Tag Archives: Ernie Grunfeld
Last night, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise released the full transcript of a 45-minute interview he had earlier this week with Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. There were many interesting tid bits of information in this piece and Ted was extremely candid in his responses to Wise’s questioning addressing coaching hires, the growth of John Wall, new types of technology the Wizards are using and, of course, the amnesty of Andray Blatche. After taking the time to read the interview I have prepared a few thoughts on some of the comments, as well as others pertaining to the Wizards, made by Leonsis.
Additions to the coaching staff:
The addition of Don Newman to the bench as an assistant coach is a major move towards the Wizards going from bottom-feeder to competitive NBA franchise in the eyes of Leonsis. As he put it “Part of the rolling the stone up the hill is changing the culture and going from losing to winning. We have to make the investments in scouting and all the little things – coaching, player development.” Leonsis followed this up by hinting that the Wizards weren’t done adding to the coaching staff noting that there should be more news coming out concerning the hiring of assistant’s to Randy Wittman as well as shooting coaches to help nurture some of our younger players games. One thing that stuck out to me while reading this transcript was how much emphasis Leonsis has placed on giving the investments he has made in our roster everything they need in order to be successful.
Importance of Nene to the team:
Leonsis was very up-front with Wise as to how pleased he has been with the acquisition of Nene. “Nene, he’s a really good player, he’s a really good person and he’s a really good leader. And he is happy to be here. We bonded. That was important.” He goes on to note how great of a job Nene has done in helping mentor the Wizards breakout performer from 2011-2012, Kevin Seraphin, up until this point. As we have all seen by now Seraphin took a major step forward in his development last season once Wittman took the helm, with the type of knowledge of the NBA game that Nene could provide to Seraphin this could be a major benefit to the French National Team member as his professional career continues to evolve.
On the Rashard Lewis trade:
Much like he was with the Gilbert Arenas trade, Leonsis was extremely impressed in Ernie Grunfeld’s ability to deal Rashard Lewis and the $23,ooo per minute played for the Wizards last year for two rotation players in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. “We took the second-highest-paid player in the league…and replaced him with two players that will play big minutes who each averaged 10-15 points a game. We were getting 0 from Rashard.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. Even though there are still some people who are not happy with the trade Grunfeld was able to secure the Wizards something for essentially the paper that Rashard Lewis’ max contract was written on. We may not all love Grunfeld’s draft record but if there is something that we can all agree on it is his ability to be a shrewd negotiator when it comes to trades with other franchises.
On the development of John Wall:
Naturally, Ted had a plethora of thoughts on the development of the Wizards franchise player, John Wall, as he heads into year three of his NBA career. Leonsis is of the opinion, which is shared by most fans, that the best has yet to come for Wall and his third season with the Wizards should be the next step in his path to becoming an All-NBA level PG. “John has a lot of upside still in his game. Compare his stats the first two years in the league against the stars guards and point guards in the league — Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Rondo — he compares favorably with them. So this is an important year for John.”
This is clearly what every Wizards fan hopes is the case. Wall needs to continue to improve upon his game in a major way going into this season in order to solidify himself as one of the leagues premier floor generals. The strong veteran presence he now has surrounding him along with a very impressive draft pick Beal should lend Wall the chance to fully realize the vast potential that is evident in his game. This is the year where all those other guards that Leonsis compared John Wall’s first two seasons to broke up and became the stars that they are today, it’s time for Wall to step up to the plate and be the leader and cornerstone of this franchise that we all believe he can be.
On whether next season is Playoffs or bust:
Leonsis has been quoted on multiple occasions as saying that he does not plan on being back in the NBA Draft Lottery next season. I would venture to say that all Wizards fans want this to be the case come the end of April in 2013. Wise used this quotation to pose the question of whether or not jobs would be on the line were the Wizards to fall short of that goal. “I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery . . . If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we’re picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.”
Leonsis clearly wants to see marked improvement from his franchise as they move into the third, and according to Leonsis and Grunfeld, final year of the “rebuild”. Should the Wizards lay an egg next season and once again finish towards the bottom of the NBA I would have to imagine there will be some wholesale changes going on throughout different levels of the franchise. I am not going to be the ignorant fan whose expectations are so lofty that the team will potentially fall short of said goals. The Wizards will without a doubt be a better, more competitive team than they were last season. Will that translate into being one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference? I am not sure, but with the addition made at the trade deadline last year and the moves Grunfeld has completed in the off-season thus far there is reason for hope that the Wizards will once again return to playing competitive, winning basketball.
