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Mystics' Kristi Toliver continues to make impact on Wizards as member of training camp staff

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USA Today

Mystics' Kristi Toliver continues to make impact on Wizards as member of training camp staff

The timing of Wizards' training camp in relation to the other residents of the Medstar Peformance Center in Ward 8 has allowed a collection of special guests to serve on their staff. The group has included assistants of the G-League's Capital City Go-Go and Kristi Toliver, the star point guard for the WNBA's Washington Mystics.

Toliver, 31, is fresh off a WNBA Finals run as a player, but has been able to test the coaching waters this summer. First as a member of Ryan Richman's staff with the Wizards' Las Vegas Summer League team and now with the NBA team, during training camp.

Though there are a lot of people and voices in the room at this point in the season, Toliver's impact has been felt.

"She's great. She's a woman who has a great IQ for the game of basketball," point guard John Wall said. "She knows how to play. You can pick her brain about certain things that we can see in the film room that she knows in the woman's game. She asked me certain questions about what I see in pick-and-rolls. We're just talking to each other and understanding things from a point guard perspective."

That last line has become a theme from several who have been asked about her presence at camp. Wall and his head coach, Scott Brooks, are admittedly partial in appreciating her perspective as a point guard.

Wall is currently one of the best in the NBA at the position and Brooks played point during his 10-year NBA career. Brooks believes her experience at point guard will go a long way in her hopes to become a full-time coach.

"I know I'm a little biased from a point guard standpoint, but point guards just see the game different because the game is in front of them," Brooks said. 

"It's great to have her on the staff. When I met with her in Las Vegas, I told her that I've been following her for two years now, since she came over with the Mystics. I like her IQ. I like to be challenged and I like to be around coaches that think the game."

Toliver has played 10 seasons in the WNBA and is expected to be back with the Mystics next season as they make another run at a championship. Though Brooks likes having her around, he believes she should be in no rush to become a coach.

"She should play, I told her 'keep playing.' That's the best job in the world. This coaching thing, I don't know about it. I don't know what you're thinking. She should play as long as she can, but she's definitely going to be destined for greatness as a coach... I just like her. She has a way about her," he said.

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Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on staying in Toronto: 'In my mind, I'm here'

Just a few weeks ago, the Masai Ujiri-to-D.C. movement was gaining steam quickly. Just moments after Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors began celebrating their NBA Championship, reports began to swirl that the Wizards were prepared to aggressively pursue the GM.

Sources told NBC Sports Washington that there could be the possibility of a sort of mega-deal that went beyond just giving him control of the Wizards. But Wizards owner Ted  Leonsis denied earlier this month that the team had reached out, saying that "we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process."

And on Tuesday, Uriji seemed to make it official that he will stay in Toronto.

"I love it here, my family loves it here. My wife loves it here, which is very important. My kids are Canadians. You want to win more, for me," Ujiri said on Tuesday during his end-of-season press conference.

"Yeah, I can continue to address teams wanting me and all those things. That's a blessing in life," Ujiri said. "For me the blessing is being wanted here and finding a place that makes you happy, and finding challenges that really make you grow as a person. This place has made me grow as a person."

"I identify with this place and I love it. So in my mind, I'm here."

On paper, Ujiri and the Wizards looked to be a good match. Washington could offer him money and control, while also allowing him to work with his "Basketball without Borders" program in D.C.

As NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh explained recently, the Raptors late-season championship run could have messed up the timing and situation that could have lured Ujiri to a new team.

The Wizards made it through the NBA Draft without a new GM, but as July and free agency approach, the search may continue to ramp up.

The answer is still out there, it just may not be Masai Ujiri anymore.

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Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

Bradley Beal on Wizards draftee Rui Hachimura: 'He's a monster'

The Wizards added two pieces during the 2019 NBA Draft that franchise expects to be vital pieces of their future in Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura at No. 9 and Tennessee's Admiral Schofield at No. 42

Before Monday night's 2018-19 NBA Awards ceremony, NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller caught up with the two faces of the franchise, Bradley Beal and John Wall, to see what they thought of the new additions to the squad.

Beal had high praise for Hachimura.

"I didn't know much," Beal said on what he knew about the Gonzaga product prior to the draft. "But from what I've seen watching the draft and things I've seen pre-draft and things like that, he's a monster."

The praise did not stop there. 

"He plays hard, extremely hard," Beal said. "Hopefully, he can have an impact right away." 

While an immediate impact would be beneficial for a Wizards team that could use Hachimura's scoring (he averaged 19.7 points per game at Gonzaga), Beal understands that Hachimura is still a very raw player. After all, he's only been playing basketball for eight years.

"But at the same time, we want him to grow," Beal said on Hachimura. "We know he hasn't been playing too long. But that's something we can build off of and mold him into the player we need him to be. He has tremendous upside, and I'm excited to get going. Hopefully, come September, October he's ready to go."

While Beal may not have known too much about Hachimura, he had followed the other Wizards draft pick, Admiral Schofield, for quite some time. 

"I love his game; I loved him in college," Beal said on Schofield. 

Beal joked about Schofield's body type, wondering whether basketball is the sport the Wizards second-round pick should be playing.

"He's got a football body. He's built like a tight end, wide receiver," Beal said. "I'm definitely happy that we have him, a fellow SEC guy. Him and [Jordan] McRae are going to hit it off. He can shoot, he's athletic, so I'm definitely excited to have him as well."

While Wall did not go into as much detail as Beal about the Wizards draft class, he was just as excited about the two new additions.

"I think it's good," Wall said. "We added some pieces [in the draft], [we'll] see what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

According to head coach Scott Brooks, both Beal and Wall can identify talent very well

"The thing I love about John and Brad: they love the game," Brooks said last week. "You can call them up, there could be high school players, WNBA players, it could be college players, it could be European players, they know them."

"It's like, 'don't you guys have a life?'" Brooks joked.

Wall spent most of his time with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller discussing his Achilles rehab, where he revealed he is going to begin jogging soon. That's a good sign for the Wizards, even though Wall s expected to miss the majority of the 2019-2020 season.

In Hachimura and Schofield, the Wizards got two pieces that are not expected to contribute right away, but also potentially have the ability to do so. Earning high praise from the two most important players on the Wizards' roster is a good start for both of the Wizards 2019 NBA Draft selections. 

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