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Ted Leonsis' declaration he won't trade Wall, Beal or Porter says plenty about Wizards' long-term plans

Ted Leonsis' declaration he won't trade Wall, Beal or Porter says plenty about Wizards' long-term plans

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made a habit recently of saying in no uncertain terms what he plans on doing with his NBA franchise. There was his interview in London where he said the Wizards would "never, ever tank." And now, exactly one week before the NBA trade deadline, he revealed in a wide-ranging interview with WTOP radio that the Wizards will not trade any of their core three players anytime soon.

That means John Wall, whom it should have already been obvious based on his injury and trade kicker. That means Bradley Beal, who has been the subject of many trade rumors this season. And that includes Otto Porter Jr., despite him often playing third fiddle to the other two and also being a popular name in trade speculation.

Leonsis told WTOP flat-out: “We’re not trading any of those players.” He went on to say he “wouldn’t throw in the towel on this core..”

That last line should stick out more than the others, even more than his comments on team president Ernie Grunfeld’s future and how it is tied to them meeting their goals, which at this point appears to be making the playoffs.

What Leonsis essentially said is that this core has a future in Washington. To take that literally would suggest all three will not only stay put at the Feb. 7 trade deadline, but be back next year as well.

That is interesting on several accounts. For one, the three are owed a combined $92.2 million next season and that is based on the current estimate of the 2019-20 salary cap. Wall is due to earn 35 percent of the cap, meaning an unexpected raise in the cap could net him more money.

But the bottom line is three players are making upwards of $100 million. Add in Ian Mahinim’s $15 million, and the Wizards are basically at the salary cap with only four players.

If the Wizards indeed keep it rolling with their core trio, they will have even less money to allocate to the rest of their roster than before with Wall’s salary essentially doubling from the $19.2 million he’s earning this season.

If the Wizards wanted to do something drastic to shake things up this offseason, a trade of one of those three would be the logical way to do it. They won’t have money to spend in free agency and are limited in their ability to package players in a trade given the relative few they have under contract.

That said, it’s not hard to decipher why Leonsis wants to continue building around Wall, Beal and Porter. They have produced the most successful era for the franchise since arguably the 1970s. The past two years have been greatly affected by injuries to Wall, but the last time they were all healthy for a full season, they won 49 games and reached the second round of the playoffs.

In the context of the franchise’s history, that’s not bad. One could argue the current group has gone stale, that it's not only about injuries, but those facts remain.

Leonsis has also proven to be a loyal sports owner. He has handed all three players large contracts, has stuck with Grunfeld through tough times and has made similar moves with his Capitals of the NHL. 

Leonsis likes to remind people that many fans and pundits wanted to give up on the Caps two summers ago. Some said trade Alex Ovechkin. He didn’t and his patience paid off with a Stanley Cup.

The NBA, of course, is a much different league than the NHL. In hockey, the eighth seed in the playoffs has a puncher’s chance to go on a deep playoff run and even win a championship. In the NBA, postseason upsets are rare and there is an unbalanced class system. There are the very good teams, the truly terrible teams and then a large middle class that can really only aim so high in the playoffs.

The Wizards have found themselves stuck in the latter. It has led to some fans to call for a rebuild or a more aggressive re-tooling, one that involves trading one of their core players.

Clearly Leonsis isn’t interested in either. He wants to move forward with Wall, Beal and Porter, and it sounds like that could mean through the 2019 offseason as well.


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Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Natasha Cloud is tired of the Bradley Beal trade rumors

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud has had it up to here with trade rumors about Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal has been a strong vocal supporter of the Mystics and the WNBA, in general. He works closely with Kristi Toliver, who, in her offseason, works as an assistant coach for the Wizards. His closeness with the Mystics has now manifested itself in Cloud voicing her opposition to Beal being traded on Twitter.

Beal is no stranger to trade rumors. Entering his eighth season, Beal has been connected to the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, among others. Given that his name is frequently tossed around in trade talks, it should come as no surprise that the Clippers made a run at him to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

Despite the frequent and recurring rumors, Beal hasn't been traded, and very likely won't be traded. He's a star and a legitimate piece around which to build a franchise. At the summer league in Las Vegas, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes sat with Shaquille O'Neal to discuss what the Wizards should do in free agency. Shaq said that between Beal and John Wall, the Wizards are just a piece or two from breaking through.