On new technologies utilized in scouting and developing talent:
This was news to me, apparently the Wizards have made some large investments in the technological side of the franchise. One proponent of this is a man by the name of Joe Sill and according to Leonsis, Sill has quite the impressive resume. “Joe presents on occasion at that stats thing at MIT. Double-math PHd. He’s almost like a technical trader on Wall St. I can pick a company you should invest in. He’ll never meet the CEO, but he knows from the numbers which ones to pick.” Must be nice right? This isn’t to say that the Wizards are attempting to become the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s but as Leonsis later mentions, “there is a big, big role in informing some decisions.”
Just to throw out a couple of particulars that Leonsis used to help prove this point; The Wizards defensive rebounding totals went up “dramatically” when Nene was acquired for Javale McGee, specifically the amount of rebounds that Wizards guards were reeling in. “ If your forwards are pushing their men out, that’s not a stat. That’s something you follow. That means the guards have the opportunity to get the rebounds and initiate their own break.” Hard to argue with that point at all.
Also worth noting, the Wizards are one of the few teams in the NBA that have installed HD super heat-seeking missile cameras. Yes, that’s right, we are using heat-seeking missile cameras to track our players while on the court. According to Leonsis, “This thing creates real-time heat maps. Literally you can get down to the pixels on the floor. Where are the shots being taken, where are the shots being made, where are the picks being made. It does interesting things like, how many dribbles on a fast break does your guard hold the ball before he dishes off, and was their a good shot made versus other guards in the league.” This kind of asset will go an extremely long way when it comes to player development, especially when utilized it practice sessions.
The ability to tell a guard that by dribbling two less times before making a pass that he would be 70% more likely to convert said opportunity is a fantastic teaching tool. It shouldn’t be overly surprising that a man who made the majority of his riches with AOL would be well ahead of the curve when it comes to the use of different technologies and how they can be used as teaching mechanisms in sports. I couldn’t agree with Leonsis more when he says, “Bringing in these analytics, bringing in high IQ, good people it’s all a part of trying to change a losing culture to a winning culture,” and a winning culture is what we need to re-establish here in the district.
On retaining Randy Wittman as head coach:
Wise plugged away at Leonsis’ decision to retain GM Ernie Grunfeld as well as head coach Randy Wittman with the Wizards organization. In response, Leonsis mentioned how he handled the exit interviews with all of the Wizards players and one of the questions he asked each and every Wizards player was their thoughts on how Wittman had done as their head coach. Leonsis noted that before he could even pose the question to Nene he was met with an extremely positive endorsement of Wittman. “Before I could ask the question, Nene was, ‘I played for a lot of coaches in the league. This is a really good coach. I really like how he treated me. I really like he taught the team. I think he works really good. I like him. I trust him. He’s authentic.’”
John Wall shared similar sentiments with Leonsis when it was time for his exit interview. “Then John Wall came in and said, ‘I know you want to bring a big-name coach in. I think you have a coach who can help me. I think the coach is doing a great job. So please keep Randy.’” Yet another endorsement from one of the teams marquee players.
Finally, Leonsis noted how Kevin Seraphin reacted to the question about Wittman during his exit interview. “Hey, he believed in me. He let me play. He developed my game. He yells at me. I like when he yells at me. Because he’s right when he yells at me.”
Needless to say, Randy Wittman had left a mark on this roster during his time as the Wizards interim head coach. These types of endorsements from the teams core players surely made the decision to retain Wittman as the Wizards permanent head coach an easy one for Leonsis and Grunfeld.
On the amnesty of Andray Blatche:
The obvious elephant in the room would center around none other than the decision to use the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche. Despite Leonsis’ belief that people deserve second and third chances in life this was a business decision that quite frankly had to be made. There were worries over where Blatche fit in with the lineup as it was currently constructed as well as the fact that he was the final holdover from the Gilbert Arenas era Wizards.
Wise pressed forward by asking Leonsis how he felt now about the extension that was given to Blatche in 2010 when compared to his quotes from two years ago where he repeatedly said how he felt signing Blatche to an extension was a great idea. Leonsis, resigned to the fact that the deal was a mistake had the following reply; “Yes — we made a mistake — although the NBA has had close to $250 million of amnestied players to date — sometimes you get a chance to take a mulligan under the new rules and that is what we did.”
Leonsis, however, was quick to not place the blame squarely on Blatche’s shoulders,”We are all in it together — so we are all to blame. Buck has to stop with me though as owner.” He went on to state how appreciative he was of Blatche’s apology to the fans and wished him nothing but the best as his career goes on. He did state that the decision to cut Blatche loose with a check for $23 million wasn’t particularly hard as “It was in best interest of franchise.”
All in all this was an extremely impressive interview by Mike Wise and major props need to be given to him for securing the time with Leonsis to ask all of these questions. After reading through this transcript, and sleeping on all the information taken in, I am even more excited for this upcoming season of Wizards basketball than I was before and that in and of itself is nothing short of a miracle as I am quite the WizKids fanatic.
