The Plan, That Man, and The Post — Do You Believe in Wizards? | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Plan, That Man, and The Post — Do You Believe in Wizards?

Updated: July 7, 2016


If you’re reading this, you’re familiar with The Plan for the professional basketball team in D.C. The Plan’s number one goal was made clear, published, by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis in 2010: “We want to produce generationally great teams that are in position to compete for a championship each year.”

So, imagine my surprise when I read this in the Washington Post:

“… The Wizards have positioned themselves in a two-year window to make this maligned free agency into sweet redemption or risk another major roster overhaul that Ernie Grunfeld likely wouldn’t be around to oversee.”

My interpretation is that Team President Ernie Grunfeld will continue calling the shots through the 2017-18 season, at least, and very likely beyond that (given today’s expectations, which I’ll get to in just a second). Yes, two more years of Grunfeld, the front office executive who’s entering his 14th season at the helm in D.C.

Entering his 14th season, he’s among the four longest tenured team architects in the Association. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one without a championship. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one whose teams have failed to win 50 games. Of the four, Grunfeld is the only one who “selected mediocrity in order to chase a long shot,” as TAI contributor Chris Thompson wrote on his Kinja, in a breakdown of everything that went wrong in the team’s pursuit of Kevin Durant.

Now, when I tweeted this news about Grunfeld’s seemingly never-ending tenure, which has featured secret contract extensions, Post columnist Jerry Brewer responded, repeating the phrase “clear progress.” 

Everything—including Grunfeld’s job security and Wall’s loyalty to the city—hinges on “clear progress.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Instead of assuaging my concern, Brewer’s clarification only crystallized it.

Because here is where we are:

Despite failing to make the playoffs last season, the Wizards “were executing to the plan,” according to Leonsis. Which means a playoff berth in 2016-17 is all the re-re-reloaded Wizards need to accomplish to call the coming season a “success.”

By the summer of 2018, two years from today, the Wizards don’t have to be great—or come close to competing for a championship as contenders. They just need to be “more than middling,” according to Brewer, reporting the insider’s perspective. “More than middling” to keep John Wall, and Ted Leonsis, happy-ish. Having misjudged what is attractive to a player very recently, I’m not sure Leonsis and Grunfeld are well-positioned to appease John Wall. And mere appeasement should hardly be the goal.

None of this suggests the Conference Finals are a requirement, though they should be. “Sweet redemption” for Ernie Grunfeld and Leonsis’ Plan demands only that the Wizards make the second round of the playoffs by 2018.

Or does it demand less?

Say, 50 games under the guidance of Scott Brooks, who used to be Kevin Durant’s head coach. Perhaps a competitive first round appearance (with a Trey Burke Game) would suffice.

While ticket prices continue to go up in D.C., expectations for this franchise from the team brass have, somehow, dropped significantly. In two years, they want to be where they were two years ago.

That doesn’t sound like “clear progress.” It sounds ambitionless(1).

“Let’s stay on plan,” the team owner says anyway, trusting that this season will produce richer results. Even with John Wall, the team’s lone All-Star, coming off a pair of knee surgeries. Even with Bradley Beal saying he’ll likely need to abide by a minutes limit for the rest of his career. Even with the team sacrificing too much for cap flexibility this summer, only to sign a cadre of career backups (note: I like Mahinmi, Nicholson and Satoransky just fine) instead of using earmarked money for stars.

You can trust The Plan. I don’t have to.



  1. More than half of NBA teams make the playoffs every season. Simply qualifying for the postseason is not a huge accomplishment.
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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.