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There may be more truth to the LaBradford Smith and Michael Jordan story than 'The Last Dance' says

There may be more truth to the LaBradford Smith and Michael Jordan story than 'The Last Dance' says

One of the more memorable stories from this past weekend's episodes of 'The Last Dance' on ESPN, especially if you are from D.C., was the tale of LaBradford Smith slighting Michael Jordan and paying for it the next night.

As told by David Aldridge, now of The Athletic, Smith scored 37 points for the Bullets against the Bulls and after the game said to Jordan: "nice game, Mike." Jordan then took that as motivation the following night in a back-to-back and sent a message by scoring 36 points in the first half alone.

The story was wrapped up with the caveat that Smith never actually said what he said, that it was another case of Jordan fabricating a reason to be motivate himself. But was it actually true?

Phil Chenier was there and remembers it a little differently. He was a broadcaster for what was then known as HTS and he recalls vividly an interaction between Smith and Jordan after the game.

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Here's how he told it on the latest episode of the 'Wizards Talk' podcast hosted by Chris Miller:

"Somebody else said he made that up. Well, I'm here to tell you he did not make that up," Chenier said. 

"We were doing the game in Chicago and LaBradford was having an exceptional game. Towards the end of the game, I noticed that LaBradford was kind of seeking out Michael. Like, on free throws, he would go and line up next to Michael. You know how you just kind of sense and pick these things up? And then, I don't know why but for some reason I started following him after the buzzer at the end of the game. Players are walking off and I guess we went to break and I was kind of surveying everything. I noticed that LaBradford is not coming off the floor.

"At the old Chicago Stadium, you had the Bulls locker room behind one basket and the visiting team was behind the other basket. So, therefore you go in two separate ways. There's no way you're going to be going in the same direction. He kind of hung out down there and I saw him very strategically make his way towards Michael. Then, towards the end I saw him kind of pat him on the butt. Now, I wasn't close enough to hear what he said. But the gesture certainly was like 'hey, get them next time.' I don't know if Michael took offense to it at that point. Maybe he didn't even use it. But the fact that LaBradford sought him out and went over and patted him on the butt, that did happen. I saw that happen."

Now, there has been some confusion about the sequence of events. Even Smith has denied saying anything, citing the fact he didn't address the media postgame.

But the story didn't really suggest he said it through the media. And whether he said something or not, Chenier says he remembers an exchange.

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Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Bradley Beal thinks Rui Hachimura will be a small forward long-term

Whether it actually matters is debatable, but what position Rui Hachimura best profiles for long-term has been a point of contention among fans and media members ever since he was drafted by the Wizards ninth overall last summer. He is what not long ago would be described as a 'tweener,' or somewhat of a cross between a small forward and a power forward.

Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal has put some thought into it and has now weighed in. He thinks Hachimura will be a small forward.

"Honestly, I think Rui is going to end up being a three. When his career is over with, he's going to end up playing the three," Beal explained during Sunday's Wizards-Nets broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

"I don't know what that's going to look like next year or what we're going to jump to, but you can see spurts of it. You can see he can handle the ball, he's comfortable with handling the ball. Obviously, we can improve that and make that better. He shoots the three comfortably."

That last point could probably be picked apart a bit and it does hold some importance in the argument. If Hachimura is indeed going to be a small forward, he will need to add some perimeter skills to his game.

Three-point shooting would be included in there and so far there certainly seems to be room for improvement. This season, he is shooting just 27 percent from three on 1.7 attempts per game. 

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In the three games the Wizards have played in Orlando, Hachimura is 0-for-1 from long range. He didn't attempt any threes at all in their first two games of the restart.

The reason why it is an interesting debate is Hachimura doesn't fit the traditional norms for either the three or four position. And that could be a good thing, as former teammate C.J. Miles pointed out in November. When you don't match up perfectly with opponents in any specific position, sometimes that means you are a mismatch for anyone who is guarding you.

Beal himself went on to rave about Hachimura's versatility.

"He's super athletic, so he can use his size to post up. So, the versatility is there. It's just a matter of what we want to mold him into," Beal said. "I think the sky's the limit. He has the ability, he has the work ethic, so I'm definitely excited to see."

