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As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

As Monumental Basketball gets underway, Mystics are leading the charge

Monumental Basketball, the new vertical that encompasses the NBA's Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League, the Mystics of the WNBA and District Gaming of the NBA 2K League, is designed to help all of the respective teams owned and operated by Ted Leonsis and his partners. The Mystics, though, don't need nearly as much assistance as the others.

Sitting atop the WNBA with a league-best 18-7 record, the Mystics look well on their way to another deep playoff run. Last year, it ended in a loss in the WNBA Finals. This year, they have an even better roster capable of winning it all.

On Wednesday, the Mystics routed the Seattle Storm, last year's champions, by 29 points. They did so despite missing All-Star point guard Kristi Tolliver and with their best player, Elena Delle Donne, scoring 14 points. They might be the deepest team in the WNBA with a bench that is starting lineup-caliber.

The Mystics have already arrived, but it took some time to get here. When head coach and general manager Mike Thibault took over in 2013, they had won 11 total games the previous two years. Five years later, they were title contenders.

Leonsis wants to see the same upward trajectory for his other teams. Thibault believes the new program can help everyone get on track.

"The overall structure can be so good when you are inclusive and you have services that are available to everybody," Thibault told NBC Sports Washington. 

"I think that one of the things that I learned in trying to rebuild the Mystics is that you need a lot of hands to make it work. I go back to the days where you had a head coach and one or two assistants. The game has changed so much. If you can make a player coming in, whether it’s to the Mystics or the Wizards, feel like they are a part of something bigger."

Thibault, 68, knows what good organizations look like, as he has been a part of many over the years. He was a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s during their dynasty. He later worked for the Chicago Bulls and oversaw the scouting department when they drafted Michael Jordan. It wasn't until the 2000s that he joined the WNBA ranks, first with a successful run as coach of the Connecticut Sun before coming to Washington.

Thibault believes the player services arm of Monumental Basketball will be particularly helpful.

"Let’s say you’re traded to the Wizards. You’re coming from a different city and it’s a new environment. Your family has to move and you have kids. That’s a whole thing in and of itself," he explained.

"What can we do for their post-career ability? Do they want to be a coach? Do they want to go into broadcasting, or business? There are so many things you can do to enhance how comfortable a player and a family is coming to an organization. It’s something that just makes you special as an organization."

Thibault says some of benefits Monumental Basketball will provide have already been utilized by the Mystics, including mental health professionals and nutritionists. What can help the Mystics in particular is more synergy with the Wizards.

This is the first season the Mystics are playing at the new arena at St. Elizabeth's in Southeast Washington. They now share a practice facility and office space with the Wizards. Thibault believes there are positives to feeling part of a larger operation.

"I think our players already sense that," he said. "You see Wizards players, you see Tommy Sheppard and others at our games. That makes you feel like you’re a part of a bigger thing. We have a dining room where all of the players can socialize in both of the organizations."

When the creation of Monumental Basketball was announced, Leonsis noted Thibault will have a certain level of autonomy in what he does. Some of the executives hired by the organization like John Thompson III, who will help with player wellness, and Dr. Daniel Medina, who will assist in training and health, will provide services to the Mystics. But Thibault will pick the players and set the vision for basketball operations.

Thibault, though, knows Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard well and thinks the team is in good hands.

"He’s got ideas. He’s very forward thinking. I think he’s a great judge of personnel and character. I think he’s very thorough in what he does," Thibault said. 

"I think that when you’re trying to build an organization, there are process you have to go through and steps you have to take to be good. I think he knows you have to have patience to do that. I think if fans give him the chance to do what he’s great at, they will see the results over time. It might take time, but he will get them there."

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

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After setbacks in rehab, John Wall is appreciating the little things in life

WASHINGTON -- John Wall has been all smiles in public when discussing his rehab from Achilles surgery. He has even remarked how smoothly this recovery has gone compared to others he's underwent in the past.

But his road back from a ruptured left Achilles has not been entirely free of obstacles. He revealed to NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast recently that he dealt with an infection that delayed him getting out of his walking boot.

That was already weeks after he first had surgery to remove bone spurs from his heel in January. He had a series of infections following that procedure, one of which helped doctors discover his Achilles had torn during a fall in his home.

Wall can admit now after the fact it was a difficult time for him.

"I've just put in a lot of hard work," he said. "For me to be where I'm at right now, with all the setbacks and infections and then finding out my Achilles was ruptured and then going through another infection, it was like 'man, when can I ever get past that point of just getting out of the boot and walking?'"

What made that last part particularly frustrating was where Wall makes his offseason home. He summers in Miami, a place notorious for its humidity.

"I was in Miami during the summertime in a boot. Like, man, I don't want to be in hot Miami in a boot, sweating," he said.

Nowadays, things are much better for Wall. He is doing on-court work at the Wizards' practice facility. He can shoot jumpers and do individual ball-handling and passing drills. He can jog and lift weights.

After months of waiting to just have his walking boot come off, Wall is very appreciative to simply be able to do anything on the basketball court.

"Just to do the ball-handling and be able to shoot and do the weight-lifting, that's a great aspect [of my progress]. It makes it easier for me because I'm in a great space where it's fun," he said. 

"I'm able to do what I'm able to do, even if I'm not playing at a high speed and running up and down, I'm able to shoot and do ball-handling. That's what I love to do."

Wall continues to make progress, now nine months removed from the Achilles surgery he had on Feb. 12. He is likely to be out at least three more months, and he could miss all of the 2019-20 season.

At some point, Wall may get restless, but he continues to preach patience towards his return. When asked by Chris Miller if he will start bothering the coaches soon to play, he said he's just happy to be back on the court in practice.

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Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

Moe Wagner isn't the only Wizards with a questionable golf swing

With the grind of the NBA season preparing to get underway, the Washington Wizards are spending some time off the court as a way to relax and have some fun. On Monday, the team headed to Top Golf to take some hacks, and we were treated to a breakdown of each player's swing.

As you can see, some like head coach Scott Brooks have a pretty smooth swing. However, the same cannot be said about others.

Take for example Moe Wagner. 

The newly acquired Wizard started off promising with a solid stance, bent knees and all. But, the wind up showed that there were clearly some quirks in his mechanics. Then, the worst thing possible happened: a missed ball. No one will really judge if the swing isn't the prettiest, considering his job is to play basketball, but to come up empty hurts.

Wagner wasn't alone in his misfortunes, however. Jordan McRae also had some trouble getting his club to connect with the ball. But, as they say, third times the charm.

As for other poor swings, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant had success hitting the ball, it just didn't look all too pretty.

For Bryant, he may be taking the concept of getting a low, solid base, quite too literally. With Bertans, the movement on his back leg followed by a quick swing is, well, interesting to say the least.

But, fear not, Washington does have a few players who at least look like they've picked up a golf club before. 

Even rookie Rui Hachimura showed off a pretty decent stroke.

While the videos did provide a good laugh, it's safe to say that most of these guys shouldn't quit their day jobs.

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