Sources: Wizards to hire Michael Winger and empower him to reshape team

WASHINGTON — With the Washington Wizards underperforming and lacking a clear path to national relevance, Ted Leonsis decided to hire LA Clippers general manager Michael Winger, a trained attorney who has experience with superstar players, high-powered agents and the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap.

Leonsis plans to give Winger wide latitude to expand and revamp the Wizards’ infrastructure — and potentially launch a full roster rebuild — said league sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Winger’s hiring, although accepted in principle, has not yet been formalized.

Leonsis will name Winger president of Monumental Basketball, a new position that will allow Winger to oversee not only the Wizards and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go, but also the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

The 43-year-old winger, who will take over a Wizards team that has missed the playoffs in four of the past five years, is set to pay shooting guard Bradley Beal up to $208 million over the next four seasons and faces an offseason in which forward Kyle Kuzma intends to become an unrestricted free agent and center Kristaps Porziņģis can become an unrestricted free agent.

According to a league source, Winger will have full authority over the construction (and possibly deconstruction) of the wizard roster and offices within Monumental Basketball.

Winger will submit a five-year plan to Leonsis for approval, then update the plan after each year. More importantly, Leonsis wouldn’t be against a rebuild if that’s the path Winger wants to go down, a league source said.

In the coming days, Winger will face a more pressing issue than deciding whether to keep Kuzma and Porziņģis — and arguably even more pressing than prioritizing NBA draft prospects to invite to Washington for team practices. . Winger will hire someone to be the new head of Wizards basketball, a league source said. It’s unclear if the title of this role will be “General Manager,” but that person will be the person Coach Wes Unseld Jr. reports to.

The Wizards’ hierarchy will be similar to the hierarchy within one of Leonsis’ other professional teams, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, which have a team president (Dick Patrick) who oversees the team at large and a senior vice president/general manager (Brian MacLellan) .

Winger worked as the No. 2 person in the Clippers’ basketball operations department, reporting to president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank.

Frank and Winger completed their respective skills. Frank, who was previously the head coach of the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons, brought the X and O’s top-level knowledge and experience in player evaluation. Winger’s expertise, on the other hand, focuses more on developing a team’s short- and long-term roster-building strategy, conducting contract and trade negotiations, and navigating roster rules. NBA salary cap.

As the No. 2 person on the Wizards, Winger will likely hire someone with relatively traditional basketball experience. According to a league source, this hiring will likely take place within the next two weeks.

In 2019, Leonsis announced a sweeping reorganization within Monumental Basketball that included Daniel Medina, the head of athlete care and performance, reporting to either former Monumental Basketball executive Sashi Brown, who left the organization in beginning of 2022 to become president of the Baltimore Ravens, either in Leonsis.

Now Medina will report to Winger, not Leonsis. Monumental Basketball’s analytics department and security department will also report to Winger.

Whether to re-sign Kyle Kuzma will be one of the decisions Michael Winger will have to make during his first few months as president of Monumental Basketball. (Brad Mills / USA Today)

Winger had been with the Clippers since 2017. Prior to that, he worked for the Oklahoma City Thunder under Sam Presti and the Cleveland Cavaliers under Danny Ferry.

Leonsis conducted the search after he fired Tommy Sheppard on April 19. John Thompson III, Wizards vice president of player development and engagement, worked as the primary point of contact for agents who represent front office executives. Bob Schneider, chief of staff for Leonsis at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and Monica Dixon, chief administrative officer and president of external affairs at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, also contributed to the research.

It is unclear how many people Leonsis has officially interviewed. But as Athleticism reported on May 16, Leonsis interviewed Trajan Langdon, General Manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. ESPN was the first outlet to report that the Wizards would hire Winger.

In Washington, the player with the most All-Star appearances is Beal, who in 2022 signed a five-year, $251 million deal to stay with the Wizards.

This contract includes a no-trade clause which gives Beal enormous control over his future. Beal should approve the destination of any trade.

Beal, who turns 30 next month, has given no indication he wants a trade. But Beal’s position could change if Winger begins a rebuild.

The Wizards have stagnated in recent years after franchise cornerstone John Wall suffered a series of injuries. Although the franchise reached the playoffs in the 2020-21 season in Russell Westbrook’s only season with the team, the consensus among rival executives seems to be that the Wizards are nowhere near good enough to struggle but not bad enough to compete for a first draft pick. .

The repair that will be at the heart of Winger’s work.

Athleticism‘s Law Murray contributed to this report.

(Ted Leonsis and Bradley Beal top photo: G Fiume/Getty Images)

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