Ian Mahinmi

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Report: Tim Connelly rejects Wizards, staying with Nuggets

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Nuggets president Tim Connelly could have led the Wizards’ front office, worked close to his native Baltimore and presumably gotten a raise from his reported $2 million salary.

Instead, he’ll stay in Denver.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a huge win for Denver and even bigger setback for Washington.

Connelly has put the Nuggets into a great position. They’re young and good in a combination rarely seen in NBA history. Connelly drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round then built around him a short time later. This season, Denver won 54 games and reached Game 7 of the second round with 24-year-old Jokic flanked by Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.

More decisions always lie ahead – notably Millsap’s $30 million team option for next season. But the Nuggets’ core is already in place and mostly under team control.

The Wizards need far more work. John Wall‘s contract is arguably the NBA’s worst. Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard are also roadblocks. Several key players will be free agents this summer. If he makes an All-NBA team this season, Bradley Beal be eligible for a super-max extension – a tricky decision for the club.

It would have been great for Washington to entrust Connelly with all that. He has proven excellent at his job.

Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry or Tommy Sheppard might do well for the Wizards. But they’re candidates who offer far less certainty.

Report: Wizards offer top front office job to Nuggets’ Tim Connelly

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This should not be a surprise. The entire, deliberate process to find a new president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards seemed to be pointing this way.

The question now is, will he take the job?

Washington has offered its top spot in basketball operations to Tim Connelly, the man who has the same job in Denver and built that team into a rising threat in the West, reports the staff at the Athletic.

The Wizards have offered Nuggets president Tim Connelly their head front office job and are hopeful he will accept, sources tell The Athletic’s Shams Charania, David Aldridge and Fred Katz.

Connelly left the NBA Combine on Friday to travel to Washington for a meeting with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis… The offer is for four years, according to sources.

Connelly is a Baltimore native who started his basketball career with the Wizards, he reportedly considers it his “dream job.” However, he has strong ties in Denver, particularly with owner Josh Kroenke, plus he has built an impressive Nuggets’ team just starting to tap its potential.

What we don’t know from the report is how much money was involved. Connelly reportedly makes $2 million a season with his new Denver contract (just extended in February) and that is on the low end for successful presidents of basketball operations. Did Leonsis offer more, and by enough to lure Connelly away?

Tommy Sheppard has served as the interim GM and it’s been reported he could stay on as Connelly’s No. 2, if Connelly is hired. If Denver loses Connelly, it is expected GM Arturas Karnisovas would be promoted. 

Connelly, if he takes the job, will take over a team at a crossroads. It all starts with Bradley Beal, the Wizards best player, who has two more years on his contract and is eligible for an extension this summer. Do the Wizards want to extend his contract and build around him or trade him to jump-start the rebuild without him? Washington also is stuck with John Wall‘s anchor of a contract — a projected $171 million over the next four years for a player who is seriously injured — plus will be paying Ian Mahinmi $15.5 million next season and Dwight Howard at $5.6 million.

Report: Washington gets permission to meet with Denver’s Tim Connelly about GM job

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It was reported on Thursday that the Wizards were ramping up their pursuit of Tim Connelly, the president of basketball operations in Denver, to take the same position in our nation’s capital. He had long been Washington’s top target, but the team had to wait until Denver fell out of the playoffs.

It has, and now comes a report Denver has given permission to Washington to talk to Connelly, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will meet with the Washington Wizards to discuss the franchise’s president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Connelly, a primary target of the Wizards’ search, is expected to meet with Washington as soon as Friday, league sources said.

Connelly is a Baltimore native with strong ties to the mid-Atlantic region, and he also got his start with the Wizards, getting his front office start in the organization. Denver just gave Connelly a contract extension last February, but the Wizards are the one job Connelly would consider leaving Denver for and the team will give him that out if he wants it.

Also, Connelly reportedly makes $2 million a year, well below the going rate for an experienced and successful president of basketball operations. Washington owner Ted Leonsis may nearly double that salary.

This would not be a formal interview, but if Connelly is offered the job he is expected to take it.