I definitely think [the Wizards] should keep him. He's a great shooter, but if he’s a great shooter looking to go somewhere, L.A. has $32 million [in cap space]. ... He's definitely the cornerstone of this franchise. He and John Wall have always, almost always, been there. They just need another one or two guys.

It's still unlikely that Beal is playing in anything other than a Wizards uniform on opening night, but if he is, expect to hear from Cloud about it. 


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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

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Drew Gooden, Justin Kutcher to highlight NBC Sports Washington Wizards broadcast team

Drew Gooden was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the Wizards in the 2014 season when he went off for 21 points against Brooklyn. 

It was a game that changed his career, led to being signed to the team for the remainder of that season and ending his career as a Washington Wizard two years later. “My career was totally reborn as a veteran leader on the Washington Wizards,” he said. “And that’s something I never would have thought would come full circle.”

And now? Gooden will serve as the game analyst on NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast this season. NBC Sports Washington announced on Wednesday he will join new play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher as part of the Wizards' game broadcast team. Chris Miller will return in his role as sideline reporter.

“It’s a dream and I never thought in a million years I would have retired a Wizard and that out of all my teams that I played for, that Wizards would be the favorite organization that I played for, never thought I would be a color analyst for NBC Sports Washington,” Gooden said. “All of this is a dream.”

And while Kutcher may not have the same playing resume that Gooden does, he promises to bring the same passion Gooden does to broadcasts.

During the early days of his career, Kutcher wasn’t just the voice of (and practice player for) the Boston University women’s basketball team. He was such a passionate fan that he was the one making the most noise on the team bus after a big win or a big loss. Now, after decades in the business, he’s not sure he’ll go to that extreme – but Wizards fans can expect him to be “a fan who’s calling the game,” he said. “I say that about myself all of the time. I think of myself as just this incredibly lucky person that gets to call a sport that I love. When I have a reaction, it’s a genuine reaction. So, I’ll keep everything professional, but I’ll get excited.”

Kutcher has 17 years of experience as a play-by-play announcer, having spent the last seven years at Fox Sports where he led national coverage of NCAA basketball and football, the NFL and MLB. Prior to FOX Sports, Kutcher served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN for four years. During that time, he led live coverage for a variety of sports, including basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and hockey, across professional, college and high school leagues and conferences. He also appeared on studio shows during his tenure with ESPN. In addition to FOX Sports and ESPN, he has also called collegiate events for CSTV, now CBS Sports Network, for two years, as well as BTN, and contributed to MLB.com digital programming.

“I have known Justin since he was a runner for us at FOX Sports,” said Joe Buck. “He’s gone from working hard behind the scenes to one of the best, young voices in sports. Wizards fans are getting a great broadcaster and a better person .”

Here’s five more fun facts about Kutcher and Gooden.

1.    Kutcher’s worked the past five Westminster Dog Shows. “I get more ticket requests for that than any other event I go to,” he said. But, at first he wasn’t sure he was going to stick with it. The first year, he said, was a little tough. “I called my dad after it airs and he said that it was my mom’s favorite thing that I’ve done.” But, he stuck with it. And now? “I love it,” he said. 
2.    His favorite thing in DC is … the breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin. “They have a breakfast burrito that I get, I eat two of them at a time and people can’t believe it,” he said. Oh, and also his family. His family in the area includes a 3-year-old nephew, who when asked for real estate recommendations in the area, declared “you can live at our house!”
3.    Meanwhile, you can find Gooden at his favorite crab shack. “Quarterdeck in Arlington is my favorite, favorite restaurant,” he said. In the two years he’s known about the crab spot, he’s eaten there, he estimates, “800” times. 
4.    Good news for Wizards fans: He thinks the Wizards will be a team everyone sleeps on – and that’s great for them. “They’re going to have the opportunity to surprise a lot of people early,” he predicted. 
5.    Kutcher expects Rui Hachimura to … “be one of the steals of the draft.” Kutcher covered the new Wizard as a play-by-play announcer during Hachimura’s college career. “I would not be surprised if you see Rui average 15-18 points per game and close to 8 rebounds per game. I think he’s that type of player, he’s a really good kid, when I saw the Wizards drafted him I said that’s a great, great pick,” he said.