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Hachimura not having a true position could be an advantage. What the Wizards will need to determine, however, is how to complement his skillset with other players as they continue to build their roster. 

Whether Hachimura is a three, a four or even a small-ball five, the best way to maximize his strengths will be to fill in the gaps around him. Putting a rim protector alongside him, for instance, would allow him to roam and switch on defense. Having teammates who space the floor will create openings in the midrange, where he is very effective scoring the ball.

Those involve more important questions than what position Hachimura will ultimately be defined by. But it's still a fun debate to have and now even Beal has been drawn into it.

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Troy Brown Jr. closing game at PG is perfect example of value Wizards see in Disney restart

Troy Brown Jr. closing game at PG is perfect example of value Wizards see in Disney restart

The Wizards were the final team included in the NBA's restart in Orlando, FL and with that brought some potential pitfalls, some of which Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans certainly weighed for themselves before choosing not to go. There is also the potential they hurt their lottery odds or even get screwed by the league's adjusted lottery rules.

But the Wizards chose to look at the situation as glass half-full and not half-empty. They embraced the opportunity to play more basketball and viewed the final 11 games (three exhibition, eight real ones) as a unique circumstance for player development.

On Monday in their loss to the Pacers, we saw a perfect example of that. They played a certified perennial playoff team, one with an airtight defensive structure. And they were able to push them at the end while using a lineup completely full of young players.

The final lineup for the Wizards, from the 5:56 mark on, had Troy Brown Jr. at point guard, Jerome Robinson at the two, Isaac Bonga at the three, Rui Hachimura at the four and Thomas Bryant at center. All five players are 23 or younger and Bryant, now in his third NBA season, is the most experienced of the bunch.

Head coach Scott Brooks saw immense value in that stretch where he was able to put some of the Wizards' youngest players into unfamiliar roles.

"We have to see what we have in a lot of different positions. These are great minutes," he said. "That's why we're here. We're here to get better and we're here to improve."

Most notable was the backcourt. Though Bonga, Hachimura and Bryant have taken on more responsibility with Beal and Bertans out, they have played those positions in crunch time before.

For Brown and Robinson, it was a different look from what they are used to seeing. Robinson would normally be sitting in favor of Beal and Brown would not be playing point guard. Ish Smith or Shabazz Napier would instead be out there, depending on who had the hot hand.

Brown has played plenty of point guard in his life, and he holds a preference for the position. But he has only played it sparingly so far in his two NBA seasons, not enough to even register on his Basketball Reference position estimate breakdown.

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On Monday, Brown got to let loose and be the floor general. He responded well with three points and three assists during the final six minutes. The Wizards were down 13 when he checked in and cut the lead to seven before Indiana closed them out.

"I enjoyed it," Brown said. "For me, it felt natural. Today, I had more turnovers than I would like. But I feel comfortable calling out the offense, bringing the ball up and just initiating the offense and getting us into a flow."

It wasn't much, but it may have been a preview of more to come. Brooks, in fact, suggested Brown could start at point guard in one of the team's remaining five games. 

"There might be another game where Troy maybe starts at the point, you never know. He has to be ready," Brooks said. "We have played him in that before. We did it during the season and I wouldn't be surprised if we did it sometime during the next five games."

Brooks wasn't asked about Brown potentially starting at point, he brought it up himself. If he does go that route, it would make plenty of sense.

The Wizards are using their time at Disney World to develop young players, which they have plenty of. But they don't have one in their usual point guard rotation. Brown can play the position, so if they fully commit to playing youngsters, he would be the guy.

The Wizards' final five opponents are tough ones: the Sixers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Those teams feature some really good point guards like Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Eric Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker. 

But two match-ups stand out as arguably the best for Brown. With Ben Simmons now playing forward, he could try his hand against Shake Milton of the Sixers, whom the Wizards play on Wednesday.

Or, what would be really intriguing is when the Wizards play the Pelicans in their following game, on Friday. New Orleans has Lonzo Ball, who is about Brown's size and would be great barometer for him on both ends of the floor. 

Either way, if Brooks does indeed give Brown a game to start and play heavy minutes at point guard, the Wizards' time in Orlando will all of a sudden become a lot more interesting.

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