The Washington Wizards did not hold typical end of season media availabilities for their players because of the unique bubble situation, but they did make head coach Scott Brooks and general manager Tommy Sheppard available via Zoom. Unlike his predecessor, Sheppard is very willing to speak to the media and even jokes that he needs a shot clock because he has a tendency to ramble on with long answers. Here are the best quotes and takeaways from Sheppard's 43-minute availability that brings the 2019-20 season to a close.
"We played pretty well, we just couldn't finish. We kept getting hit with runs and young guys just couldn't punch back," Sheppard summarized the team's performance in the NBA restart. "To me, it was a fantastic opportunity, this year was all about development and that's on me."
"Scotty's done a hell of a job since he's got here of adjusting. His first year, we wong 49 games and went to Game 7 against Boston in the second round and that team never reappeared. We've been plagued by different injuries, different things. Throughout it all, he's always maintained a very professional atmosphere and does a great job of developing players and he's fantastic in the community. We really need to be blessed with a whole season of full health," Sheppard said in the non-shocking news that Scott Brooks would return for the 2020-21 season in the final year of his 5-year contract.
"We feel strongly that there's 15 players in this year's draft that can help the Wizards, not going to say immediately, but sooner than later. We really like our 37th pick and where that's at as well," Sheppard shared. Guards LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, both likely first-round picks, both played in Australia where the Wizards were able to scout thoroughly early in the season before COVID-19 began to suspend sports.
"Both John and Bradley would be ready to go. I feel strongly when the first day of training camp starts, we will have, knock on wood barring anything between now and then, John and Bradley will be at full health ready to go," Sheppard assured about his two franchise stars' healthy for their Achilles and shoulder injuries, respectively.
"Jerome Robinson as an example, you think because we traded for him in February and we're now in August, it feels like Jerome has been around forever, but he's actually only played like 20 games with us and 8 of those were in the bubble. We didn't really know a whole lot about what we had with him. When we got him we threw him in, he actually hit a game-winner for us, we liked him a lot coming out of college," Sheppard described the 2018 first-round pick taken one spot ahead of Troy Brown Jr.
With an unknown about what the salary cap and luxury tax lines will be next season from the previously estimated $115 and $139 million, respectively, the Wizards are preparing for all different scenarios. In theory, Washington would want to stay under the luxury tax that Ted Leonsis called "punitive" during the Otto Porter Jr. press conference that marked the first time the team went into the tax.
"It's been a great blessing, to have a medical department and that covers all the sports teams, not just the Wizards. What Sashi [Brown] and his group do from a planning perspective and being able to inject quite a bit of administrative help for us, it's been wonderful. I wouldn't trade it," Sheppard described the one-year plus point of Monumental Basketball's inception.
"A million years ago, Bradley Beal in Argentina. I said, 'that kid gonna be a star' and little did I know, here we are. 10-12 years later and he's a star and we're together. That's longer than some marriages actually," Sheppard joked about the small basketball world.
"He's been a priority, I told him that, nothing's changed there. We look forward to sitting down and talking to all of our free agents, but Davis is a priority for sure," Sheppard said about what seems to be the inevitable re-signing of Bertans.
"Patience and there are no shortcuts," Sheppard said about the biggest thing he has learned. "You look at a team and there are probably ways to artificially inflate this team up and grab a couple players, grab a couple more wins and feel a little bit better at the end of the year, but is that really about winning at a very large scale and where we want this to be? So you have to lay a foundation that is really for the future. I take that very seriously, it's not a legacy about Tommy Sheppard, it's what's best of the Washington Wizards."