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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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Jeff Green 'would love to come back' to Wizards, add stability to journeyman career


Jeff Green 'would love to come back' to Wizards, add stability to journeyman career

With six different teams in the past five years, Jeff Green has become one of the NBA's most itinerant journeymen.

Including his early-career move from Seattle to Oklahoma City, when the franchise transitioned from the Sonics to the Thunder, Green has played in eight different cities. Among active players, only Ish Smith (10), Marco Bellinelli (nine), Shaun Livingston (nine) and Anthony Tolliver (nine) have played for more teams.

Being in Washington this past season, though, was different. That's because Green is from the area, having grown up nearby in Maryland. He starred at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, then at Georgetown University in Northwest D.C.

At 32 years old (he turns 33 in August), Green does not prefer being a basketball nomad. He would like to stay with the Wizards this summer as he aims for a new contract in free agency.

"I would love to come back," Green said. "Great set of guys on this team. I loved playing with Brad [Beal], John [Wall]."

Green also mentioned playing for head coach Scott Brooks, for whom he played in Seattle and Oklahoma City. Brooks was an assistant on the Sonics staff when Green was a rookie, then took over as head coach in the middle of Green's sophomore season. Green left the Thunder after his third season and, 10 years later, was reunited with Brooks in Washington.

The biggest draw for Green to the Wizards, though, is the fact it is his hometown team. Though playing at home is a drawback for some players, Green found major benefits in being around family and in the town where he played college ball.

"Being in front of family every night was great for me. It allowed me to see my daughters more than a couple of times a year, which was great," he said. 

"Being in a familiar setting from my Georgetown days was great. Being able to go up to Georgetown and watch the guys get better, it was great. [Those are] things I haven’t been able to do since being in the league."

On the court, Green found individual success with the Wizards amid a disappointing season overall. He averaged 12.3 points and 4.0 rebounds while setting a career-high in effective field goal percentage (55.5). 

He did all of that while making the league minimum of $2.4 million. On a Wizards team that was in some ways defined by bloated salaries, Green proved a bargain. 

Hoping to come back to the Wizards was a familiar refrain from impending free agents during the Wizards' media exit interviews. Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, Thomas Bryant and others all suggested they would like to return. 

But with a new front office leadership structure set to be installed, certainty isn't offered for anyone. For Green, the Wizards' new general manager will need to evaluate whether he was part of their problems. 

While Green probably exceeded expectations this season, he was on the floor when the team struggled to rebound the ball and defend just like his teammates were. The Wizards were 27th in the NBA in defensive rating this season at 112.8, according to NBA.com. Green's defensive rating was 112.6.

The Wizards and Green may ultimately not prove a fit in the eyes of the new GM. If that is the case, Green could move on to play in a new city, the ninth of his career. 


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Former Wizards Mike Scott, Jared Dudley deliver the drama in Sixers-Nets Game 4


Former Wizards Mike Scott, Jared Dudley deliver the drama in Sixers-Nets Game 4

The 76ers-Nets playoff series has been wild from the start, but the trash talk and physical play reached the next level in the Sixers' Game 4 victory Sunday. 

The contest featured two ejections as well as a game-deciding shot with 19.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In the middle of it all? None other than Jared Dudley and Mike Scott, who played for the Wizards in 2015-16 and 2017-18, respectively. 

Tensions between Dudley and the Sixers had been simmering since he slammed Ben Simmons in the media after Game 1.

With 7:42 left in the third quarter Saturday, Joel Embiid committed a flagrant foul on Jarrett Allen under the basket. An incensed Dudley shoved Embiid, prompting Jimmy Butler to push Dudley away.

When Simmons to try to separate the two, he and Dudley got tangled up and tumbled into the front-row seats. Both Dudley and Butler were ejected on the spot. 

The Nets held a 67-61 advantage when Dudley and Butler were tossed, but that lead dwindled to one point with under a minute left to go. 

Brooklyn made the mistake of leaving Scott open in the corner, where Embiid set him up for a go-ahead three-pointer with 19.7 seconds remaining.

A pair of Tobias Harris free throws sealed the Sixers' 112-108 win, putting them up 3-1 in the series. Scott and company can finish off Dudley's squad in Game 5 on Tuesday. 

In the meantime, listen as Scott goes 1-on-1 with Chris Miller in the latest Wizards Talk Podcast.