Denver has another reason they are confident in letting Connelly talk to Washington, reports Wojnarowski.

The Denver ownership’s confidence in general manager Arturas Karnisovas’ ability to assume full control of basketball operations, if needed, also played a part in its decision to allow Connelly to hear out Washington owner Ted Leonsis, league sources said.

This sounds like a deal on its way to getting done. If so it would be a huge get for the Wizards, who are looking to fill the position held for 16 seasons by Ernie Grunfeld. Tommy Sheppard is serving as the interim GM and it’s been reported he could stay on as Connelly’s No. 2, if Connelly is hired.

Connelly, or whoever takes on that job, has some big decisions to make. That starts with Bradley Beal, the Wizards best player, who has two more years on his contract and is eligible for an extension this summer. Do the Wizards want to extend his contract and build around him or trade him to jump-start the rebuild without him. Washington also is stuck with John Wall‘s anchor of a contract — a projected $171 million over the next four years for a player who is seriously injured — plus will be paying Ian Mahinmi $15.5 million next season and Dwight Howard at $5.6 million.

Three Things to Know: Westbrook dedicates historic 20-20-20 night to Nipsey Hussle

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook dedicates historic 20-20-20 night to Nipsey Hussle. Russell Westbrook so often puts up ridiculous stat lines we’ve almost become numb to it. There was a time when Oscar Robertson’s averaging of a triple-double for a season seemed like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak — an untouchable record in the modern era — but Westbrook did it. Then did it again. And is about to do it one more time.

Yet what Westbrook did Tuesday night was mind-boggling by even his standards.

Westbrook had 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assists — the NBA’s second-ever 20-20-20 game. Wilt Chamberlain was the other one.

After the game, Westbrook dedicated the game to slain rapper Nipsey Hustle, who was shot outside his Los Angeles’ clothing store days ago. Westbrook is a Los Angeles guy, and the players from the city know how Hustle gave back and was committed to his neighborhood, trying to lift people up, in a way few celebrities are. He meant a lot to people and the city.

We could nitpick the accomplishment — Westbrook shot just 8-of-23, and he was hunting those rebounds in the final minute — but we shouldn’t try to diminish this singular accomplishment. It is a mind-boggling effort.

Westbrook did this and lifted his team up when the Thunder needed the win, the Thunder beat the Lakers handily. This victory keeps the Thunder tied with the Spurs (who beat the Hawks) for the 7/8 seed in the West. OKC wants to avoid that eight seed and getting the Warriors in the first round because…

2) Golden State flips the switch, dominates Denver, all but secures top seed in West. In this week’s PBT Podcast, Mark Medina — Warriors writer for the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group — had a great line about the Warriors’ up-and-down effort this regular season:

They care and play hard when it’s convenient for them.

Tuesday night it was convenient.

The Warriors needed a win over Denver to lock up home court throughout the West playoffs, and so they came out and flipped the switch, dominated the game leading by 30 in the fourth (the Nuggets are just a poor matchup with the Warriors), and reminded everyone that the Warriors have gears nobody else in the NBA can hit.

And now they have DeMarcus Cousins at center now — he overwhelmed Nikola Jokic and every other Nugget defender in the paint on his way to 28 points and 13 rebounds. In recent games Cousins has seemed to find a comfort level playing with the Warriors, and that should scare teams heading into the postseason.

Kevin Durant pitched in 21 points in less than three quarters before he got ejected.

(Durant and Draymond Green each have 15 technical fouls this season, if either picks up one more before the end of the regular season they will be suspended for a game.)

Stephen Curry pitched in 18 points. The Warriors are the best team in the NBA when they want to be — when it’s convenient for them. During the playoffs, they will flip the switch most nights, and when they do no team in the West is a genuine threat to them. And the Warriors know it.

3) Wizards finally fire Ernie Grunfeld as team president/GM. Next step is big one for Wizards. One could make a very good case that Ernie Grunfeld should have been fired back in the day when he put together a roster with Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, and Nick Young on it. The team where a gun was pulled in the locker room. Of course, one could make the case Grunfeld should have been fired a lot of times, like when he cleared the books and planned around Kevin Durant coming home in 2016 when that was never a realistic option. There was no “Plan B” after Durant went West, not East.

