davis Bertans or Jordan McRae, or roll with someone who is very inexperienced like Bonga or Admiral Schofield. The odds seem better they choose the former.

Final roster spot?

The Wizards now have to decide who gets their final roster spot. The safe money at this point is probably for point guard Justin Robinson and wing Jordan McRae to be the 14th and 15th players on the roster and for Chris Chiozza to have his contract converted to a two-way deal.

The Chiozza part has been speculated for weeks and it is the direction the team is leaning, NBC Sports Washington was told. If Chiozza did get the two-way contract, he could remain with the team to start the season and help fill the void at point guard while Thomas recovers from his left thumb surgery. Chiozza would have 45 days allotted at the NBA level, but that clock would not begin until Oct. 28 when G-League training camps open.

Beal's commitment

This season took on an entirely different tone with Thursday's news Bradley Beal would sign a contract extension with the Wizards. This year had the potential to be overshadowed by Beal's uncertain future, but now that has been put to rest. The trade rumors can be set aside as Beal has made it official his commitment to the Wizards' plan.

Now, that could get interesting late in the year if losses are piling up. He ultimately wants to win and it will bear watching how he shows his frustration if the team isn't playing up to his standards.

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