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Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

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USA Today Sports

Mystics star Kristi Toliver excited to officially join Wizards coaching staff

After months of serving a variety of roles for the organization, Kristi Toliver now has an official title with the Washington Wizards. The Mystics star has joined Scott Brooks' staff as an assistant coach and assistant for player development.

Toliver, 31, will remain a member of the Mystics, who play their season during the summer. The lack of overlap will allow her to focus much of her time on the Wizards and what she hopes becomes a long and successful coaching career.

She chose joining the Wizards over continuing to play professionally this year overseas, an option many WNBA players use in the offseason. But she has a coaching dream and happens to have caught on with the hometown team.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime. When it came about, I wanted to be involved in any capacity that I could," Toliver said.

Toliver is the first active WNBA player to serve on an NBA bench and just the second woman after Becky Hammon, who is an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Toliver plans to reach out to Hammon after getting her phone number from Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird.

Toliver is honored to be in the same category with Hammon, whom she looked up to first as a player and now as a coach who has become a trailblazer in the profession.

"I know she's going to be somebody that I can ask questions to," Toliver said. "I will pick her brain about how she played and I will pick her brain about how she is coaching."

Hammon joined the Spurs' coaching staff in 2014 after years of helping the team out in other ways. Now that there are two female NBA assistants, the logical question is when one will become a head coach.

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal can already attest to Toliver's impact and said there could be a female head coach "very soon."

"I wouldn't be surprised if it happened sooner rather than later," Beal said. "If you know the game, you know the game. Plain and simple."

Toliver has served as a coach in the Wizards' 5-on-5 scrimmages at practice. She has also been particularly helpful with ball-handling, which makes sense given she's the starting point guard for the Mystics. Toliver has helped a variety of Wizards players in dribbling drills including the big men like Jeff Green and Dwight Howard.

Coaching has required an adjustment for Toliver, who is used to having the ball in her hands running the offense. But just as being a player can help her as a coach, she expects to become a better player now seeing the game from a new perspective.

"I'd much rather be playing, I know that. But it's good to think the game in a different way and from a different point of view," she said.

Brooks has been effusive in his praise of Toliver ever since she began helping out in the Las Vegas Summer League in July. He invited her to join the staff over the phone shortly before the Summer League began and will admit he did not know at the time the relationship would get this far.

But over the summer, Brooks lost two assistants to other teams in Chad Iske and Sidney Lowe, paving the way for some movement on his staff. He promoted several positions from within and an opening was created for Toliver to come on board.

"She's a special talent. She's going to be moving through the ranks pretty quick," Brooks said.

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Former Wizards center Brendan Haywood reflects on his time spent with Michael Jordan in D.C.

Former Wizards center Brendan Haywood reflects on his time spent with Michael Jordan in D.C.

Former longtime Washington Wizard Brendan Haywood sat down with Chris Miller in Charlotte for one all-encompassing Wizards Talk podcast interview you'll want to hear. 

After a four-year career in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Haywood declared for the NBA Draft and was selected by the Cavaliers with the 20th overall pick before being traded to the Orlando Magic, who then sent him to Washington. 

His rookie year (2001-02) just so happened to be the first of two seasons in Washington for one Michael Jordan. Jordan, well past his prime during this time, still left quite an impression on the rookie, even after all these years later. 

You really got to see the myth behind all the greatness. He wasn't good by accident. You got to see a guy that's 40 years old still get to the gym at 8 o'clock working on his game. 

The big man's best statistical season in Washington came during the 2007-08 campaign, where he averaged 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks while shooting it over 50 percent from the floor. 

To listen to Haywood's full interview, click the podcast below.

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Bradley Beal says he played the role of Wizards recruiter at All-Star Weekend

Bradley Beal says he played the role of Wizards recruiter at All-Star Weekend

CHARLOTTE -- Wizards guard Bradley Beal enjoyed every part of All-Star weekend in Charlotte. He met countless fans at charity events and autograph signings. He mingled with rapper J. Cole and actor Chris Tucker at the All-Star Game. He dropped 11 points for Team LeBron and threw down a big two-handed dunk.

Beal had a lot of fun. But he was also there with business on his mind. He recognized an opportunity, being in the locker room and on the floor with 25 other All-Stars, to do some recruiting.

Yes, Beal wants some help in Washington and believes he may be able to find it by selling other stars on the Wizards' future. After trading Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris, the Wizards could have some money to play with in free agency and Beal wants to help them use it.

"The recruiting process is really going alright. It's going alright. I'm trying," Beal said. "This is new for me. I'm definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for."

Beal wouldn't name names for fear of reprimand from the league. But he did share some details about how those conversations went.

He said he asked players about their situations and whether they were happy playing where they are. And to his surprise, some players came up to him and started the conversation themselves. Some asked about his situation, likely wondering if he would want to leave.

But it sounds like some may have inquired about what it would be like to play for the Wizards.

Beal said he got questions like: "So, what are y'all doing in D.C.?" and "How is D.C.?"

Whenever he was pressed for further details by reporters, Beal brushed the questions off. 

"I'm gonna keep it in my piggy bank, in my back pocket. Hopefully we can do something," he said.

Though Beal could technically have asked players who aren't set to hit free agency, ones that could join the Wizards via trade, it is more likely he was going after those who could sign a contract this summer. 

The point guards can probably be eliminated because John Wall is about to enter a supermax contract next season. That leaves Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, and Nikola Vucevic.

The first two can be set aside. Durant said he doesn't want to play at home and Leonard seems to have a good thing going in Toronto.

Thompson has been assumed to be headed for Los Angeles or to stay in Golden State. Though, he would be a fantastic complement to Beal and Wall.

Middleton and Vucevic are the two most realistic options, but may not be perfect fits.

If Beal was seeking out players who might be attainable in trades, Anthony Davis is, of course, the big name. Wouldn't that be something?

Hey, he did say all 29 teams are on his list of trade destinations.

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