WASHINGTON — John Wall and the rest of the Washington Wizards’ core is exactly the same as it was last season, which essentially amounts to a radical decision to stand pat in today’s NBA.
“We know how each other wants to play. We know what they’re great at, what they’re not great at. It makes the job a lot easier for us,” Wall said Monday at the team’s media day before training camp begins in Richmond, Virginia. “I don’t like new change. I don’t like dealing with new people, new stuff.”
The seven most highly paid members of Washington’s roster this season were on the team last season, including starters Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris (more on him in a moment) and Marcin Gortat, plus reserves Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. Key backup Kelly Oubre Jr. returns, too.
So in an Eastern Conference where the top two teams made significant, headline-grabbing changes — the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics even swapped starting point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas — the Wizards will look very familiar.
Wall is 27; Beal and Porter are each 24.
“I, for one, appreciate it,” Beal said, “because I’m the type of person, I hate change.”
Aside from the additions of backups Tim Frazier, Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott, none of whom might even be the first or second man off the bench for second-year coach Scott Brooks, Washington is very much the same team that went 49-33 and lost in the second round of the playoffs yet again, this time in Game 7 against Boston.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the Wizards reached the conference finals, so a case could have been made that a shakeup might not be the worst thing for the franchise.
Why not try something different?
Instead, the two biggest moves made during the offseason by Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld were related to keeping the young core intact. All-Star point guard Wall agreed to a $170 million, four-year extension that will kick in for the 2019 season, and Grunfeld matched a $106.5 million, four-year offer Porter signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
Like his pair of leaders in the backcourt, Brooks put a positive spin on the lack of roster movement.
“Ernie and I, we share the same vision: keeping our best players together,” Brooks said. “That helps you win basketball games.”
He is also hoping that continuity will help avoid the sort of stumbling start Washington went through a year ago, opening the season 2-8 while adjusting to a new coach, more than a half-dozen new players, and having Wall work his way back from procedures on both knees.
“We definitely have an advantage going from last year to this year, just from our team’s perspective,” Smith said. “We’re not adding eight new players. We’re adding a couple pieces, here and there. We’re tweaking it, little by little.”
The difficulty this time will be adjusting to life without Morris.
That’s because the starting power forward will miss the beginning of the NBA season after having surgery Friday for a sports hernia.
Morris was the only player missing from media day — although the team said that was not because of his operation but because he is in Phoenix while standing trial with his brother on aggravated assault charges.
Brooks said he doesn’t think Morris was bothered by the hernia problem during last season and there was discomfort “three or four weeks ago.”
Smith, Oubre and Scott could all spend time in Morris’ spot until he could return, which might be as soon as after six or eight regular-season games but could also be after more like 20.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Brooks acknowledged, but added: “We’re not going to rush him back.”
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