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Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

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Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

The Milwaukee Bucks were expected by many to take another leap forward in the 2017-18 season with Giannis Antetokounmpo's continual rise as one of the best young players in the NBA, a deep roster and a front office that has proven to be both smart and aggressive in improving the team. That leap did not happen.

Instead, the Bucks dragged their feet to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, exited in the first round of the playoffs and fired head coach Jason Kidd along the way. They finally found a long-term replacement for Kidd this week and the man they chose could be the key to getting them over the hump and into the top tier of the conference.

In comes Mike Budenholzer, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks. ESPN reported on Wednesday that he has reached an agreement to become the Bucks' next coach, replacing interim coach Joe Prunty.

Budenholzer and the Bucks appear to be a great fit. Milwaukee has become progressively worse on defense in each of the past three seasons despite having a roster that should lend itself to that end of the floor. Antetokounmpo is a turnover-inducing force and he is surrounded by capable defenders like Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson and Khris Middleton.

Budenholzer coached the Hawks for five seasons. During the first four, when they made the playoffs each year, his Hawks ranked no worse than 14th in the NBA in defensive rating and they were top-6 in three seasons from 2014-15 through 2016-17.

When Atlanta was at its best under Budenholzer, it was because of their defense. In 2014-15, when they won 60 games, they were fifth in points allowed and sixth in defensive rating. The next season, when they won 48 games, they were sixth and second in those categories.

Budenholzer had some talented teams in Atlanta, and got them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, but these Bucks may ultimately have a much higher ceiling with Antetokounmpo in the mix. Budenholzer coached several All-Stars in Atlanta, yet none were on the level of Antetokounmpo, an MVP candidate.

Antetokounmpo has a chance to be one of the very best players in the NBA and transcendent stars often make the difference in the playoffs. Budenholzer's Hawks teams were always limited by the fact they lacked superstars that could take over games offensively. Now he has one.

Milwaukee now has a chance to be major factors in the East, but their roster needs some work. Outside of Antetokounmpo, they have considerable talent but will probably need another star to contend for championships. What they have is only so impressives compared to the Sixers and Celtics, in particular. Philly has two budding superstars and Boston has more talent overall. They are best set up to control the conference in the long-term future.

The Bucks, like the Wizards and Heat and other teams, are hoping to join the ranks at the top of the Eastern Conference. By hiring Budenholzer, the Bucks have improved their chances.

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Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

Wizards waive three, sign 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks

As the NBA regular season approaches, the Washington Wizards seek to finalize their roster.

The Wizards announced on Wednesday that they have waived Phil Booth, Justin Anderson and Jemerrio Jones. The team also signed 2017 first-rounder Anzejs Pasecniks and small forward Jalen Jones, the team announced.

Pasecniks and Jones were signed to Exhibit 10 contracts, meaning that if they are waived, they will have the opportunity to play for the Go-Go, the Wizards' G-League affiliate. Booth was on an Exhibit 10 deal, so he will report to the Go-Go after being waived.

Pasecniks, a 7-foot center from Latvia, was the 25th overall selection from the 2017 draft. The Orlando Magic drafted him and moved him to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for draft picks. The 76ers renounced his rights in June.

Pasecniks played on the Wizards summer league team, averaging 4.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. Jalen Jones has averaged 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc in 32 games over two seasons with three teams.


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John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

John Wall embracing role as assistant coach during injury rehab

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has already made enough money during his basketball career to last a lifetime and his new supermax contract worth $170 million is just kicking in. When he is done playing in the NBA, he doesn't have to do anything at all if he doesn't want to.

But there is at least a small part of Wall that believes coaching could be in his future. He loves the game enough to not rule out the possibility.

This year will give him a taste of what being a coach is all about. While he rehabs his ruptured left Achilles, he will serve as an unofficial assistant to head coach Scott Brooks. Wall will be asked to break down film with players, advise on plays to run and help the team's young point guards in practice.

Wall isn't sure as of today whether he wants to coach when his playing days are over. But he may have an answer in just a few months.

"I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not," Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast. 

"I think you have to have a lot of patience and you've gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player's attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn't the guy to coach."

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard envisions Wall as an important part of the locker room, even when he isn't playing. Part of his role may include some tough conversations with players. As Sheppard says, Wall may be able to deliver some messages that resonate more from a peer than if they came from a coach. 

Wall knows he can help in that regard. He has long been a vocal presence for the Wizards and had to assume the role as a team leader at an early age. After coming in as the No. 1 overall pick, he was a franchise player from the time he was 19 years old.

Wall's personality may also lend itself to those duties. He is very honest, whether it be with teammates or the media. 

"I like to speak my mind," he said. "It's like my momma always told me, 'I'd rather you speak your mind and say what you want to say, but say it in a respectful manner and a respectful way.'"

Wall, in fact, has a detailed philosophy on being honest. He doesn't like to lie whether it's in a media setting, to teammates or in everyday life.

It's not quite a Jim Carrey in 'Liar, Liar' deal, but Wall sees no point in beating around the bush. If he has something to say to a teammate or the media, he will say it.

"I don't know how to not give you the truth," he said. "What I've learned is that when you lie, you've gotta remember that lie exactly the way you said it for the next 12 people you tell it to. So, why make it that tough?"

Wall is set to miss at least the first few months of the Wizards' 2019-20 season and he could be sidelined the entire year. He said he hopes to have a similar impact that Kristi Tolliver did with the Mystics this past season where she remained active as a veteran leader in the locker room despite not being able to help the team on the floor for weeks due to a knee injury.

Missing so much time due to injury is not the ideal situation for Wall, but he plans to make the most of it.

"It will make my game a lot smarter and better for when I come back," he said.