Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard dropped by point guard John Wall’s workout Monday and they chatted. About their kids. About Thanksgiving Day plans. About their favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys.
What they didn’t discuss, according to Sheppard, was the possibility of Washington dealing Wall elsewhere.
“There’s no plans to trade John,” were the first words spoken by Sheppard during a video conference Monday, when most questions from reporters were about the five-time All-Star who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
Wall missed all of last season, and most of 2018-19, too, with injuries to his left heel, then Achilles tendon, and reports surfaced in recent days that he requested a trade.
Sheppard downplayed that with training camp set to begin next week, saying Wall “didn’t request” to be moved when they spoke Monday.
He said he and Wall speak “pretty much every other day” and characterized their relationship as “very, very close.”
“There’s no issues with John and I,” Sheppard said. “There’s no issues with John and the Wizards.”
And while Sheppard reaffirmed that his plan is to build around shooting guard Bradley Beal — whose scoring average of 30.5 points last season was second in the league behind James Harden — the GM repeatedly emphasized that he is eager to see his team’s backcourt combo reunited.
“We’ve been pointing to this time for a long time, to try to see how we get those guys back on the floor together, because when we were together last, they were pretty darn good,” Sheppard said. “One of the best backcourts out there.”
The Wizards went to the postseason four times in five years during one stretch. But over the past two seasons, Washington lost 50 games, then 47, and missed the playoffs.
“It’s a new story now with John and Bradley. ... It’s not a sequel. They haven’t played together in two years, but they both look forward to playing with each other,” Sheppard said. “That’s where we’re at and that’s where we move onto.”
Players get Pope’s blessing
Pope Francis met with NBA players at the Vatican, lauding them as “champions” and saying he supported their work on social justice.
The five players — Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver, and Anthony Tolliver — were joined in the delegation by NBA players’ union executive director Michele Roberts and two other union executives, Sherrie Deans and Matteo Zuretti.
“We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the papal library.
The union said the players spoke about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.” Belinelli addressed the pope in Italian, and the group presented the pope with a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book highlighting efforts players have taken, and an Orlando Magic jersey.
“You’re champions,” the pope said. “But also giving the example of teammork, you’ve become a model, giving that good example of teamwork but always remaining humble ... and preserving your own humanity.”
The audience was held days before a book comes out in which Francis supports demands for racial justice, specifically the actions taken following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May. A police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee against his neck for minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.
“I was there to support my colleagues in their daily struggle in the United States, and not just for that,” Belinelli said later Monday on Twitter. “I also went to show that athletes have an active responsibility in society and need to dedicate themselves toward changing things that don’t work. We athletes have a very big media platform and we’ve got to use it positively to reach where institutions are lacking.”
Roberts said Francis sought the meeting with the players, and that it “demonstrates the influence of their platforms.”
Brown, in his remarks to the pope, told him about what he, Korver, and the other Milwaukee Bucks went through in the NBA’s restart bubble — particularly when they decided to sit out a playoff game against Orlando in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.
“It was raw and emotional for our team,” Brown told the pope.
Brown sued officials in Milwaukee after getting taken to the ground, shocked with a Taser and arrested during an encounter with police in 2018, contending that police used excessive force and targeted him because he is Black. A settlement where Brown would receive $750,000 plus an admission from the city that his civil rights were violated was agreed to this month.
Harrell says Lakers wanted him
Montrezl Harrell, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, said the decision to leave the Los Angeles Clippers after three seasons and move down the Staples Center hallway to the Lakers was surprisingly simple because the NBA champions made it clear they badly wanted him in the opening minutes of free agency. The Clippers did not. The 6-foot-7-inch forward agreed to a two-year deal with the Lakers early in their roster-building spree early in free agency. Harrell seems to be a clear upgrade over departed Dwight Howard. After averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in the regular season, Harrell put up only 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in the playoffs for the Clippers, who blew a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets to ruin the much-anticipated, all-Los Angeles conference final … The Cavaliers finalized a trade to acquire center JaVale McGee and a 2026 second-round draft pick from the Lakers for forwards Alfonzo McKinnie and Jordan Bell. The teams agreed to the deal Sunday but needed league approval. With Tristan Thompson leaving for the Celtics, McGee gives the Cavaliers a proven front-line player who can protect the rim and give starting center Andre Drummond a break. The 30-year-old McGee also has an expiring contract, which makes him appealing to teams looking to create salary-cap space. Cleveland also agreed to re-sign guard Matthew Dellavedova to a reported one-year deal … Markieff Morris says he will be back with the Lakers next season, with The Athletic reporting his contract is for one year at the league minimum. Morris was a key reserve on Los Angeles’s championship squad after being acquired for the stretch run on Feb. 23 after he was waived by the Pistons … Center Alex Len, the No. 5 pick in the 2013 draft, agreed to a reported one-year, $2.3 million pact with the Toronto Raptors. Len split last season between the Hawks and Kings, averaging 8 points and 5.8 rebounds … Former All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to a one-year, veteran’s-minimum deal with Houston, sources told ESPN. The 30-year-old four-time All-Star has been derailed by a series of serious injuries the past three years … The Pistons traded center Tony Bradley to Philadelphia for guard Zhaire Smith. Detroit acquired Bradley in a recent trade with Utah.