Every basketball fan in the metropolitan area that follows the Washington Wizards is waiting for Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld to make a judgment on what to do with Andray Blatche. The amnesty dominos have begun to fall around the league with Elton Brand and Darko Milicic being told “Thanks, but no thanks” by their former teams before being shown the door with large checks ensuring they wont come back.
The 23 million dollar question that has been the topic of many a conversation on sports radio, newspapers, blogs and around the water cooler, is whether Ted Leonsis is going to write a fat check to rid Blatche from our minds going forward. Washington has until July 17th to make a decision on Blatche’s future with this franchise. Will he be a part of this team next season? Can we convince anyone to trade for him? Would he consider a buy out of his current contract so that we the amnesty clause does not have to be used? Over the course of the next four and a half days we’ll have our answers.
Lets break these questions down one by one and, like the title of this post, assess Andray Blatche’s future with this franchise.
Will Blatche be a part of the Wizards next season?
Is it possible? In short, absolutely. I can’t imagine Leonsis is going to have any desire to cut a check for 23 million dollars to a player who had the dubious distinction of showing up in box scores with a “DNP-Conditioning” next to his name. Blatche’s career in DC has been accompanied by many ups and downs along the way. From his early escapades with Party John Ramos, to the car jacking and subsequent shooting in Alexandria, VA, to the arrest for soliciting an undercover police officer there have been many moments where Andray has made us scratch our heads and ask “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”.
There also have been some flashes of the talented player Grunfeld thought he was resigning to a 35 million dollar extension in 2010. We all know that Blatche has the physical gifts necessary for a big man to be effective in the NBA. It is the mental side of the game where he has proven that he is severely lacking. Unfortunately, there has been little shown on his behalf to make anyone think that will change anytime soon.
If Leonsis and Grunfeld brought Andray Blatche back next season there would be an uproar of disapproval from the fan base. As a whole, Wizards fans have grown tired of his antics and are ready to cut ties completely and move forward with the new, young core group of players from which we hope to build a contender. I think Blatche’s days in DC are numbered, it is just a matter of which route he takes out the door.
Bringing us to our next question; Can we convince anyone to trade for Blatche?
According to David Aldridge, the Wizards do have some options were they to move Blatche via trade. However, when you are placing a player who has all but tarnished his reputation league-wide on the trading block you aren’t going to receive much more than other teams scraps in return.
The teams and players mentioned as possibilities by Aldridge are less than mind-blowing. The Bobcats and Pistons are the teams that have allegedly shown some interest in acquiring Blatche, but they would be offering up Tyrus Thomas and Charlie Villanueava respectively. Like I said, nothing to stand up and beat your chest about if you are a Wizards fan. Neither player would provide a boost on the court or in the locker room for the Wizards while both are strapped with equally terrible contracts.
I want the franchise to get rid of Blatche as much as anyone, but were it to be at the expense of adding either of these two players I would pass 10 times out of 10. We just rid ourselves of 2/3 of the three stooges at the trade deadline last season, exchanging the one left over for an equally boneheaded, hasn’t lived up to the hype, player with the same type of bloated salary would be a disservice to John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the youth movement in our Nation’s Capital.
Moving on; Would Andray Blatche consider accepting a buy-out of his current contract so that the amnesty clause would not need to be utilized?
I highly doubt it. Andray Blatche is a lot of things, but one thing I have noticed is that while he may seem inept and aloof on the basketball court, when it comes to money he wants as much as he can get his hands on. The man has shown that he enjoys living the lavish lifestyle of a well paid NBA player time and time again. Thinking that he would agree to take anything less than the 23 million dollars and change that he is owed by the Wizards is a pipe dream for the front office.
Blatche has to know that the last big payday he will receive from playing the game of basketball came in 2010 when the Wizards threw 35 million dollars at him for proving that he could put up good numbers on an abysmal team. To get rid of Blatche, which I would argue is completely and totally necessary for this team to take the next step from laughingstock of the NBA to playoff contender, it will take Leonsis swallowing his pride and pulling out his check book.
The media has spoken, NBA pundits have spoken and, most importantly, the fans have spoken (Ok, more like vociferously booed) and the general consensus is it is time for Blatche to take the All-Day Dray show to another city as soon as possible. Anything less and we will continue to spin our tires as a franchise without making any progress forward.
By: The DC Dime Staff
The Wizards made waves through the NBA news wires on Wednesday by acquiring Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets for Rashard Lewis and the #46 overall selection in next Thursday’s NBA Draft. Here at The DC Dime anytime there’s major Wizards news that breaks we like to react to it as a whole in a segment we like to call the Pick N Pop. Since a member of the staff, Mike Willis, is off in South Carolina enjoying some fun in the sun on vacation Jason Colenda and I offer our takes on the major shake up to the roster.
