JUNKIES: WaPo's Ava Wallace weighs in on Wizards' dismissal of GM Tommy Sheppard


The Wizards’ dismissal of GM Tommy Sheppard Wednesday night was a shock to many – including Ava Wallace, who covers the team for the Washington Post, and told the Sports Junkies Thursday that there were rumblings of a change way back when, but the timing was still a surprise.

“Yeah, it was interesting timing. There were rumblings a while ago, when the Wizards were on their downward trajectory, especially within the league, but the question was, if they don’t sign Kyle Kuzma or Kristaps Porzingis is that the death knell?” Wallace said. “But then it just kind of went away, and a lot of people were saying no, because Ted Leonsis is a little distracted, so the timing caught a lot of people off guard. The Wizards sort of soft tanked to set themselves in the lottery, and with no interim name, definitely a bit of a surprise.”

Kuzma is a true free agent but Porzingis has an option, and as much as he loves DC, that may now be in flux.

“Talking to Porzingis, he really likes being in DC and Ted Leonsis is a big fan of him, and he believes of the vision, so I’d have to think not much has changed from his perspective,” Wallace said. “But that’s the problem: now the vision is all up in the air, and a lot of people around the league would certainly say why not take this opportunity to start from scratch with the Wizards, and that may be on the table. The person who comes in may have carte blanche.”

Wallace found it interesting that Leonsis’ statement about Sheppard’s dismissal said they will search for new leadership from outside the organization, as their last GM search was a lengthy process that ended with an in-house hire in Sheppard.

The Junks noted “that doesn’t seem within Ted’s comfort zone,” noting how he did something similar with the Capitals’ last GM search, but maybe it’s time for that overhaul?

“It might be, and it’s a good point that it’s not something a lot of people expected Ted Leonsis to do so quickly,” Wallace said. “That’s something he doesn’t do – you saw how long Ernie Grunfeld was here – so it definitely raised an antenna. Maybe he’s looking for a fresh outlook that brings in something completely different.”

EB wondered, however, if the dismissal was because Sheppard was the one who wanted to blow it up and there was a conflict, so his defense could be simply doing what his boss asked?

“I don’t think there’s a sense of that, and I don’t think Tommy’s the guy to come out and start leaking something like that, but I think when you consider the parameters he had – Leonsis wanted to commit to Bradley Beal and build around him,” Wallace said. “They had a couple different cracks at that nut and nothing came out of it, but I think this is something Tommy believed in. So, I don’t think there was opposition, but there surely were parameters he had to work within.”

Beal is going to make $47 million next year and that salary only goes up from there, meaning he alone is a large chunk if the Wizards’ cap for the next few years and may be untradeable if the new GM decides to blow it up – but don’t be so sure.

“It’s definitely tradeable, only because John Wall and Russell Westbrook were traded. They just fired the guy who orchestrated those trades, but it’s still possible in the NBA market,” Wallace said. “You might not get back something that once had Beal’s value, but you can always work something out. It won’t be easy or pretty, but you can definitely work with that. You have to be open-minded with everything with this team at this point.”

Wallace also weighed in on the Spencer Dinwiddie vs. Kyle Kuzma feud and how Corey Kispert may have fanned those flames, as well as Wes Unseld Jr.’s job security now that Sheppard is gone, who could replace Sheppard, and more – take a listen above!

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