New Wizards GM Sheppard eyes ‘development,’ not win total
WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, the Washington Wizards would head into a season with proclamations from players or management or ownership — if not all three — about how many wins they were hoping for or how deep a playoff run they thought possible.
New general manager Tommy Sheppard outlined a different sort of definition of success Thursday, saying 2019-20 is “all about player development.”
After all, the club is coming off a 32-50 record, has a mostly reworked roster and will be without injured All-Star point guard John Wall for the foreseeable future. Sheppard took over the GM job on an interim basis when Ernie Grunfeld was fired late last season. After running free agency and the draft, Sheppard was given the permanent post in July.
His task is to rebuild, although his word of choice is “revitalize.”
Sheppard said watching and measuring players, and helping them improve, over the course of the season is his chief aim for now.
“And it’s not just by a stat sheet. It’s all the things that you’re asked to do on the floor. Are you able to go out there, execute consistently, and we see you improve the things that we’re asking you to do? We’re asking players to be stars in their role, essentially, right?” Sheppard said at a news conference.
“You get some guys that … the only time the ball’s coming to you is the end of the shot clock. So we’re asking you to set great screens. We’re asking you to be a selfless help-side defender. We can evaluate that to see if you’re doing those things. I think those are areas that we’re going to evaluate and watch the roster get better.”
With training camp to open next week, Sheppard said he has not heard back from shooting guard Bradley Beal about the contract extension he’s been offered. Beal has until Oct. 21 to accept it; if not, he is under contract for two more seasons.
Wall is out for most, if not all, of the season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon — Sheppard said the NBA has not ruled on whether Washington can use a disabled player exception — leaving Beal as the unquestioned best player and leader of the Wizards.
“Really excited to see what Bradley Beal does this season,” Sheppard said. “He’s a tremendous cornerstone of this franchise. We’re very blessed to have him.”
Sheppard offered some updates on injured players:
—First-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, who left Japan’s World Cup team early because of knee discomfort, is “in good shape,” and “didn’t leave the court” when players held a pickup game for more than 1½ hours Wednesday.
—Isaiah Thomas, who had surgery on his left thumb last week, is out of a cast and is wearing a splint; he’ll sit out the entire preseason and the start of the regular season.
—C.J. Miles, whose left foot was operated on for a stress fracture in July, took shots Thursday and was on the court for more than an hour.