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Wizards will be 'very protective' with Bradley Beal going to Orlando

Wizards will be 'very protective' with Bradley Beal going to Orlando

Knowing how much can change in a short period of time these days, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard isn't looking too far ahead. But as of now, he expects Bradley Beal to be with the team in Orlando when they resume games next month.

That is barring something unforeseen, which is a saying that means more now than possibly ever before. The Wizards do not head to Florida until July 7. A lot can happen in a week.

So far only Davis Bertans has opted out of the league's return-to-play plan. Sheppard said there was a consistent dialogue about that decision before Bertans made it official, and that he understands where Bertans is coming from. He called him a "big piece" of the team's future.

"[No] other player has given me any indication whatsoever. We've had great workouts," Sheppard said. "What we need to do to prepare to go to Orlando is be in Washington, D.C. right now and have a great day. And then tomorrow we get up and we do the same thing again. We tie all those days together and we get to July 7 and we'll get on a plane."

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After laying out the necessary caveats, Sheppard suggested the Wizards will be careful with Beal in Orlando when they get back on the court to play their final eight regular season games.

"I don't want to look too far ahead on any player. Certainly, with Bradley we're going to be very protective of him, but of all of our players. This is a different, unique ramp-up," Sheppard said. 

"[It's never happened] where the entire league really has not played a game at all during this entire stretch or have the opportunity to practice as an NBA team... When I talk about Bradley Beal playing in Orlando, I've gotta worry about Bradley Beal working out here as we get ready to go to Orlando."

Beal, who turned 27 over the weekend, was in as good a position as he could be during quarantine with a basketball court and workout gym in his house. He was able to stay in shape and shoot the basketball, which means he was more ready to return than most players. He also has a chance to make All-NBA, which is arguably worth going to Orlando for.

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But, like any NBA player, he has to weigh all the factors involved and there are many reasons why players are citing to sit out or considering to do so. There is the injury risk, the possibility of a Covid-19 outbreak within the league's bubble and a nationwide conversation about social justice matters that has weighed heavily on the minds of many players, including Beal.

As Sheppard indicated, the circumstances up and down are unusual. And it sounds like Beal will be closely monitored in terms of his minutes for the final eight games. He is fifth in the NBA this season in minutes per game (36.0).

For now, all Beal and the Wizards can do is take it one day at a time. On Monday, the day Sheppard addressed the media, Beal had already finished a successful workout hours earlier.

"He shot the lights out because that's what he does," Sheppard said.

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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."

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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