Getty Images

John Wall wants Wizards to add athletic bigs, depth this offseason

5 Comments

The Wizards came into this season looking like a team poised to take a step forward. Then they stumbled backward.

Due to a combination of injuries — John Wall played in just half the team’s games — and disinterested play against teams they should have beaten, the Wizards backed into the playoffs as the eighth seed with 43 wins, down from 49 the season before. Then the Wizards got unceremoniously bounced in the first round by a superior Raptors team.

Wall looked at what Toronto had in that series — depth, and a versatile lineup of big men — and said that’s the direction Washington needs to go this summer. Wall pulled no punches at his exit interview with the media, as reported by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“Just got to add some pieces,” he said. “A lot, to be honest. There’s a lot that we can use… I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian [Mahinmi] is older. [Marcin Gortat] is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible…

“I think it’s just figuring out what pieces can add to our team, what guys can stay and what guys can go, that make us, that really want to be here, that really want to win and really want to take that next step,” he said.

Wall added he wanted players who would push back when things got difficult, a kind of fight the Wizards didn’t show this season.

That all sounds good, but it’s going to be far more challenging to pull off than Wall may realize.

With Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter locked in as max contracts, Washington has a top-heavy payroll and $115.9 million on the books in guaranteed contracts for just eight players next season (Ian Mahinmi, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Tomas Satoransky, and Kelly Oubre are the others). The salary cap next season is expected to be about $101 million. That means the Wizards have no cap space to go out and add free agents (outside of guys at the mid-level exception or at the minimum).

This is a roster that will pay the luxury tax this season with the fifth highest payroll in the league and will be pushing it again next season (the tax line is expected to be at about $121 million), and for the two seasons after that when Wall’s super-max extension kicks in. Plus this summer, Oubre is eligible for a contract extension off his rookie deal. Will ownership be willing to pay the tax again next season, or could there be some payroll trimming coming to our nation’s capital?

Gortat and Morris are on expiring contracts and could be shopped in trades, but how much of a return they would bring in a tight market with a lot of capped out teams is up for debate. Otto Porter’s no-trade clause ends in July, but that’s not a position where the Wizards are deep on the wing.

All of which is to say, Wall may want to see a roster shakeup, but with all the money spent on him and the other players at the top of the roster, Washington is more likely to run it back, just with a couple more young players, next season.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

REUTERS
1 Comment

Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport
4 Comments

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

Elsa/Getty Images
4 Comments

The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
8 Comments

After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.