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Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis get revenge on their former team as the Wizards blitz the Bulls

Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis get revenge on their former team as the Wizards blitz the Bulls

The Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 134-125 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. So, the new-look Wizards might be kind of fun.

For the second straight night, they blasted an opponent with a balanced scoring effort, lots of dunks and Bobby Portis screams into the crowd.

Things, of course, won’t always be this easy. They just beat up on the Bulls one night after smashing the Cavs. Those two teams place among the four-worst records in all the NBA.

The road will get a bit tougher on Monday against the Pistons and then extremely difficult on Wednesday in Toronto in their final game before the All-Star break. 

But the early returns on the Wizards after their pair of trades on Wednesday are good. They play hard, they can score and they at least have enough to win against the bad teams.

The two straight wins follow a stretch of five losses in six games. The Wizards are 10th in the conference with a shot at the 9th-place team, Detroit, up next. At 24-32, Washington is two and a half games behind the 8th-place Miami Heat, who play the Warriors on Sunday.

2. Friday was Portis’ time to shine. On Saturday, it was all about Jabari Parker.

The new Wizards forward had a classic revenge game, tormenting his former team to the tune of 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He also added six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Parker clearly had an ax to grind coming into this game based on his comments the day before about his frustration with the Bulls coaching staff. And his quest for vengeance seemed to translate in a variety of powerful dunks. He wasn’t just there to score. He was there to punish the rim.

Parker led a huge effort from the Wizards bench. They scored 64 points compared to 38 for the Bulls reserves. Chasson Randle pitched in with a career-high 20 points.

The Wizards gave up a good player in Otto Porter Jr., but already it’s clear how they improved their depth in this week’s trades. They basically got three players for one in their rotation since Markieff Morris hadn’t played in weeks due to injury.

3. As expected, it was strange to see Porter in a Bulls jersey going up against his former Wizards teammates.  What was unexpected was some of the plays he made.

Porter came out with some extra zip in the first quarter. He was more aggressive than we are used to seeing him, attacking the rim and finishing through traffic. 

Porter ended up with 17 points and two steals. As much as there is to like about the Wizards’ side of the trade – they got two nice players and some much-needed financial flexibility – the Bulls did well for themselves. He is a nice fit with what they are building.

Porter is a good veteran complement to Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Add in whomever they get with their 2019 first round pick, which should be a top selection, and they will have a solid group to build around. 

Porter’s contract was a problem in Washington, but they can manage it in Chicago with young players who have yet to break the bank.

4. The Wizards had their best offensive first half in over a decade. They dropped 76 points against the Bulls, their most in a first half since 2006, back when Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were lighting it up in the good old days.

The Wizards shot 57.1 percent overall in the first half and 10-for-18 from three. Their bench outdid that of the Bulls, 35-15. They blitzed them in the second quarter with 42 points.

It has helped the Wizards played Cleveland on Friday and then the Bulls, but their new-look roster has already shown some serious offensive potential. Everyone knows Parker can score and both Portis and Wes Johnson can stretch the floor.

5. There is a new Wizards injury to monitor as Jeff Green did not return after halftime with tightness in his left hip. He was replaced by Parker in the lineup to begin the third quarter.

Green can be added to the Wizards’ list of injuries that includes Troy Brown Jr., who is not expected to return until after the All-Star break due to his left ankle sprain. Then, of course, there is John Wall who is out for the year and Dwight Howard, who does not appear close to returning.


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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 


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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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