1.) Reaction to hearing the news of this trade?
Bohlin: I was at my desk in the office trying as hard as I could to flip some software and hit my quota as the end of the quarter is approaching when my cell phone went berserk. When I finally looked at it and realized we’d traded Rashard “Won’t play for paychecks” Lewis and our later second round pick for Ariza and Okafor I was beside myself. “Ernie did it again” was what I thought, he’d taken trash and turned it into something useful. I even gave a little air fist pump to celebrate the news that the 24 million dollar gimp had been shown the door.
While Ariza and Okafor aren’t the missing pieces to a Wizards title run, they are more than serviceable. If they are both not starters then they will without question be rotation players. Which is more than we could say about Rashard during his time in the Nations Capital. The health of Okafor is still a major question mark as his knee troubled him the majority of last season, but if healthy he gives us a major upgrade on the defensive end of the floor. I look at Ariza in the same light, while his jump shot still be iffy he immediately becomes our top wing defender.
The Wizards got better as a result of this trade. We also locked ourselves in salary cap wise for the next two years as we took on salary on this deal. As a realist, I don’t mind this because you’re fooling yourself if you think we could’ve waived Lewis and convinced some top free agent to come to a losing team. That’s what we are right now, and the only way to climb out of that cellar is to infuse talent into this roster. That is what Ernie and Co. did on Wedesday.
Colenda: My initial reaction when hearing of the trade: “see ya when we see ya, Shard.” Lewis has been collecting the biggest pay checks in the NBA since he joined the Wizards after the Agent Zero trade, but hasn’t done a damn thing to earn them. Getting rid of the dead weight of his contract and his place on our bench was a big move for the Wizards, especially since they added two players capable of actually still contributing to an NBA team. Now are Okafor and Ariza still overpaid for what they are? Yeah probably, but there really are few good contracts in the NBA (everyone has an agent capable of gouging the league’s plethora of crappy GMs). But both of these guys represent a serious upgrade at their respective positions. Ariza will come in and be our starting small forward. He is a talented wing defender, who excels attacking the basket and working in transition but can occasionally get hot from three. He is an NBA champion (winning with Kobe and the Lakers) and will bring another winning presence into the locker room. Okafor probably won’t be taking a starting spot from Nene or our budding Frenchman in the front court, but he is certainly a huge upgrade as a first big off the bench. He is a physical banger, and although a little undersized, is a strong rim defender and rebounder. With the trade, Ernie made the Wiz deep, younger, and more talented while getting rid of dead weight of an albatross contract, certainly not a bad haul. This trade isn’t going to change the fate of our franchise, but it is, in my opinion, another step in the right direction.
2) Are we locked into taking Beal now/Your Wizards draft board
Bohlin: Technically, no. Realistically, yes. By addressing one of our major concerns at the SF position with the addition of Ariza it all but eliminates the possibility of MKG donning a Wizards jersey anytime soon. I personally preferred Beal to MKG before the trade was made, unlike some other dimer who won’t be named, so this is more than fine by me. Bradley Beal is a fantastic SG prospect that I firmly believe could flourish alongside John Wall.
The other real option remains to be North Carolina swing man Harrison Barnes. Barnes, by all accounts, was quite impressive during his workout in DC. He also auspiciously decided to cancel a scheduled workout with the Kings shortly after wrapping up his DC audition so there’s plenty of smoke there to fuel the speculation he could wind up being the #3 selection as well.
My Wizards draft board after this trade looks as so 1) Beal 2) Barnes 3) T. Robinson 4) MKG 5) Drummond. I strongly think the pick will be Beal or Barnes with the former Florida Gator having the edge.
Colenda: After seeing the trade, my first text to fellower Dimer Mr. Bohlin was “no MKG”. I think with the move, the Wizards showed their draft day hand. Adding a physical, banging big and a slashing small forward make we think that they are no longer considering Thomas Robinson and MKG. Not that continuing to add talent and depth at those positions would be a bad thing, it certainly would not be, but now the Wizards roster has more pressing holes to fill.
That need is at shooting guard. In my opinion, the top two players at that position in the draft are Beal, and Barnes. Now you may be saying, Barnes is a “small forward”, but he has the size and game of an NBA 2, and I think that’s the position he would be playing in DC. Either player would come in and be the starter from day one alongside Wall in the backcourt (sorry, Jordan), and expectations would be high for their future. Establishing a backcourt of the future with the number three pick seems to be what the Wizards have decided to do after yesterday’s move. The trade locked the Wizards into selecting one of those two players, whoever they deem the best of the bunch (and whoever is still available after MJ picks). If I’m Ernie, my draft board would look something like this: 1) Beal 2) Barnes 3) MKG 4)T.Rob.
