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What does Tommy Sheppard's month-long (and running) interview mean for Wizards future?

What does Tommy Sheppard's month-long (and running) interview mean for Wizards future?

Here’s what makes Tommy Sheppard a potential front runner for the Washington Wizards’ open general manager job.

He’s already making calls from inside the Wizards house.

Thursday marks one month since Wizards owner Ted Leonsis fired longtime team president Ernie Grunfeld and named Sheppard, the team’s VP of Basketball Operations, the interim head of the front office.

While outside candidates are stopping by for interviews, Sheppard is running the show, in what is essentially a one month (and counting) job interview.

Danny Ferry, Troy Weaver and Gersson Rojas all interviewed with the organization this week, according to reports. That means perhaps a couple of hour’s worth of face time with Leonsis.

The scouts and staff on the payroll are not sitting around idle ahead of the June 20 NBA Draft. The new guy in charge who’s interviewed for other GM jobs and patiently waited a decade-plus for a shot is minding the store.

The Wizards scouted the Portsmouth Invitational, the annual showcase for seniors entering the professional ranks. From this player pool and others, Washington will invite players for formal workouts as the organization searches for Summer League additions, G-League hopefuls and, ideally, talents eventually worthy of a training camp invitation.

The NBA world heads to Chicago mid-May. The inaugural three-day G-League Elite Camp tips off a week that includes the draft lottery and the Combine.

That’s plenty of scouting and interviewing players ranging from elite talents to hopefuls. The Wizards aren’t waiting for the last second before preparing. They've also made a few minor roster moves already.

Ahead of their final day of the regular season, Washington retained two-way contract guard Jordan McRae with a one-year, NBA contract, and signed G-League guard Tarik Phillip for the 2019-20 season. 

The team took swift action last month by announcing it would not bring back Devin Robinson for a third year with the organization following the forward’s arrest outside a D.C. nightclub. No individual’s name appeared shown in the brief statement announcing the decision, but someone made the final judgment.

For the first time in 16 years with Washington, Sheppard, who entered the NBA in 1994 on the public relations side, is the (interim) front man.

Shortly after the front office change, NBC Sports’ NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh wrote, “The Wizards have made it clear: They don’t see Sheppard as Ernie 2.0.”

Several league sources outside the organization echoed that take.

“I can easily separate Tommy from Ernie,” a prominent NBA agent told NBC Sports Washington. “Tommy had a job to do. He did it, but he’s his own man.”

Moving Sheppard into the lead role would put greater emphasis on analytics and other innovative methods. The Wizards routinely traded away second-round picks under Grunfeld. There’s a sense a full 180-degree turn could occur under Sheppard with Washington aggressively seeking out second-round selections under the right circumstances.

Whether at work or elsewhere, Sheppard’s greatest strength lies in his relationships.

“I love Tommy Sheppard. I don’t have one bad thing to say,” former Wizards center Marcin Gortat told NBC Sports Washington.

Gortat, effectively speaking for numerous sources from across all aspects of the league, spent five seasons in Washington before a trade last summer to the Los Angeles Clippers. During that time, the veteran center developed a strong bond with Sheppard, who made trips overseas during the off-season to Gortat’s basketball camps in Poland.

“Positive, very encouraging,” Gortat said of his pre-game and general interactions with Sheppard. “He would ask about (your interests) because he was always interested not only about you as a basketball player but a human being.”

Gortat also revealed Sheppard could play the heavy when needed.

Anyone that follows the 6-foot-11 Gortat on social media knows he’s not afraid to challenge Twitter trolls when they enter his space. But it was Sheppard who told him to tone it down when necessary.

“[Tommy] was the only one who would come to me and really raise his voice and yell at me. ‘What the hell are you doing? This is too much!’” Gortat said.

Gortat appreciated Sheppard’s straightforward nature in these spots.

“That’s when I really respected him. He didn’t (sugarcoat). He would come to me man to man and tell me the truth,” Gortat said. “An hour later, we’re having lunch, and we’re moving forward. He’s phenomenal dealing with relationships. … Ted Leonsis should definitely look at Tommy Sheppard.”

