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Why the Wizards open GM role may be more attractive than it seems

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Why the Wizards open GM role may be more attractive than it seems

Five weeks ago, the Wizards fired longtime team president Ernie Grunfeld after 14 seasons with the team. Now, with the NBA Draft just over a month away, the search for a full-time replacement is expected to pick up.

One of the candidates reportedly in the mix is Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly. NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig recently explained why the Wizards could move quickly to get a deal done with Connelly, now that Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs.

On the latest #WizardsTalk podcast, Standig sat down with Chris Miles to discuss how the team's search for their next general manager has picked up steam.

Miles started off by saying that throughout the season, he expected current New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin to be the eventual successor to Grunfeld.

"Well, I didn't want to call for Ernie [Grunfeld]'s job while he was still there. But I had plenty of conversations with David Griffin, who was adamant that this was a place that he wants to be," Miles said on the podcast. "He loves D.C., loves the atmosphere, loves the ownership and that sort of thing. So when Ernie was finally let go, I approached Griff[in] and I asked him, 'hey, are we going to work in D.C. together as well?' You know, just like joking around, seeing how he would take it, if he would tell me 'alright, this is getting too serious, leave me alone.'"

Griffin's response to Miles question was very intriguing.

He said, "'Oh, no Chris, I'm probably going to end up somewhere else soon.'" New Orleans is where he ended up three days later, and then he said: 'That's Tim [Connelly]'s job.' So, for David Griffin to just say that in a casual manner, that's what I got from a no-nonsense kind of guy." 

Connelly being connected with the Wizards isn't anything new. Last month, it was reported that Connelly called the Wizards opening his "dream job."

When asked who he expects to eventually get the position, Miles answer was rather clear on the podcast.

"So with the Nuggets being eliminated, the writing is on the wall. I'd be shocked if it were anyone else [but Connelly]," he said. "But then again, I thought for most of the season David Griffin was coming. It's just a matter if there is some sort of holdup or not. I think the fact that the position hasn't been filled means more toward Tim Connelly than anyone else. If the Nuggets had advanced, I would say that Tim Connelly is probably out. But this seems like the do-or-die period. You want after the lottery for the GM to be in place."

The NBA Draft Lottery is Tuesday evening. The Wizards have a nine percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick, and a 37.2 percent chance at a top-four pick.

Connelly is a local, who started his career as an intern with the Washington organization and spent over a decade with the Wizards before moving on to the New Orleans front office in 2010.

So what makes this position with the Wizards enticing? The power that can come with it.

"When negotiating with Washington, he's in a position to say 'look what I've done since I was here. Look where your franchise is as far as your salary cap and structure. You need me more than I need you. So I have the leverage; I need all of the power,'" Miles said. "And I think that is the point that this thing will really be hung up on, at least in my opinion. There's nothing to report here, there's no source on that. But looking at the situation in Denver, he's splitting that pie. There's a number of decision-makers, and I've seen that first hand. The New Orleans Pelicans wanted to draft Giannis [Antetokounmpo], but their general manager didn't have full autonomy there, and that didn't happen. So we didn't get to see Anthony Davis and Giannis."

After success in Denver, Miles believes Connelly is ready to have the power of full authority and decision-making.

"I think Tim Connelly has earned the right to make the final decision, and he's seen the kind of power that Ernie [Grunfeld] had here," Mules said. "I think that's a situation that might be very enticing and inviting for [Connelly]."

Miles also pointed out that being in Washington and on the east coast, it's a lot easier to scout overseas talent and make trips to Europe than doing such from Denver. 

"Tim Connelly has proven to be an expert at finding talent overseas. An expert," Miles said. "When you look at Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic and what they've become, and they've been a master in the draft with him there. They've really aced all of their picks."

When asked if the pick in the lottery the Wizards receive on Tuesday will affect whether Connelly would take the Wizards position if offered, Miles believes it is nothing more than a tiny factor. Regardless, receiving the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery would make any job more desirable than before.

