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Do the Wizards owe being part of the NBA’s 22-team restart to Tommy Sheppard’s networking ability?

Monumental Basketball Portraits
Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard may have played an instrumental role forming the NBA’s 22-team season restart format.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

When’s the last time the NBA bent over backwards for the Washington Wizards?

Well, it just happened.

Editor’s note: The last time was probably the Juwan Howard do-over. Back to Yanir and Kevin.

Is it a coincidence the Wizards are among the 22 teams scheduled to participate in a shortened season and championship tournament in July?

After all, there was justification for leaving them out considering they’re 14 games under .500 and 5.5 games behind Orlando for 8th. It would have made sense for the NBA to drop the Wizards and Suns and go with 20 team.

The NBA needed three-quarters of the teams to approve whatever plan it would pick. Initially, decision-makers debated including all 30 teams. That might have made getting the 75% approval Commissioner Adam Silver needed pretty simple — at least in theory. However, a 30-team scenario created a logistics nightmare, as well as a possible PR hit if lottery teams managed to steal playoff spots.

The plan ratified includes 22 teams — one short of getting past the 75% threshold (but sources indicate the Golden State Warriors were happy to end their season). Someone needed to sell the idea of a team potentially losing its playoff spot to the 16 top GMs, and find a way to get 22 teams on board.

That “someone” might have been Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard.

Sources around the league indicate Sheppard worked tirelessly to convince his colleague to allow some sort of a playoffs-plus format. We can envision Sheppard working the phones now:

Not an actual image of Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard working the phones.

While it’s difficult to confirm, it’s plausible given what we know of Sheppard. As we have pointed out, Sheppard is well-connected and well-liked by executives, coaches, scouts, players and obscure writers around the league. That may be too limiting, actually, because he’s also well-connected and well-liked in basketball circles around the globe.

Anyway, based on what we’ve been hearing, it’s at least possible that Sheppard’s politicking ultimately let the Wizards slip in as the “best” non-playoff Eastern Conference team.

Inclusion in the NBA season restart offers some benefits that are more valuable than another couple months of vacation. It signals to free agents that the teams is serious about competing. It provides the franchise another opportunity to evaluate talent as they prepare for Wall’s much anticipated return next season. And, it gives Wizards fans some entertainment.

This might fall into the realm of speculation and fantasy, but conspiracy theories are more popular than ever — many are saying they’re the most popular they’ve ever been. So, speculation or not, tip your hat to Tommy for maybe-possibly getting the Wizards into the almost-playoffs.