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Ernie Grunfeld confirms John Wall's Achilles injury changed Wizards' plans

Ernie Grunfeld confirms John Wall's Achilles injury changed Wizards' plans

The slip changed the plan for Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld and the organization.

As the NBA trade deadline week approached, Washington expected quiet. The team improved considerably after the opening weeks when frustration ruled and losses piled up. Perhaps some moves on the margins to reduce their luxury tax payment or tweak the roster.

Though already dealing with the absence of five-time All-Star John Wall for the season following left heel surgery, the chance for a postseason berth remained. Expectations put Wall back on the court for the start of next season. Though salary cap and roster concerns existed, the core pieces from recent successes would return. Compete now, seek needed changes during the off-season.

Then came the slip. There went the quiet

Wall suffered a ruptured left Achilles on Jan. 28 with a fall in his home. He told the team orthopedist a day or two after. Further examination revealed the rupture -- and created a new timeline.

Wall would remain sidelined for approximately 12 months and possibly the entire 2019-20 season. The update had the Wizards shelving their plan.

"We felt that with John's injury situation we had to adjust our thinking,” Grunfeld told NBC Sports Washington Thursday evening shortly after the deadline passed.

Wall’s fall was not the first misstep. Washington reached the postseason in four of the prior five seasons, but previous transactional missteps created future financial and roster concerns. The cumulative effect led to the deadline maneuvers.

The Wizards adjusted their thinking, their roster and their financial “flexibility” with two trades Wednesday that shipped out their long-time starting forward tandem of Otto Porter and Markieff Morris.

Porter, the no. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, was shipped to the Chicago Bulls for forwards Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and a 2023 second-round selection.

Trading the team’s highest paid player with $55 million remaining on his contract created ample future cap space where none existed. Combined with savings on Morris’ deal to New Orleans, Washington eliminated its potential luxury tax payment.

Dealing Porter did something else: Removed a player once thought central to the team’s future.

“We drafted Otto. He improved every year. He’s a true professional, a great teammate,” Grunfeld said. “It’s always disappointing to spend five or six years with a player, develop not only a professional but a personal relationship. That part of it is very difficult. I’m proud of what he accomplished and what kind of person he is.”

Washington shipped Morris, one of three unrestricted free agents traded at the deadline, and a 2023 second-round selection to New Orleans for guard Wesley Johnson’s expiring contract. Morris remains sidelined with a neck injury. The power forward last played Dec. 26.

The selection acquired from Chicago is Washington’s only second-round pick until 2023.

The other two UFA forwards, Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green, remain on the roster for reasons short and long-term. NBC Sports Washington reported Wednesday that the Wizards intend to keep both players with the hopes of re-signing this summer.

Grunfeld cited value in their leadership and ability to help the Wizards remain competitive this season among the reasons the team passed on trading the veteran pair.

Parker, the no. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and Portis, a restricted free agent this summer, join the frontcourt this season. Hypothetically both have a chance over the remaining 28 games for the 22-32 Wizards to show they are potential pieces for the new plan, especially the 6-foot-10 Portis.

Despite Parker’s scoring talents, the Wizards are not expected to pick up the $20 million team option for the 2019-20 season.  

“The deal covers a lot of different things for us,” Grunfeld said. “It covers some of the goals we wanted to accomplish. Stay competitive. Gives us flexibility moving forward and get some young players we can look at that could be part of that core moving forward.”

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

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Wizards release statement on the passing of John Wall's mother

The Washington Wizards announced the passing of John Wall's mother, Frances Pulley on Friday. 

Wall's mother had been battling cancer before her passing. She was 58. 

In a statement on Twitter, the Wizards said, "Sending thoughts and love for John Wall and his family after the passing of his mother, Frances Pulley. She will forever be a part of our #DCFamily."

Zach Leonsis, the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also released a statement

"Thinking of @JohnWall and his family right now. Keeping you guys in our prayers. So terribly sorry for your loss and know that she will be remembered forever. #DCFamily

Wall's Kentucky coach, John Calipari also expressed his condolences for his former star: 

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Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

Bradley Beal sees a young John Wall in the Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant

WASHINGTON -- It is not often you see a rookie find initial success in the NBA to the degree Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has, already with borderline All-Star numbers at the age of 20. And oftentimes, opponents are careful throwing out player comparisons for guys his age, wanting to see more before they anoint anyone.

Morant, though, is a different case and questions from media members at Wizards practice this week as the team gets set to face him for the first time naturally led to parallels to great players. On Thursday, Brooks brought up unprompted how much Morant reminds him of Russell Westbrook, his former player in Oklahoma City.

And on Friday, Bradley Beal invoked a teammate of his when breaking down what makes Morant so good.

"He loves to get up and down. He's really fast with the ball. It reminds you of John [Wall] in a lot of ways. He plays with his pace," Beal said.

Through 19 games this season, Morant is averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.2 percent from three on 2.2 attempts.

The threes have been surprising to most, as he shot a relatively modest 36.3 percent his final year in college at Murray State. But also surprising maybe just how lethal he has been at attacking the rim.

Sure, that was a big part of his game in college. But this is the NBA where athletes are much bigger and stronger. And he isn't the biggest guy either, weighing in at 175 pounds according to Basketball-Reference.

But despite lacking in size, he has shown an ability to finish through contact rarely seen from any player.

"I think he has a no-fear type of mentality. So, you have to respect his aggressiveness," Beal said. "He'll get respect from a lot of players in the league, a lot of refs in the league because of his aggressiveness and... with all the posters he has. So, he's an assassin. You gotta respect his game."

Beal likely won't draw the defensive assignment on Morant. That will probably go to Ish Smith and back-up point guard Chris Chiozza, who is with the team while Isaiah Thomas recovers from a left calf injury.

Beal knows it is going to be tough for the whole Wizards team to contain Morant. He said the trick will be trying to stay in front of him, though he knows that is easier said than done.

Really, Morant is such a unique player that the Wizards can only gameplan and prepare so much until they actually experience facing him for the first time.

"He's gonna be a handful," Beal said.

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