In quotes: Tommy Sheppard on the Wizards' offseason, position battles and more
On Thursday afternoon, just days before Wizards training camp is set to commence, general manager Tommy Sheppard addressed the media, discussing the team’s many new faces across the roster and coaching staff, key positional battles throughout the rotation, Bradley Beal’s leadership and much more.
Sheppard oversaw a busy Washington offseason. Wes Unseld Jr. was hired as the team’s new head coach after six seasons with the Nuggets. Spencer Dinwiddie, who averaged over 20 points per game in his last full season, was among six players acquired in a five-team deal in early August. And the team landed Corey Kispert, one of the draft’s most highly coveted shooters, with the 15th overall pick.
SHEPPARD: “We put a lot of time and effort into this roster for the upcoming season. It was a very compressed summer; a very, very compressed offseason. We’re excited. I think we were able to add depth at every position, add some veterans that have been around the league – a couple people with championship rings. I think when you add depth to our roster, it certainly gives you a lot more optionality…We’re really excited about the potential of this team.”
SHEPPARD: “To win in the NBA, you have to play a certain, deliberate way. We’re going to go out and make sure we don’t take early, contested twos in the shot clock. We’re going to make sure that we improve transition defense, stop fouling, keep people off the line. When you do those things consistently and it becomes every game that you know you’re going to get that, the wins start to show up. There’s not a whole lot of hope involved or a whole lot of luck involved if you play a certain way.”
With new faces scattered throughout the team’s coaching staff and roster, one of the most intriguing storylines heading into Wizards training camp is the newfound depth and subsequent position battles up and down the roster. At the center position, Washington will start the season without Thomas Bryant, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury suffered in early January. In his absence, the team will lean on Daniel Gafford, who made a strong impression as a rim-running shot blocker after he was acquired at last season’s trade deadline, and Montrezl Harrell, who played last season with the Lakers and was acquired via trade this offseason.
SHEPPARD: “(The minutes) will sort themselves out. I don’t expect Thomas (Bryant) ready earlier than sometime in December. We start out with Daniel Gafford as the opening day center with (Montrezl Harrell) behind him. Montrezl has been fantastic. His energy, his effort – I think what he brings to us is tremendous. I think that will play itself out. Minutes work themselves out.”
SHEPPARD: “At every position, we can talk about who starts games, but to me, it’s more interesting who finishes games. A lot of that will be matchup-dictated; who’s hot, who’s playing well in the fourth quarter…We constructed this roster to make sure we have plenty of shooting at every position. When you look at competition, it’s going to be whoever is hot that game is going to finish games…Competition for minutes is a healthy thing.”
Asked about atmosphere around the building and how he has seen it evolve in recent years, Sheppard spoke effusively about the Wizards’ positive culture. Sheppard said that culture started with the players, most of whom have been in D.C. working out at the team facility since early September.
SHEPPARD: “The hallmark of this franchise is the people in it. The environment that’s been created here is mostly because of players on the roster and what they expect. You get the right people and it’s magic – it takes off. I think the high-character players that we have here created an atmosphere of hard work, accountability, reliability and they’re just having fun.”
Sheppard specifically cited Bradley Beal’s leadership as a catalyst for organization as a whole.
SHEPPARD: “So much of (Beal’s) leadership style has always been by example. That’s kind of how I operate as well. It’s more about actions, not words…You’re talking about a guy last year that was All-NBA, but he takes as much pride and we take as much pride in his community assist award and what he does off the floor. He’s a fantastic leader by example.”
The Wizards open training camp on Tuesday, September 28 and begin preseason action the following week. Washington will tip off its 2021-22 regular season schedule on October 20 in Toronto.