Washington Wizards players conducted exit interviews with head coach Scott Brooks Tuesday at Verizon Center in northwest D.C., a day after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.
One by one, each player reflected on the 2016-17 season, which ended one game shy of the conference finals with the 115-105 road loss to Boston.
A key decision for the Wizards this summer is whether to retain Otto Porter Jr., who becomes a restricted free agent, which means the Wizards can match an offer of a potential contract provided by another team.
Porter, who turns 24 on June 3, has been afforded the luxury most professional athletes rarely receive: perform in the same city where he played in college at Georgetown University.
“I love D.C., I went to school here,” he said. “I became a big part of what goes on around here. This is like home.”
Porter made up for his scoreless Game 6 with 20 points Monday in Boston. He averaged 14 points and eight rebounds in the series.
He finished the regular season with the fifth-highest percentage for 3-point shooting in the NBA.
Porter was integral in one the team’s best seasons in nearly 40 years. Despite a new head coach, nine new players and a 2-8 start, the Wizards won the Southeast division, finishing with 49 regular season wins and tying for fourth in the league with 30 home victories.
Bradley Beal went through the negotiation process last summer, but inked a five-year, $128 million deal.
“Don’t come to me for no advice,” Beal jokingly told reporters.
Beal said patience remains the best way to handle negotiations.
“He ultimately has to do what’s best for him,” said Beal, who, like Porter, grew up in Missouri. “We love him here. Hopefully we’ll have him back, but it’s a business and a process at the end of the day.”
The Wizards have lost two other small forwards in Trevor Ariza in 2014 and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce two years ago.
The major difference those two players joined the Wizards via free agency. Porter was drafted by the team in 2013.
All-Star point guard John Wall said the decision to keep Porter and keep the team intact rests with the front office.
“I think it’s a big part that we have our main core guys … [and] adding a couple pieces here and there will help us get over the hump,” Wall said. “Even with all that, we feel like we still had a chance to get to the Eastern Conference finals.”
The Wizards can have optimism in growing together because eight players are under contract. Besides Porter, forward Bojan Bogdanvic who came via trade from the Brooklyn Nets after the All-Star break, is also a restricted free agent.
Brooks didn’t specifically address contract talks and said the Game 7 loss still hurts, but he remains enthused on the team’s outlook for next year.
“We did a lot of good things that we should be proud of,” he said. “We’ve got a young group of guys that should get better. I love our future.”
Wizards center Marcin Gortat didn’t mince words on whether he’s still a valuable part of the team.
He called those who criticized his six-point output in Game 7 “freaking idiots” for not assessing other attributes. He did pull down 10 rebounds in the loss.
Gortat averaged a double-double this season and led the league in screen assists. At age 33, he’s the only Wizard to play in all 82 regular season games.
“I didn’t even miss one practice [or] shoot-around,” he said. “I think this is a huge achievement for me, personally. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I’m going to analyze whether this is the right fit.”
But despite still having one more year remaining on his current contract, he plans to discuss his future plans with his agent, citing the team’s signing of center Ian Mahinmi, 30, to a four-year, $64 million deal last year.
“I’m the oldest guy on the team,” Gortat said. “I know how the business works.”
Oubre Has MRI on Knee
Second-year forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said he had an MRI done last week on his right knee.
ESPN reported late Tuesday after the players conducted exit interviews he will need platelet-rich plasma therapy in the knee. The procedure removes and then reinjects his own blood in the exact spot of the injury.
The report said Oubre can return to basketball activities in two weeks.
Oubre, who felt pain in the knee during the first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, said he didn’t want to know the results of the MRI until after the season ended.
“I definitely have to look into that and see what procedures have to be done, but for right now I have no clue,” he said. “I was just going out there and playing for my team.”
Oubre, who was suspended for Game 4 of the Celtics series after a physical altercation with Boston center Kelly Olynyk in the previous game, averaged nearly six points a game for the series.