3) With Nene, Okafor, Seraphin, Booker, Ariza and Vesely we have a logjam in the front court, were you Ernie what would your solution be?
Bohlin: Colenda and I have different views on this topic. While it’s nice to finally have some depth on the roster there is just too much in the front court and not even close to enough in the backcourt. I envision another trade happening as we approach the draft to be honest. Immediately I began throwing out the idea of Booker + #32 pick to move back into the first round and select another guard (I promise this isn’t because he went to Clemson and I am a USC graduate either, Go Cocks!). I think anywhere between picks 22-27 is a realistic landing spot and could net us a player such as sharpshooter John Jenkins out of Vanderbilt, Will Barton, the slasher from Memphis and native of Maryland, or a favorite of mine Doron Lamb out of Kentucky. The fact of the matter is our guard rotation is atrocious outside of John Wall and we need to address it in a major way in this draft. One of these bigs will need to be moved and since no one in their right mind would trade even a ball rack for Andray Blatche, Booker may be the odd man out.
Colenda: For starters, 6 players to fill out 3 positions isn’t a terrible situation. In fact, it’s a major upgrade what we’ve been in recent years, where we’ve been playing guys out of position and finishing in the bottom of the league in rebounding margin. While we don’t have a single dominant player, there are no Dwight Howard’s in the group, we have a strong core of players that all belong in the NBA and can be real contributors. The players are relatively complimentary as well; Ariza being a capable scorer and Vesely all defense, Booker can stretch the floor (just a bit) and Seraphin is all-inside all the time, and Nene is offensive minded and Okafor defensive. If I am Ernie, I’m sitting comfortably with my front court situation and not looking to make another move. The front court allows us to play multiple different types of line-ups, big and strong (Nene, Seraphin, Booker/Vesely), smaller but athletic (Ariza, Booker, Vesely/Nene) etc. This type of versatility allows you to match up with different styles of play much more effectively. The Wizards front court has quickly turned into his real strength over the past 6 months, and is much more prepared to compete at a winning level in the NBA.
4) Fill out your starting five + bench rotation heading into next season
6) We are all Seraphans
“How y’all doing? This is your captain, Andray Blatche. On behalf of myself, my teammates, the whole Washington Wizard organization, we want to say we strongly appreciate y’all sticking around all summer. It’s been a long summer. It’s a shortened season, but it’s gonna be tough, and we’re gonna need you guys – the best fans in the NBA – to be our sixth man. So in other words, let’s get this season started.”
This is how the 2012 season started. Personally, I couldn’t believe those words were said by Blatche even though I heard them with my own ears. You have to wonder if Blatche still thinks that DC has the best fans in the NBA. At the very least he can attest to the fact they are extremely vocal even if the numbers in the arena are sparse at best.
Since he was drafted in the second round by the Wizards in 2005, I have been a noted Andray Blatche apologist. For the last six years I neglected to care about the blatant immaturity and sometimes utter lack of basketball IQ. Instead, I focused on the promise of a 6’11” big man who could put the ball on the floor competently as well as knock down a jump shot with some regularity. I looked at All Day Dray and saw a Kevin Garnett like skill-set and that is all I allowed myself to see. Not the player who was shot in his first day in D.C. or the player who has arrested for picking up an undercover cop posing as a prostitute. Unfortunately for Blatche, the red, white and blue shaded glasses came off this season.
The Captain, as he began to be referenced after the home opener, failed to produce on and off the court starting from the end of the 2010-2011 campaign all the way through to the end of this year. It started with Lap Dance Tuesdays down in Miami (http://goo.gl/Rrkbm). Then we found out that coach at the time, Flip Saunders, had given Blatche a book to read over the offseason; “17 Essential Qualities Of A Team Player: Becoming The Kind Of Person Every Team Wants” was the books title. Blatche says he read half of it. That book is a total of 156 pages; the NBA Lockout lasted 160 days. Had Andray only read one page a day he would’ve still had enough time to host three more all day lap dance parties!
Ok, enough on the extracurricular activities of The Captain. Let’s actually dive into his play during the lockout-shortened 2012 season before things get more spiteful. Of the 66 game season that the NBA crammed into a four month schedule, Blatche suited up for only 26 of them. Of those 26 games that Blatche played in, he started only 13. Blatche, who is currently under contract through 2015, recorded some of the lowest statistical totals of his career in 2012. He shot an anemic 38% from the field and an equally unimpressive 67% from the line to the tune of 8.5 ppg for the Wizards. Needless to say, this type of productivity is very un-captain like.
