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Wizards executive Sashi Brown on what's changed in his short tenure and what's still ahead

Wizards executive Sashi Brown on what's changed in his short tenure and what's still ahead

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards' practice facility in Congress Heights had been open for less than a calendar year when it was time to remodel once again. The team revamped their front office last summer and in came new people and new ideas. Changes were made to the front office both in terms of personnel and the actual office space itself.

Walls were knocked down to establish more of an open plan office, not unlike what Google re-popularized in the mid-2000s.

"We wanted to create some more open space," Wizards chief planning and operations officer Sashi Brown told NBC Sports Washington. "We're also getting ready to reveal a full design of the place that is more on the asthetic side."

Brown, who was hired in July, is always looking ahead. It is his job to install what he describes as "longer lead time items" for the Wizards, Mystics, Capital City Go-Go and Wizards District Gaming. They are all separate franchises in separate leagues, but under the same umbrella now known as Monumental Basketball.

Brown has his fingerprints on all four teams, but his impact may not yet be noticed by those on the outside. That's because a lot of what he does and plans to do takes time. 

And because of that, even describing his role can seem vague and nebulous. When it comes to the Wizards in particular, the bottom-line is that general manager Tommy Sheppard makes the basketball decisions while Brown and his staff do whatever they can to help make those decisions better reasoned and informed.

"I provide Tommy and [head coach Scott Brooks] and [assistant GM] Brett Greenberg and the rest of that staff as much support as we can through a player development and engagement function. Also, team operation as well and then certainly on the research and strategy side. They really could operate on their own if they absolutely needed to. We're here to supplement and enhance," Brown said.

The area Brown believes has changed the most so far in his seven months on the job is the overall approach to team medical, training and nutrition programs. It is now a streamlined, singular program that operates in concert with all of their basketball teams.

Dr. Daniel Medina, who was hired in July as Monumental Basketball's chief of athlete care and performance, has overseen that transition. According to Brown, there are no longer "separate staffs, separate physical therapists, separate athletic trainers for each team that operate independently."

Brown also helped recently when the WNBA was negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. As the Washington Post reported last month, Brown, a Harvard Law School grad, played a role in getting WNBA players who also serve as assistant coaches in the NBA - like Kristi Toliver of the Wizards - better compensation.

Much of what Brown will do to lift Monumental Basketball's teams is still in the works, he says. The Wizards, for instance, have made strides with analytics including with the hiring of assistant coach Dean Oliver. But more can be done both for them and the other franchises. Brown said there are plans to build out a more robust analytics operation for the defending-champion Mystics.

"Having data be part of the information that we consider when we are making these really important decisions and complex decisions, is I think a wise practice and something we fully embrace from Ted Leonsis and his partnership group all the way on down," Brown said.

Brown is pleased with the success and progress made so far during his tenure with Monumental Basketball. The Mystics won their NBA title soon after he took the job. And the Wizards, though with more losses than wins this season, have put together a notable nucleus of young players.

Last weekend, they had two representatives in the Rising Stars game - Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner - for the first time since 1995. Only John Wall and Bradley Beal had made the showcase as Wizards in the previous 15 years. Brown also mentioned Davis Bertans and Ish Smith as success stories, as veterans who have taken their game up a level since coming to Washington. 

But much of the heavy-lifting remains for the Wizards and part of Brown's job duties as chief planning and operations officer include staying ahead of the curve. Next month, he will head to Boston, MA for the Sloan Analytics Conference, an annual convention focused on the role of statistics in sports. He is set to speak on a panel, but will also be soaking up as much information as he can from others.

"The primary initiative is to learn and listen," he said. "I look forward to going up there and seeing how we can improve and get better."

The Wizards have not won 50 games or reached the conference finals since the 1970s. Getting them there will take time and it will require many steps. Brown is hoping the foundation he and his staff continue to put in place will help them reach those goals.

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This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

This date in Wizards history: Bradley Beal sets franchise record for single-season 3-pointers

For the better part of eight years, three-point shooting in Washington DC was synonymous with the name, Gilbert Arenas. 

He was an electric shot-maker and was one of the NBA's revolutionary offensive players, paving the way for a wave of score-first guards like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Before Arenas set the franchise record for threes made in a season with 205, the previous record was only 158 held by Tracy Murray in 1997-98. He introduced a different level of marksmanship to this town. 

On this day, three years ago, the man who will go down as the best shooting guard in Wizards history set a new standard from three-point range. Against the Clippers in a late-season contest, Bradley Beal hit his 206th three of the season. He would go on to make 223 triples in 2016-17. 

2016-17 was a breakout year for Beal and the Wizards. He averaged 23.1 points per game, the first time he'd averaged over 20 while his teammate John Wall set career-highs in scoring, assists, steals and field goal percentage. 

Washington won 49 games and made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but in this particular game, they weren't as successful. The Clippers won the game 133-124 thanks to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and JJ Redick combining for 107 points. 

LA's incredible output from their stars spoiled 27 points from Beal and a 41-point, eight-assist and seven-rebound performance by Wall.

The Clippers went on to finish the season as the fourth seed in the Western Conference, only to lose in the first round to the Jazz thanks to another untimely injury to Blake Griffin. 

The Wizards, as stated before secured the fourth seed in the East, beat the Hawks in six games in the first round and then fell to the Celtics in the second round. It remains the longest playoff run for Beal and Wall. 

Beal may have to watch out for his teammate Davis Bertans, though. At the time of the NBA's suspension, Bertans was at 200 made threes with 18 games to play. Once the season picks back up, the Latvian Laser is in prime position to set a new franchise record. 

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LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

LeBron James scores 36, Wizards still top Lakers in NBA 2K simulation

These 2K simulations certainly do agree with the Wizards. Coming off a stunning victory over the Bucks Friday, Washington turned around on the second night of a back-to-back and beat the Lakers 73-66 at virtual Capital One Arena. 

LeBron James was a one-man wrecking crew for LA, Bradley Beal led the scoring attack for the Wizards and Thomas Bryant got revenge on the team that waived him. 

Here's how the Wizards picked up their fourth-straight 2K win. 

Offensive rebounds

The Lakers are one of the biggest teams in the NBA with James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard playing heavy minutes, but it was the Wizards who dominated the boards in this one. 

Bryant led the way for Washington on the glass with seven of his 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. The Lakers shot the ball significantly better than the Wizards (47% to 39%) but Washington was simply overwhelming them on the glass to create more opportunities. 

Washington grabbed 18 offensive rebounds compared to the Lakers' eight, and it ended being the major difference in the result. 

LeBron's one-man show

The real-life Lakers' biggest weakness is their lack of playmaking outside of James. In a game where James had everything working for him, the Lakers struggled to get anything going whenever he didn't have the ball. 

Rajon Rondo struggled mightily despite tallying eight assists (2-11 FG) and Davis had a bad game relative to his standards (10 points, one rebound, three blocks).

I'd be curious to see what virtual LeBron would have to say about his teammates after this particular game. 

Thomas Bryant's revenge

As we stated before, Bryant was waived by the Lakers after his rookie season and his virtual self took it all out on his former team Saturday night. 

He dominated the boards and once again protected the paint in a way that would make Elvin Hayes proud. He finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

With Bryant playing the way he has been the last few simulations, the Wizards' defense has been exceptional. Outside of defensive versatility, having a strong defensive center anchoring the defense is paramount to an effective unit. 

Other parting thoughts

Jerome Robinson continues to play well as a starter, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. The Wizards didn't get that long of a look at Robinson before the NBA suspended its season.

After acquiring him at the trade deadline in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, it'd be another steal by Tommy Sheppard if Robinson can play like this consistently in real life. 

Instead of erupting in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards secure a win, Beal went off for 14 points in the third this time. He finished with 24 points and went 12-for-30 from the field.

Markieff Morris made a return to DC in this one. The Lakers uniform looks weird on him. 

It's hard to capture just how quick Ish Smith is in a video game, but this spin move came pretty close. 

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