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Mailbag Answers Part 4: The optics of Ted Leonsis naming Tommy Sheppard the Wizards General manager

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Tommy Sheppard is the de facto leader of Wizards basketball operations. But can fans accept him as THE leader?

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Lyndie wanted to take her time answering DCrez’s question in last week’s mailbag. It is below!


DCRez (Comments) asks: If we assume no Masai and Tommy’s interim label is removed... what are the ‘optics’ on Ted as an owner? Do people see the Wizards are the little train that couldn’t? Do they see Ted as having too much on his plate as to give Wizards the attention and moves they deserve? Or does Ted and the team look like they did all their due diligence and are a well-oiled machine that everyone wants to work for?

Lyndie: When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis fired President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld before the end of the 2018-2019 season, he said the timing is a early lead in the hiring process - a jump on the competition.

This made sense at the time, as multiple teams were likely going to have front office shakeups, and being poised to make a hire as soon as the right candidate crossed their path made sense.

We’re now past the draft and barreling towards free agency, and Tommy Sheppard, Grunfeld’s previous #2 is still running the team with an “interim” tag.

The Wizards talked with Tim Connelly, but he elected to stay in Denver. They also had reported interest in 2019 NBA champion Masai Ujiri, but it’s unclear whether it was mutual. Oklahoma City’s Troy Weaver and ex-Hawks general manager Danny Ferry both got multiple interviews, but it’s safe to say that if Leonsis wanted either of them running the team they would be by now.

Maybe they will still try to pry Ujiri away from Toronto. Maybe there is someone else who Leonsis will bring in from out of left field. But at this point most observers seem to be assuming that the “interim” will simply be removed from Sheppard’s “interim general manager” title.

Sheppard is not Grunfeld. By all accounts, he is well-respected around the league, and he is already reportedly modernizing the the Wizards front office.

But he is also blatantly Leonsis’ third choice. There is no shame in being third behind Masai Ujiri and Tim Connelly, two of the most well-respected front office leaders in the league. However, it is also apparent that it appears the Wizards look like they settled on Sheppard as opposed to endorsing him from the beginning.