So the question remains, where do the Wizards go from here with regard to Blatche? There seem to be two different trains of thought to this question and, unfortunately for fans, it appears what we want is the opposite of what the front office is preparing to do. We, the people, I mean the fans, want to see Andray amnestied. Many were skeptical of the last extension we signed him to and after last season’s antics its safe to say the majority have finally reached their breaking point.
Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis don’t appear to be very keen on the idea of paying a player not to be a part of their organization. They have stated that they want to try and move Blatche via trade but also would not rule out giving Blatche another chance and having him come back to the Wizards next season.
Since it is highly unlikely that any teams will want to acquire Blatche and the remainder of his contract and the amnesty clause doesn’t seem to be in the cards it is going to be interesting to see how Blatche is welcomed back to the Nation’s Capital. I don’t know how many more “DNP-Conditioning” stat lines I can take out of one of our higher paid players and this is coming from one of his staunchest supporters over the last 7 years. There is no telling how the legions of Andray detractors will react.
Here’s to hoping that this offseason is spent in a more productive manner for The Captain. He probably won’t be winning back the hearts of many fans but hopefully, at the very least, he can manage to get through the entire season come 2012-2013.
The alarm went off at 7:15 am, I dragged myself out of bed and began my usual morning routine to get ready for my job that I actually make money from. Then it hit me, the day I’d been waiting for since February had finally arrived. Today we found out if the Wizards were going to be adding the Unibrow to end all Unibrow’s to its roster.
Needless to say, this put a little pep in my step that normally would be nonexistent on a Wednesday where I had to go into the office. I dawned my John Wall t-shirt under my shirt and tie for perceived good luck and embarked on what I need would be my least productive day at work to date. There was a hint of something in the D.C. air that morning, I’m not talking about whatever smell is emanating from the Potomac River nowadays either. It took a moment for me to realize that it was hope.
For Wizards fans, however, hope takes on a different kind of meaning. Sure, we all hoped that, potential hair club for men spokesman, Adam Silver would pull the Wizards logo out of an envelope and the #1 pick would be ours. Just as many of us, the realists who know our draft history at least, were hopeful that we would not get screwed and fall as far as we possibly could and be left picking 5th. Leaving diehards like myself reeling all day long at the notion of Ernie Grunfeld having to wait until four of the more sure fire prospects were off the board to make our selection. Or what I like to call it, the Andre Drummond/ Perry Jones III nightmare.
The tension mounted as the day bore on. Finding myself more unfocused than ever at my desk I took to playing the mock lottery machine on ESPN.com thinking this would be an effective way to pass time. Four out of my first five attempts at the machine resulted in the Wizards landing the top pick. It got to the point where I was unsure if I wanted to continue playing as I thought everything from I don’t want to jinx it to maybe ESPN caters this to your IP address so your local team wins more.
Not wanting to be “That guy” I stopped playing the game and took to Twitter for my NBA related entertainment. The last two hours of unproductive activity flew by and only a 50 minute commute home on the Metro stood between me, some beers with the guys and what I hoped would be another turning point in Wizards franchise history. We convened at Clyde’s in Alexandria, because here at The DC Dime we like to keep it classy, and settled in for what would either be unparalleled elation or utter disappointment.
As a Wizards fan I’ve come to expect either the best or the worst and nothing in between. Shockingly enough, the in between is exactly what happened Wednesday night. The slots started coming in and everything was going as expected as we closed in on the dreaded 5th pick. The envelope is opened and its not the Wizards! Next slot comes off and we’re not the 4th pick either!
Going into the commercial break they show the remaining teams and place arrows next to Washington and New Orleans indicating we’d secured a spot in the top three. At this point we’ve all had a few adult beverages and one of my colleagues looks over at me and says “What the hell do those arrows mean!?!?” After calming his irrational fears the break was over and we were back to the lottery. I was on the edge of my bar stool as they opened the next envelope…
The Washington Wizards were selecting third. While it wasn’t the rights to the Unibrow, the slot where the Wiz landed was more than fine with me. Especially after Charlotte slid to the 2nd pick and it set in that the Unibrow wouldn’t be playing against us in the Southeast division I felt even better. New Orleans won the lottery for what I would assume were #BasketballReasons, as technically the team hasn’t been handed over to Tom Benson yet and are still owned by the league.
I began to think about who our options would be at #3 and felt good about who would be there. Then I realized that Michael Jordan is picking ahead of us and there is no set in stone second pick in this draft. Meaning the same man who took Kwame Brown over Pau Gasol would have to make a tough decision, immediately I felt better about our positioning. As quickly as it started it was over and with it was a day’s worth of worrying over falling to the fifth pick AGAIN.
