5 Questions with Hoop District's Neil Dalal | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

5 Questions with Hoop District’s Neil Dalal

Updated: June 25, 2019

The basketball season is now over. The Toronto Raptors were crowned NBA champions and the regular season awards were finally given away earlier this week. Yes, free agency figures to be its own separate season, and summer league–which will feature Zion Williamson–has the potential to be quite entertaining. And for those folks who are suffering NBA withdrawal, note that the WNBA is in full swing and the Washington Mystics have the second-best record in the league and are legitimate title contenders.

But the frenetic pace of the NBA regular/playoff season has subsided considerably which means other types of stories will have to occupy that space. Here at Truth About It, we have decided to use this “down time” to interview and get to know some of the other writers who cover our beloved Washington Wizards. There are bloggers, seasoned writers, writers who grew up in this area, and others who were kind of grandfathered into this rollercoaster ride of an assignment covering this team.

The first writer we’ll feature in this series is Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96). Neil has been covering the Washington Wizards since the 2014-15 season for Hoop District and is a University of Maryland – College Park alum. Let’s chat shall we?

Q #1: Tell the story of how you started covering the Wizards, and what do you remember about the first game you attended?

@NeilDalal96: My first year of college I was just scrolling through Twitter and came across District Sports Page looking for writers. As an obsessive sports fan I was more than thrilled with the opportunity. During the 2014-15 season, the early few games I attended, I do not remember too much about besides being in awe. Paul Pierce’s sweeping of the Toronto Raptors and ‘I Called Game’ shot against the Atlanta Hawks will be games and moments I never forget.

Q #2: If the Wizards don’t appoint a GM and Tommy Sheppard ends up being THE guy, how much confidence do you have in his ability to run the team?

@NeilDalal96: For the casual Wizards and/or basketball fan, I’d like to stress that Tommy Sheppard is an extremely qualified front office executive. He has been interviewed for the top front office position two years in a row for the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively. Although he did not land those jobs, they speak to his qualifications. He is not Ernie Grunfeld 2.0, as he has his own ideas including heavy on analytics and has his own style that gives everyone a more cheerful vibe in the workplace. If Sheppard is given the keys to the team for the upcoming season, I do not doubt he will do a fine job, but he has also not been dealt the best hand so expectations have to be tempered.

Q #3: Who should the Wizards pursue in free agency given their financial limitations? Give me your top 5 list?

@NeilDalal96: Presuming Washington waives Jonathon Simmons before his $5.7 million contract becomes guaranteed on July 1, the Wizards will have less than $10 million in cap space with only nine roster spots filled including the non-guaranteed contracts of Jordan McRae and Tarik Phillip, but not including undrafted free agents Justin Robinson, Armoni Brooks, and/or Corey Davis Jr. That means they have next to no chance to land the marquee free agents that they do not hold the Bird Rights for. If I were the team, I would look to sign Thomas Bryant, Tomas Satoransky, Jabari Parker (one-year deal), Quinn Cook (Editor’s note: who is from Washington, D.C. and a DeMatha alum) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but that is probably a bit unreasonable.

Q #4: Which one of the Wizards–past or present–is/was your favorite to interview?

@NeilDalal96: Let’s go with a dark-horse candidate. Austin Rivers and his 29 games with D.C. Despite the short time he was with the Wizards, Rivers was always forthcoming with the media and did not hold back with the profanity. Things did not fit right between the two, but Rivers was not shy about trying to pinpoint Washington’s struggles.

Q #5: Make a bold prediction about this upcoming season.

@NeilDalal96: Throughout this offseason, I have said the Wizards should not trade Bradley Beal unless given a historic haul a level or two below what New Orleans received for Anthony Davis. Despite Beal not indicating he wants out of D.C. up until this day, he has a hunger for success that will not be quenched by a team likely missing the playoffs. Hot take alert, but Beal will be traded before the 2019-20 trade deadline.


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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.