Washington Wizards: Gary Neal Gets Chance At Redemption With Atlanta Hawks

Washington Wizards: Gary Neal produced in the nation’s capital, but injuries set his career back. Now he’ll get another chance with the Atlanta Hawks.

Wanting to make the team more “modern,” the Washington Wizards focused on adding 3-point shooting to their roster in summer ’15.

Washington didn’t have much to work with, given that Ernie Grunfeld was capped out and only had a trade exception, mid-level and bi-annual to spend.

One of the team’s primary signings was Gary Neal, who was coming off a not-so-stellar season with the Charlotte Hornets. Neal shot a career-low 36 percent from the field and 29 percent from three.

As a scorer and 3-point shooter, Neal went through a rough patch, but the Wizards were convinced that a chance of scenery is all the former San Antonio Spur needed.

In Washington, Neal experienced a career resurgence.

Washington began gunning from deep and their offense catered to Neal’s skill-set. For the first time in his career, really, Bradley Beal had a capable backup shooting guard.

Neal put up just under 10 points per game on a career-high 47 percent shooting from the field.

For some parts in the Wizards’ season – one which they finished .500 and missed the playoffs – Neal was the only player worth watching outside of John Wall.

Beal missed a large chunk of time with a reoccurring stress reaction, giving Neal even more of an opportunity to showcase his scoring ability.

But the opportunity was short-lived as Neal tore his hip, shortening his season to just 40 games in Washington.

He was subsequently waived by the team, knowing they needed to replace his presence on the second unit.

Once his time in D.C. was over, reports surfaced that Neal had trouble adjusting to the Washington Wizards. As a gunner, it’s not uncommon to “fit out.”

According to J.Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, Neal’s teammates weren’t necessarily fond of his scoring mentality.

The word “selfish” often was used after postgame losses by various players — something that was rarely said in the previous two playoff seasons — and though Neal’s name was never used publicly that’s who was the primary target. That term also was used by some on the coaching staff.

Some of his teammates, including Jared Dudley, publicly refuted the report, but that definitely didn’t help his status during free agency.

His damaged reputation coupled with the injury made him untouchable this past summer.

Neal recently signed to play in the NBA Developmental League with the Texas Legends. In three games, the 32-year-old averaged over 15 points per game.

It was enough for the Atlanta Hawks – the Wizards’ southeast foe who currently occupy the fourth seed, one spot above Washington – to sign Neal, according to Chris Vivlamore.

The Hawks traded Mo Williams to the Nuggets for the draft rights to Cenk Akyol on Wednesday. The move opened a roster spot which the Hawks used to sign guard Gary Neal to a 10-day contract.

Ironically, the Washington Wizards could use some of Neal’s production off the bench.

Washington’s bench is last in scoring and field goal percentage. Scott Brooks has shuffled the rotations, playing Marcus Thornton (who the Wizards signed after waiving Neal) ahead of the rookies early in the season.

Now, the developing players – mainly Sheldon McClellan and Tomas Satoransky – have been playing behind Beal.

When he’s on – and he was on in Washington – Neal is one of the most effective scoring backups in the league. If the Hawks get Neal on his best day, they will have found a steal.

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