However, it took 16 years and a season where owner Ted Leonsis thought this was a 50-win, conference finals roster — the Wizards never came close to that dream and are going to finish well out of the playoffs — for him to see the light and let go of Grunfeld. That happened on Tuesday.

What’s next is hard.

Whoever is next in the GM chair inherits a mess of a roster. John Wall’s $171 million supermax extension kicks in next season — a season he will miss much of with a torn Achilles — and runs four years. It is the most untradable contract in the NBA right now. Beyond that there’s Ian Mahinmi‘s $15.5 million, Dwight Howard‘s likely will be on the roster (at $5,6 million), and the talented Otto Porter is gone because Leonsis doesn’t want to pay the luxury tax. Oh, and Bradley Beal may well make an All-NBA team and be eligible for a $199 million four-year extension on top of the two years on his current contract — and the Warriors need to lock him up. He’s their best player (whether Wall returns to form or not).

It’s unclear who comes in. Denver’s Tim Connelly is reportedly a target, but would Washington settle for Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas? There are the guys next in line such as Gersson Rosas of the Rockets, Troy Weaver of the Thunder, and Mike Zarren of the Celtics (Zarren is a much longer shot, he will be hard to pull out of Boston). David Griffin’s name will come up. Wizards interim GM Tommy Sheppard deserves a look. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What the Wizards need is a creative mind, because it’s going to take one to build anything competitive around Wall’s contract (even when Wall returns he may well not be the same player). Just as importantly, they need a GM who can manage Leonsis, get him to buy in on what could be some painful next steps. In Washington, that may be the hardest part of the job.

Wizards fire president Ernie Grunfeld

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his goal for this season was winning 50 games and making the conference finals.

Washington is 32-46 and eliminated from the playoff race.

So, it’s time for consequences.

Wizards release:

Chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment Ted Leonsis announced today that Ernie Grunfeld has been relieved of his duties as president of the Washington Wizards.

“We did not meet our stated goals of qualifying for the playoffs this season and, despite playing with injuries to several key players, we have a culture of accountability and a responsibility of managing to positive outcomes,” said Leonsis. “I wish to thank Ernie for his service to the Washington Wizards. He and his family have been great leaders in our community and have worked tirelessly to make us a top NBA franchise.”

Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Tommy Sheppard will report to Leonsis on all basketball matters beginning immediately. The team will begin a search for a new head of basketball operations (which will include Sheppard as a candidate) upon conclusion of the season.

Grunfeld had unusual job security given his pedestrian record. He ran the Wizards 16 seasons in which they went 568-724, made the playoffs only half the time and never advanced past the second round. Yet, Leonsis kept giving him secret contract extensions. Leonsis even gave Grunfeld an A grade for last offseason.

But the owner finally had enough.

Fans in Washington certainly had long ago.

Now, whoever succeeds Grunfeld must dig the Wizards out of their hole. John Wall, who’s guaranteed a projected $171 million over the next four years and seriously injured, has arguably the NBA’s worst contract. Ian Mahinmi‘s $15,450,051 salary next season is a burden. Even Dwight Howard‘s $5,603,850 player option looks like a liability. Washington has only one young player – Troy Brown Jr. – under contract beyond this season.

The bright spot: Bradley Beal, who’s locked up two more years. He’s incredibly valuable. Washington could build around him or trade him to get a head start on rebuilding.

But if he makes an All-NBA team this season, he’ll be eligible for a super-max contract extension this offseason that projects to be worth $199 million over four years. As Wall shows, those large deals carry major downside risk for teams, even when the player looks pretty good.

The next front-office leader must also navigate ahead with an owner who claimed he’d never tank. Maybe that’s just something Leonsis said. But it also might be a real mandate.

Leonsis has also shown reluctance to pay the luxury tax (which is why talented Otto Porter is gone). Another constraint.

Of course, Leonsis also just kept Ernie Grunfeld 16 years. The lure of that job security should draw candidates.