This is Waterloo, One Way or the Other
There are just moments left before the fate of the Washington Wizards franchise as currently comprised is decided for the immediate future. Manning the helm of the good ship Wizards is Ernie Grunfeld, whose draft-day record has been “spotty” to say the least. If Grunfeld breaks out of his drafting funk (and it should be noted that drafting 1-3 is in his “safe zone”) then the Wizards could spend the next few years growing as a team and making Washington a place where possible rotation players would like to make a home.
The problem is that the Wizards have now entrapped themselves in a narrative. If John Wall was not hurt last year, they tell us, the Wiz most certainly would have made the postseason. Veterans on the team (and members of the coaching staff) are pushing to stop the influx of young talent and instead concentrate on the acquisition of veteran pieces who would be better prepared to take the pressure off John Wall in the playoffs. Martell Webster hinted at the need for another veteran at the end of the season (perhaps in his own best interests) and the party line seems to be that the Wizards are only a piece away upon exiting the draft lottery for good … or at least a few consecutive seasons.
But is that the goal we are working towards? Are the Wizards really good enough to make the playoffs? (Remember, this is a franchise that hasn’t won more than 45 games since the 1978-79 season.) Whose narrative is this?
There are “reports” that John Wall is pushing for the drafting of Anthony Bennett and after what we just witnessed in the City of Angels, a star player’s wishes best be heeded. You had the Luol Deng rumour floated days before the draft, which almost caused all of D.C. fandom to have a seizure.
So, again, whose narrative? Do you play to Ernie’s strengths and hope he has one last Caron Butler in his bag of magic tricks? Do you trust a man to make decision that resulted in having a morose Czech on the team? When Jan Vesely was drafted two years ago, people were proclaiming, “This is it, this is Ernie Grunfeld’s last stand, if he doesn’t nail it then it is time for a total makeover.” And yet here we are two years later and Grunfeld is still calling the shots. And yet he, too, is trapped in the narrative. The Wizards have to make the playoffs next year. They must make the playoffs. Any other result would be an incredible, horrible failure. Again, I have heard this narrative too and am not sure that I believe it.
The District may not be riven with the same type of rumors that Boston and Brooklyn are going through right now, but the political games are the same no matter what town you reside in. Who calls the shot tonight will reveal much about the Wizards power structure and who will be writing the next chapter in the Wizards’ long and tedious history. The man who makes the right call get more power, greater prestige and perhaps a long-term contract. The wrong call could finally see the end of an era or a VERY interesting negotiating period next spring.
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