Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards are using 'The Last Dance' documentary to bond during quarantine

Wizards are using 'The Last Dance' documentary to bond during quarantine

With NBA players and personnel staying home to help slow the spread of coronavirus, they've had to turn to digital meetings and workouts to stay together during this difficult time. 

It's harder for teammates to bond without the personal connection they're afforded by the day-to-day grind of a practice and game schedule. But as general manager Tommy Sheppard explained to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck on The Full 48 podcast, the Michael Jordan documentary has certainly helped.  

"I tell you one thing," Sheppard said. "The Last Dance has been a fantastic topic of conversation and that's kind of bonded our players together."

The Last Dance aired the first two episodes of a 10-part series on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls Sunday and it instantly became the talk of the basketball world.

Jordan vs. LeBron debates were sparked once again, Scottie Pippen's contract shocked many who'd never known about it before the documentary, and there was a decent amount of criticism thrown toward former general manager Jerry Krause. Another theme of the past week has been coaches and former players sharing their fair share of Jordan stories. 

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Sheppard, who worked for the Nuggets from 1994-03 as a Director of Team Services and Player Relations, remembers a specific moment during the Bulls' 72-win 1995-96 season.

The Nuggets handed the Bulls their fourth loss that season while Chicago was in the middle of a road trip, which Sheppard admitted probably had a lot to do with the result in Denver. Forward LaPhonso Ellis had a solid game off the bench for the Nuggets and celebrated as he left the floor, though Jordan saw things differently. 

"LaPhonso Ellis was walking off the court and kind of gave me one of those fist pumps and ran off the floor," he said. "Michael Jordan said, 'I'm not gonna forget LaPhonso Ellis jumping up on the scorer's table and getting the fans all whipped up.' I was like, 'That didn't happen! I watched LaPhonso walk off the court.'

"Sure enough we went back to Chicago and he couldn't wait to take it out on us, and they did. The Bulls were the greatest team I've seen in 26 years, but I'll never forget that and what Michael would do to motivate himself," he said. 

Whether Jordan fabricated certain details to get himself going or not most likely won't keep anyone from tuning in for the next two installations of The Last Dance each Sunday.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Playing basketball in your driveway, that is relatable. Doing so to prepare for NBA games while in the middle of a league shutdown due to a worldwide pandemic; well, that is unusual.

But for Wizards center Moe Wagner, training during quarantine required some creativity before the team reopened their practice facility in early June. First, he rented out the townhouse below his to set up a workout space. It was vacant, allowing Wagner to use training equipment with enough space for a 7-footer to move around.

"We set up a little gym," Wagner said.

Wagner's schedule was regimented by Zoom workouts hosted by the Wizards trainers and coaching staff. But eventually, that wasn't enough.

Wagner had his brother, Franz, with him. Franz plays for the University of Michigan, where Wagner starred before becoming a first round draft pick in 2018.

"Eventually my brother and I got a little eager to shoot a ball, so my agent had us sent a basketball hoop for outside which we built. It took us like three days," Wagner explained.

"We played a little bit in the garage in the middle of the city. It was kind of an absurd situation, but you will take what you can get, I guess."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

The garage Wagner and his brother played in was without a roof. They are common in Washington, D.C., especially in Northeast. So, it was technically a garage but more like a walled off driveway.

"[We] set it up in my back alley. Every time a car drives by, you have to wait. Obviously, it's very old school. You're going back to the roots a little bit. But after six weeks of not touching a ball, you're like 'we've gotta do something, man.' I'm a professional basketball player and I haven't touched a basketball in six weeks. That ain't right," Wagner said.

RELATED: WIZARDS WILL FACE LAKERS, CLIPPERS IN SCRIMMAGES

Waiting when cars drive by makes sense. Driveways are big enough for kids to shoot around in. But Wagner requires a bit more range to spread out and practice NBA threes.

Wagner indicated he did not shoot a ball for roughly six weeks. That would mean he set the hoop up around the end of April. If that is the case, he was likely more fortunate than many other young players who went longer without being able to shoot.

That's the big variable with the league's hiatus; who had the resources to train, either to just stay sharp or potentially even improve. Wagner was able to keep working on his game, it just took a good deal of creativity. 

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Wizards will face Lakers, Clippers in Orlando's NBA exhibition schedule

Before the Wizards begin their eight-game schedule to close out the regular season on July 31, they will have three exhibition games to get warmed up in Orlando.

They will start July 22 against the Denver Nuggets and also play the Lakers and Clippers. Those are the three top seeds in the Western Conference.

Here is a look at their three-game set:

7/22: Nuggets, 3:30 pm ET
7/25: Clippers, 8 pm ET
7/27: Lakers, 3 pm ET

The question here, of course, is whether the stars will play given these games won't count. In a usual preseason, the answer would probably be 'no.' But in this case, with each team only having three games to find their rhythm before games start, and after months off, it is anyone's guess.

RELATED: NO OLADIPO FOR PACERS IN ORLANDO

It wouldn't be surprising if the Wizards did see some combination of Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The biggest question mark would be that Lakers game since it is the last exhibition game for both teams. Maybe James and/or Davis sit with two games already under their belt and an opening night meeting with the Clippers awaiting.

Either way, the Wizards will get a look at some of the NBA's best teams before they kick things off for real. And this also means they will be playing games nine days ahead of their regular season. There are now just under three weeks to go until the Wizards return to the court.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WIZARDS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: