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Wizards GM search: How Pelicans hiring David Griffin alters approach

Wizards GM search: How Pelicans hiring David Griffin alters approach

It's time to update the Wizards general manager search. Perhaps the most prominent available candidate is off the board.

David Griffin, who led the Cavaliers’ front office during the team’s 2016 NBA Championship season, is set to become the executive VP of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, ESPN reported Friday.

Griffin served as an NBA analyst since leaving Cleveland in 2017. While not the hottest rumored candidate for the Wizards opening, Griffin expressed general interest in the position and the opportunity to work with owner Ted Leonsis, sources told NBC Sports Washington. 

Instead, Griffin lands with the Pelicans. New Orleans interviewed several front office types for the position including their interim GM Danny Ferry, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon and Wizards senior VP of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard.

When the regular season ended this week, the Wizards, Pelicans, Suns and Timberwolves were the teams with front office openings. Plenty changed since beyond Griffin's hire.

You may have heard, but Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as the Lakers team president. Chaotic as the scene may be in LA, the opening suddenly becomes the league’s most desirable. Immediate buzz named Griffin among the top replacement candidates primarily because of his prior history with Lakers star LeBron James.

Phoenix removed the interim tag and gave James Jones its GM job Thursday. 

Minnesota reportedly aims to hire a new president of basketball operations. 

Meanwhile, Memphis underwent a front office and coaching shakeup Thursday.

On April 2, Leonsis revealed he would consult with a search firm to aid in finding Grunfeld’s replacement. The Wizards aren’t necessarily racing against these teams – Leonsis expects a three-week or so reflection period – but some target overlap is inevitable though perhaps not with the lone official candidate. 

That would be Sheppard, now the interim head of Washington’s front office following the firing of longtime team president Ernie Grunfeld. Leonsis immediately declared Sheppard in the mix following the Grunfeld news. 

While loud portions of the Wizards fan base show skepticism because of his lengthy work history with Grunfeld, Sheppard is well respected around the league. Several organizations brought him in for GM interviews in recent seasons. Moving Sheppard into the lead role would increase the use of analytics and other innovative methods.

Ferry, the son of former Bullets GM Bob Ferry, and Langdon are among the other names frequently mentioned by league sources along with Nuggets president Tim Connelly and Thunder VP of Basketball Operations Troy Weaver.

Connelly, a Baltimore native, began his NBA career as an intern with the Wizards in 1996. After a stint in New Orleans, he joined Denver in 2013. The Nuggets became of the league’s most impressive stories this season, and enter the postseason as the two-seed in the challenging Western Conference. 

Leaving a situation poised for a multi-season run of success for a Wizards team coming off a 32-50 season and perhaps without injured guard John Wall for most of next season seems surprising on the outside. Sources tell NBC Sports Washington that personal considerations make the idea of returning to the area attractive for Connelly. 

Langdon’s potential stands out considering the obstacles facing the next hire.

The former Duke star and NBA veteran served as a scout for three years with San Antonio before becoming Brooklyn’s assistant GM in 2016. Langdon and Nets GM Sean Marks inherited a dismal situation in Brooklyn after the team traded away numerous first-round picks in the 2014 trade with Boston for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Thanks to a series of creative trades – acquiring draft picks attached to unwanted contracts – Brooklyn improved from 20 wins in 2016-17 to a 42-40 record this season and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Washington’s challenges are different, but creativity is required. Wall’s injury recovery occurs while his $170 million supermax contract kicks in next season. All-Star Bradley Beal may become eligible for a supermax if named to the All-NBA team this year. Beal is the lone proven high-rotation player on the roster heading into next season, and yet the Wizards might not have more than approximately $20 million in cap space depending on what happens with their free agents this summer.

Boston assistant GM Mike Zarren is another reported candidate, but the lifelong Celtics fan leaving the organization after 14 years would surprise some near the team. 

Some team snagging Griffin or franchise turmoil elsewhere is the opposite of surprising. Just don’t be shocked if other organizations start pushing the pace now that one of the biggest GM names available went off the board.


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Bradley Beal's new contract a big win for Wizards revamped front office

Bradley Beal's new contract a big win for Wizards revamped front office

What was the most uncertain part of the Wizards' future is now clear, as All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal has agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $72 million to remain in Washington through at least the 2021-22 season with a player option for 2022-23, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. He and the Wizards came to terms just four days before the deadline to do so was set to pass.

The news comes as a bit of a surprise, as most believed Beal would wait to potentially make more money down the road. He could have bet on himself to make All-NBA this season and earned a supermax contract. But this decision gives him financial security through his Age 29 season with the ability to reset in free agency. With the player option, he can line up for a lucrative deal in just three years.

As Adrian Wojnarowski noted in his initial ESPN report, Beal could earn a deal worth $266 million over five years if he declines his player option, as he will then have 10 years of NBA service under his belt. If he opts to leave in free agency in the summer of 2022, he could still net a contract worth $198 million over four years with another team.

So, either way Beal will get paid and this contract solidifies his commitment to Washington and their plan to build around him. It also likely disappoints a handful of teams around the NBA that saw Beal as an enticing trade target. The Wizards continued to deflect offers this summer even with general manager Tommy Sheppard saying publicly they wouldn't deal him.

The Wizards can now breathe easy for at least another year when it comes to Beal. If they let the deadline pass, next summer would have forced a tough decision with him being one year away from free agency. Washington may have had no choice but to trade him or else risk losing him for nothing the following summer.

It is not the way most predicted it would go, but then again the Wizards have been able to buck league trends in this regard consistently in recent years. In an age where NBA stars move from team to team, the Wizards have been able to keep their own All-Star players happy and re-sign them over and over.

They signed John Wall to a max contract and then a supermax deal. And this is Beal's third contract with the team, the second time he has decided to re-sign.

That just doesn't happen around the league. Even when the collective bargaining agreement creates incentives for players to stay, where they have to forgo tens of millions of dollars to leave their original teams, many guys still run for the exits.

The Wizards, though, have been different in the way they have been able to build strong relationships with their stars to the point where they want to stay, in this case even with the team more likely to finish outside of the playoff picture this season than not. Beal wants to win, but he has clearly been sold on the team's long-term vision and is willing to apply the necessary patience to see it through.

Whether you agree with the decision to keep Beal or not, Sheppard and the Wizards' front office deserves a good deal of credit. They successfully convinced a star in his prime to do something very few of his peers would likely do if given the same choice.

Keeping Beal and Wall has also been a departure from the team's history. The Wizards at one point not long ago were known for developing star players only to let them go and watch them win elsewhere. It happened with Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace. Three of them teamed up to win an NBA title in Detroit.

Now, with Beal's future more secure, the tone of the Wizards' season will change. The results may not be different at all, but any potential distraction of whether he will want to leave has been eliminated, or least tabled for another date.

Wizards fans may not have expected this, but Beal isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


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Bradley Beal agrees to 2-year, $72 million extension with Wizards, per report

Bradley Beal agrees to 2-year, $72 million extension with Wizards, per report

Bradley Beal has agreed to a 2-year, $72 million contract extension with the Washington Wizards, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday.

Wojnarowski says the extension will take effect in the 2021-2022 season and includes a player option for the following season in 2022-2023 that guarantees $130 million over four years, meaning Beal will be ineligible for free agency for at least three seasons.

Beal's signing makes clear his commitment to the Wizards organization.

The reported agreement comes just days before the Oct. 21 deadline.