After watching and following the Wizards for the past several years, only one thing comes to mind. To quote the great Vince Lombardi, “what the hell is going on out here?” No team can be more infuriating in this massive media market, than the basketball team in D.C. It all starts and finishes with one man, who has torpedoed the franchise from a consistent playoff team to the garbage that witnessed at the Verizon Center in China Town.
Luckily for Ernie Grunfeld, Michael Jordan took over another flailing franchise, or talks across the NBA would consider the Wizards one of the worst teams in the history of the game. Yet, Grunfeld returned to D.C. for another season of empty seats and an even emptier effort on the court. Now may be it is the beloved owner, Ted Leonsis’, fault for trying to instill the same ideals that have made the Capitals so relevant and successful in the NHL for such a long stretch.
This is the NBA, where building through the draft, as noble as it sounds, does not work for 90% of the teams and championships are won through free agency and buying superstars. And in a top 5 market, with a team that has a deep pocketed owner and the luxury of a fan base extending from Virginia to Maryland, spending money shouldn’t be a problem. But even if the youth movement was the goal for this team, Grunfeld completely threw that philosophy out the window with his ineptitude. He has done a halfway decent job selecting role players but it if weren’t for the luxury of picking in the top 3, two out of three seasons, this roster would have no one to build upon. John Wall can become a star but is hindered by the team around him. Bradley Beal was the best pick for this team, but what if the Bobcats took him instead, one pick before? Which role player would be riding the bench for the Wizards right now? The point is, Grunfeld has never had a good draft and only selected Wall and Beal because they were handed to him.
You can’t build through the draft with a GM that cannot draft talent.
Let’s start from the beginning to realize where and why the D.C. demise has come about. Gilbert Arenas really screwed things up, not just for his gun toting locker room antics, but his balky knees and massive contract he stole from Mr. Leonsis’ pockets. Arenas gave little for his contract and was soon on his way out of the Capital, once John Wall was drafted. But that also coincided with Grunfeld convincing everyone in the organization that the young core of Nick Young, Andray Blatche and Javal McGee would develop into a formidable starting roster.
To build a team around the dumbest three players is not only idiotic in itself but egotistical and irresponsible. Basically, Grunfeld fed Wizards fans hot dog water and presenting it as French Wine. Now they have all been moved, and even though the moves removed three cancers from a locker room, the return makes no sense, what so ever.
They received absolutely nothing for Nick Young to the Clippers or Blatche to the Nets; literally. But the big mistake was reprising McGee for Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza’s massive contracts, depleting the most valuable chip the team had; cap room.
Finally, and the last straw for a General Manager that makes a living of destroying a team and basketball fan base, was the move, or lack thereof, this offseason. Yahoo Sports reported that Grunfeld turned down an offer which included, No. 3 draft pick, Bradley Beal and last year’s top pick, Chris Singleton from the now Rockets star, James Harden. Now Beal could become a star but is more likely to be Alan Houston instead of Ray Allen (which many have compared him to). But we know what Singleton is (a decent defensive player off the bench) and we now know what James Harden is; a legit star that is carrying a Houston Rockets team to the playoffs. Not to mention he, along with his sweet man beard, is marketable and could rebuild an excitement at the Verizon Center. Harden is probably the third best shooting guard in the league (behind Kobe and Dwayne Wade) but was not worth two unproven Grunfeld draft picks.
Here at WNST Nestor started the initiative to “Free the Birds” from the Peter Angelos reigns. Well I’ll be the first here to say it is time to “Free the Wizards” from the ineptitude that is Ernie Grunfeld’s tenure. This story will continue with a look towards the future coming soon.