Presumably, that’s what Leonsis has done for the last month. Sheppard had his formal interview, just like other candidates. Unlike Ferry, Weaver and Rosas, who was hired Wednesday to head the Timberwolves’ front office, Sheppard didn’t leave the meeting and presumably hop on a plane. Well, unless there was a domestic or international prospect to scout. This basketball grinder does that.

As the NBA calendar moves toward the May 14 draft lottery, time is starting to work against the Wizards. Plans must be created, the front office staff organized.

Sheppard is doing both. That’s his job, at least for now.

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Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Wizards vs. Bucks: time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Wizards head back to the nation's capital Monday night for a matchup with Giannis Antetokoumpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital One Arena.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with an astounding 53 points in the team's loss Sunday night to the Chicago Bulls. Beal passed Jeff Malone on the team's all-time scoring list for second place. He now only trails Elvin Hayes.

The Bucks are coming off a dominant 21-point win over the 76ers on Friday night and look to continue their stellar play in D.C. against the struggling Wizards.

Here is everything you need to know.

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Bucks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Bucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. BULLS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Bucks

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live

10:00 PM: Wizards Talk

WIZARDS vs. BUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bradley Beal, Wizards (29.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 6.0 APG): Beal will look to carry the Wizards to victory against the Bucks after the team was unable to defeat the Bulls on Sunday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (30.0 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.8 APG): The Greek freak is on a fast-track to another MVP trophy and has the Bucks in a prime position to come out of the Eastern Conference.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Coach Scott Brooks unloads on 'soft' Wizards after loss to Bulls

Coach Scott Brooks unloads on 'soft' Wizards after loss to Bulls

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks scratched and clawed his way through 10 NBA seasons as a player after going undrafted out of college and while doing all of it as an undersized point guard. He made it those 10 years because more than anything he was tough and resilient.

And because of that, there is nothing he laments more as a coach than when he believes his players are being soft. On Sunday night, after his Wizards lost in Chicago to the Bulls, he used the word 'soft' over and over to describe their performance to reporters.

In Brooks-ese, which often consists of platitudes and positivity, that means he is nothing short of irate about how the Wizards have played in their first two games coming out of the All-Star break. They have lost to two teams - the Cavs and Bulls - who are not good and in games they had early leads and a chance to win.

But it's clearly not just the losses themselves that has bothered Brooks, it is the nature of them. And you could argue the way he unloaded on his team on Sunday night suggested he is as fed up now as he has been at any point with them since he took over as head coach four years ago.

What Brooks had a particular issue with was the and-ones the Wizards allowed. The Bulls had nine of them, which means the Wizards fouled them but not hard enough to prevent a made shot. Brooks evidently wants his players to make their fouls count and ensure nothing comes easy for their opponents. He wants them to earn those points at the free-throw line.

As Brooks put it, the "and-ones were about as soft as you can get," per Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. He also said the 16 and-ones between the last two games may be the most he's ever seen in his NBA career.

That would be difficult to verify, but it's easy to figure out who has been the culprit recently. Of the 16 and-ones in the last two games, which was indeed the accurate number, Ian Mahinmi leads the way with four. Bradley Beal, Jerome Robinson, Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner are next up with two apiece.

All in all, nine different Wizards players have committed an and-one foul in the last two games. So, though Mahinmi has had the most issues, it's a team-wide problem.

There is also more to an and-one than just the fouler themselves. They are usually the result of a defensive breakdown. But Brooks also noted how some Bulls players probably didn't even realize they were fouled, which suggests they should have been fouled harder.

Surely, the Wizards will work on it because as direct as Brooks was with the media on Sunday night, you can bet it was much worse behind closed doors. Wizards players likely got an earful either at halftime or after the game. And they will likely hear plenty more in an upcoming film session.

Playing soft is Brooks' biggest pet peeve and the Wizards have clearly struck a nerve with their last two games. The good news is they will have a chance to rebound very soon with another game on Monday night, the second of a back-to-back. The bad news is that it's against the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks, a team currently on pace to win 70 games.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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