We finished our beverages and left the bar, and at least I felt great about the way the evening turned out. This wasn’t just due to the silly oysters I had either. This was legitimate feelings of joy that we weren’t in a position where it was expected for our front office to screw this up.
Since then its come out that the Bobcats will look at “At least six players for the 2nd pick.” This seems like far to many to me when there are really only three options (MKG, Beal and Robinson). Having possibly one of the worst owners/executives in NBA history picking directly ahead of us is a great thing for Wizards fans. For all we know he’ll take another Tar Heel just to sell tickets.
We are officially within four weeks of the NBA Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ (Which shouldn’t be awkward considering it may be the last NBA sponsored event in the state for quite some time). Over the coming weeks we will see a plethora of prospects come through the Nation’s capital for a chance to audition in front of our coaches at the Phone Booth.
This is a draft where we cannot afford to miss on our pick and not land an impact player going forward. Ernie and the rest of the Wizards brain trust will have their work cut out for them over the next month in setting up their draft board and targeting prospects. Personally, I am hoping for either Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal. But I am equally thankful there are no Euro’s at the top of this years draft for Ernie to become infatuated with.
What were we left with after Wednesday nights events? The same thing I woke up with that morning, hope. It’s going to be a fun next four weeks and The DC Dime will be with you the entire way up until draft night on June 28th.
Tags: Anthony Davis, basketball, beal, brad beal, bradley beal, Ernie Grunfeld, John Wall, Kentucky, michael kidd-gilchrist, mkg, NCAA, sports, Thomas Robinson, washington, Washington Wizards, Wizards
Michael Lee, Wizards beat reporter for the Washington Post, reported this morning that the Wizards will attempt to trade Rashard Lewis before the NBA Draft on June 30th. This is something that I expected the Wizards front office to attempt for many different reasons.
The Wizards view Lewis, and his $24 million salary for next season, as an asset. While Rashard might be on the books for that $24 million right now were he to be released by the Wizards, or any other team that may acquire him, before June 30th they would only be on the hook for $13.7 million of his salary. This clause in his contract makes Lewis a much more valuable trade piece for the Wizards to dangle in front of teams still seeking salary cap relief.
Unfortunately for the Wiz Kids, the number of teams seeking that type of long term salary cap relief will be less than in previous seasons where names like Raef Lafrentz or Joel Pryzbilla are hot commodities in the trade market due to their large expiring contracts. We can thank the NBA lockout and the amnesty clause included in the most recent CBA allowing teams to dump bad contracts from their payroll. If there is one thing I can say about Ernie Grunfeld though it is that he has proven his worth as a shrewd negotiator, he managed to move Kwame Brown and Gilbert Arenas out of town when conventional wisdom said there would be no takers at all for those former Wizards.
The salary cap was set at just over $58 million last season and the New York Post has reported that sources tell them, presumably the Knicks, that the 2012-2013 salary cap will grow to somewhere between 60-61 million dollars. Were this to come to fruition it would limit the number of teams that are over the cap and could be considered potential trade partners with the Wizards as we attempt to move Lewis out of D.C.
Currently, the best prospects for trade partners seem to be teams that have made the playoffs but fell short of their expectations in the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies and potentially the Philadelphia 76ers.
While I am not surprised by this news I must say I am not overly confident we will be able to swing a deal to move Lewis in the next six weeks. Even if we cannot trade Lewis, the Wizards still have options moving forward. We could buy out Lewis for that $13.7 million and then make the move that the majority of fans want and amnesty The Captain in what would end a frustrating run in the Nation’s Capital for Andray Blatche.
Going this route would leave the Wizards with roughly $12 million in cap space to acquire more talent to continue to build around John Wall and Nene. It would open up the door more for Grunfeld to get imaginative with trade scenarios or be more aggressive in their pursuit of top flight free agents. This off-season’s FA pool includes a bevy of options at the SG position which is without a doubt one of the Wizards most pressing needs going forward.
Whether we can move Lewis or not the Wizards have options on the table. They are going to do their due diligence in making calls to gauge the league’s interest in Lewis and his expiring contract which is all you can ask of a front office. Ideally, we can make a deal that helps infuse more talent into this roster via young players with promise or draft picks. While it is far from a guarantee that Grunfeld can trade Lewis he has swindled teams into taking our trash before, who’s to say he cannot do it again?
I remember the draft pick like it was yesterday – and, boy was I annoyed.
“With the sixth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern dryly into a microphone, “The Washington Wizards select…Jan Vesely, forward from the Czech Republic.”
I was annoyed because everything I had read on Vesely stated he was an athletic player but was limited on the offensive end.
Why would you take a player like that in the lottery?