"I definitively think that if you get the No. 1 pick in this draft, it makes the job way more desirable," Miles said. "If you're the Wizards and you end up with Zion Williamson, that cures so many ails, it's not even funny. Second pick, Ja Morant, is sensational. That presents you with an issue but also presents you with a tremendous talent."

Tuesday evening, the Wizards will know where they are selecting in June's draft. But in the near future, they will also know who will be their new general manager. And if you ask Miles, the answer as to who that should be is rather clear.

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Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Wizards players react to teammates contracting coronavirus

Though the percentages may be lower for young, well-conditioned athletes, coronavirus remains a real threat to NBA players and the Washington Wizards were served a reminder of that this week with the reported positive tests for Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II.

Forward Troy Brown Jr., who is close with Bryant, said he has talked to his friend and teammate since he came down with Covid-19. He believes Bryant will be able to join the team in Orlando before too long.

"I talked to him a little bit. It's just more so day by day," Brown said. "I don't think it was anything other than just him doing normal stuff [when he contracted it]."

Guard Jerome Robinson is with the Wizards at Disney World, taking their team flight down on July 7. But he says the decision to play was not a simple one.

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Robinson felt uneasy about the risk of being around people and playing basketball during the worldwide pandemic.

"There was some thought [of not going]. For the most part, for me my concerns were just the safety of it all. It's a deadly virus and we don't have a vaccine," he explained.

"It was kind of scary being around my family and things like that. I don't want to get put in a circumstance where we all get it our I get it or things of that nature, [especially] any elder. The biggest thing is how can we be safe during this whole thing."

Robinson is 23 years old and an NBA player in tip-top shape. But he has read enough of the news to realize, though the odds are lower, the possibility remains for someone of his age and health to be affected by the virus.

"Even us, being young people, you don't want to be that one because it can happen. It's a deadly virus and it's something that we have to take seriously," he said.

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Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

Scott Brooks, Wizards adjusting quickly to life in the NBA's bubble

They began with 36 hours in quarantine, a day-and-a-half of just sitting in their hotel rooms at Disney World, waiting to get to work as the NBA aims to resume and finish the 2019-20 season.

Wizards forward Isaac Bonga talked to his friends on the phone and played XBOX. Head coach Scott Brooks FaceTimed his family. Guard Ish Smith marveled at how similar his hotel room was to the one he stayed in last summer at Disney World.

They had just arrived to Orlando, FL from Washington, D.C. for the NBA's restart. They had to wait those 36 hours and test negative for coronavirus twice before going free.

"The forced relaxation drove me crazy. It was the weirdest thing," Brooks said.

The Wizards were eventually let out of their rooms and on Thursday held their first practice at Disney World; a 5 p.m. get-together that featured real, live basketball, the type they had abstained from for weeks at their training facility due to social distancing protocol.

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They were missing a few players and not just the previously established absences of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans; their three best players. Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews were all reportedly away from the team; the first due to coronavirus and Mathews because of personal reasons.

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Still, getting out in the open floor and scrimmaging was a major step for the Wizards as they look towards July 31, their first regular season game.

"I thought the practice was outstanding. I was real concerned because we hadn't done anything live," Brooks said.

"I don't know how they did it, how the NBA was able to get it all done. Our facility here, our gym is pretty incredible. The weight room is amazing. The hotels are great. Everything is good. I have no complaints. It's just like a road trip for us."

"It just felt good to be out there," Smith said. "It was very similar to a normal practice that we would have, just coaches have gloves and masks on."

What happens on the court, the NBA hopes, should feel familiar. It's off-the-court that will require the biggest adjustment, as everyone there will be away from their families for an extended period of time and in an environment intended to stop the spread of a worldwide pandemic.

But the early returns from the Wizards were good. They are pleasantly surprised with the situation so far.

"Look, we get to play basketball. To me, it's like going away to basketball camp," Brooks said.

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