The Washington Wizards: When doing everything right isn’t enough
The Washington Wizards’ stout, sprightly owner Ted Leonsis today offered his take on The Trade.
“My responsibility is to help craft a team that is a winner and is built to last. We have to make an environment that is great for our fans and for our players and for our partners. […] I have been unabashed in noting that we have to rebuild around our core of young players. We will suffer though a lot of pain but we will be stronger for it. The rebuild will take along [sic] time for us to get to where we want to be – an elite team. Building a truly special team has lots of risk – in any fashion imaginable.”
Excusing causality, Leonsis went on to write that with Gilbert Arenas playing huge minutes, the Wizards were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. To take it one step further, the Wizards were the worst team in the entire league. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says the wisdom of the elders. But since this Washington D.C. basketball franchise is broken beyond repair, only one option still remains: continue to rebuild.
“[Gilbert Arenas] has intimated that he would feel more comfortable playing for a contender and not playing as a mentor to young players. [...] The trade helps us to accelerate our rebuild. Our young players will now get more minutes in the back court. They will be the focus of our attention. And development. It will be apparent to all what we are trying to do with our team.”
Straight from the bossman’s mouth, Gilbert Arenas wasn’t interested in playing for this sputtering squad. That is unfortunate. While John Wall is the hope for the Wizards’ future, Arenas was the team’s hope for the present. If his heart wasn’t in it, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was struggling to find his form (his FG percentage dipped below .400 for just the fourth time in his ten-year career), as well as his identity.
Leonsis mentioned that he wanted his young players to get more minutes in the back court. One of these young players is, of course, Nick Young.
Per ESPN’s John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Young is the tenth best shooting guard in The Association. He edges out a handful of franchise players including Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson, and Andre Iguodala; and ranks just below best-in-class superstars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Manu Ginobli.
Arenas, on the other hand, is a middling guard. He is tied with the Timberwolves’ Luke Ridnour with a PER rank of 34.
Young has emerged as one of the NBA’s most dangerous scorers over the past couple weeks. And when you take a long, hard look at the numbers, Arenas wasn’t a good enough fit in DC. Neither his contributions on the court, nor his contract were enough to warrant a long-term spot on the team. Young’s promotion, coupled with Arenas’ departure is effectively addition by subtraction. The Wizards are empowered by a younger, more affordable, dare I say better scorer – a player to build around for the next decade.
But what about Rashard Lewis? For the sake of consistency, Lewis is the 60th best power forward (out of 75) based on PER. Leonsis reminds the fan base that Lewis is a two time All-Star front court player, long and skilled, and has played on a winner. He’ll fit right in with the rest of the bigs in DC — all long, skilled, and perimeter-oriented.
It has become apparent that the Wizards and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) aren’t so different after all. People in the DC metropolitan area have a love-hate relationship with both. And in recent years, both the franchise and the public transit system have had more than their fair share of train wrecks.
And here is the kicker: Last night the Washington Wizards outplayed the Miami Heat for 47 minutes and 40 seconds.
It was a storybook game, with a nightmare of an ending. The worst part is the reaction from the Heat players:
“Quite frankly, I don’t think it was a very good game that we played on either end, but we kept fighting it out and played ’til the end. We came in, played, got a win.”
“We had all the reasons to lose tonight. The team played well on the other side. Give [The Wizards] a lot of credit, especially going through a trade today, but you know what? Good teams find a way to win. That’s what good teams do.”
“We played like shit today and we still won the game. Good teams find a way to win, somehow.”
When asked if bad teams find ways to give games away, Ilgauskas laughed:
“I didn’t say that. You did.”
Imagine that Wizards fans … a day when your team can just show up and win the game.