I was convinced Ernie Grunfeld had just said screw it, threw his hands in the air and took O-Pec 2.0 (Oleksiy Pecherov , for those of you who don’t remember the O-Pec era). This seemed like the type of move that Wizards fans have grown accustomed to seeing during the tenure of Grunfeld. I came away, much like the rest of the country, more impressed with Vesely’s post-selection smooch given to his girlfriend than the actual selection.
Yet, as it turns out, my initial reaction is precisely the reason why they play the games on the hardwood as opposed to paper.
In a lockout shortened season which featured essentially no training camp— meaning Vesely had little opportunity to gel with his new teammates before being thrust into the meaningful games— I came away more than impressed with our most recent lottery-pick player.
While his game might not be aesthetically pleasing in any way shape or form, Vesely has infused this lineup with something it has desperately lacked recently, especially in the front court: Hustle. As the season bore on and Vesely began to log more minutes before eventually cracking the starting lineup, it became plain to see that while Vesely may be a bit of a project, he will certainly be no bust.
Indeed, my fears of O-Pec 2.0 had proven unfounded; to quote Patrick Bateman, the feeling of “relief washes over me in an awesome wave.”
While his offensive game it still somewhat, well, offensive— in the not-so-good manner— everything else Vesely brings to the table for this team drastically outweighs the fact he still occasionally hits the side of the backboard and the side of the backboard alone on some jump shots.
If there is one thing you can teach any basketball player, regardless of their level of play, it’s how to shoot a jump shot. It is strictly a matter of proper mechanics and hard work in the gym.
Why am I now convinced this will not be an issue for Vesely moving forward?
In watching him improve throughout the season, not only on the floor but mentally as well with his confidence in his own abilities, I found myself blown away at times with regard to how hard Vesely seemed to be working on the floor. The guy sold out on defense every time down the floor and continuously would break out in transition and run with John Wall giving him the option to dish to Vesely so that he can do what he does best right now, finish at the rim.
This type of work ethic he displays on the court leads me to believe that, with proper coaching, he will develop a jump shot. The fact alone that Vesely has made it this far in his career without having developed a reliable shot speaks for itself, the guy is as hard of a worker as they come.
Now that I have gotten the fluff out of the way, let’s dive right into his statistics. It was almost a tale of two seasons for Vesely in his rookie campaign. The first half was bad, as he received little to no PT in favor of Booker and Blatche. It really took until we officially shut down The Captain for Jan to begin to get solid minutes night in and night out in Wittman’s rotation.
Because of this disparity in the amount of playing time Jan was given it is hard to truly analyze his stats. Prior to March 21st, when he began logging double digit minutes per game, Vesely only took more than five shots in a game a total of six times. For this reason, I am throwing those 44 games out of the window and will focus on the final third of the season where Jan not only began to play more but slipped into the starting lineup.
Perhaps the most important stat over this stretch is the Wizards record. Starting with that March 21st date the Wizards closed the season with a record of 10-12. While this cannot be attributed solely to Vesely, it is certainly telling of how his insertion into the rotation impacted the rest of the team. A 10-12 record might not be something to fire confetti into the air over, but when you only win 20 games on the season closing like this is nothing to scoff at either.
During this stretch Vesely posted his best numbers of the year, averaging 7.6 PPG while shooting 58% from the field all the while chipping in 6.2 RPG. Going by these numbers alone, Vesely would’ve finished third amongst rookies in rebounds per game. His shooting percentage would’ve left him behind Kenneth Faried of the Nuggets amongst rookies who played more than 10 games. Lastly, his points per game would’ve landed him tied with none other than The Jimmer for 14th best amongst all rookies.
While the sample size for these averages, it speaks volumes about what we can expect from Vesely as a player when given regular minutes. For a guy I originally compared to one of the biggest busts this franchise has selected in recent memory, I must say I have made complete 180 on what I think Vesely can do for the Wizards going forward.
In an interview with Czech media that was posted today at www.Truthaboutit.net, big thanks to them for the providing the quotes, Vesely has publicly stated that he will be a part of the Wizards Vegas Summer League team this July. This is a great move by Jan to stay in the States for at least part of the summer so he can continue to work with his coaches on improving his still raw skill set.
There have also been preliminary conversations between Vesely and the coaching staff of the Czech National Team concerning a spot on the team this summer as they prepare for Eurobasket 2013 qualifying. “I said to him (Czech Assistant Coach Mike Taylor who came to D.C. for Vesely’s season finale) that if I can combine it (playing for the National Team) with the preparation for next season, then I can’t rule out my participation in playing for the National team. But the priority is to prepare well for the next NBA season and to improve,”.
As a Wizards fan, this is exactly what I want to hear as we move forward in the rebuild on F Street.
Remember Jan: keep your elbow straight and always reach for the cookie jar on your follow through.