Nothing Will Change Until Ted Wants It To Change | Wizards Blog Truth About

Nothing Will Change Until Ted Wants It To Change

Updated: April 29, 2018

In 2017 after Toronto was swept by Cleveland in the playoffs, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri famously said the team needs a culture change. They went on to change their style, improve their bench and grab the No. 1 seed in the East.

After the Raptors handed the Wizards a disappointing first round loss on Friday, David Aldridge tweeted the Wizards need to do the same thing.

However, that same type of culture change won’t happen in Washington. And there is one very specific reason why.

Ujiri’s demand for change came after a four-year stretch where the Raptors averaged 51 wins and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Imagine, for a second, what would happen if the Wizards had a four-year stretch like that. Ownership and management would not be calling for wholesale changes. They would be celebrating the franchise’s most successful run in 40 years.

Therein lies the problem. You can debate the roster and cap space and coaching decisions all day, but the team will never make it to the next level until mediocrity is no longer tolerated.

Washington just completed a five-year run averaging 44.6 wins and they made the second round of the playoffs three times. They regressed this season following their 49-win 2016-17 campaign. Yet the takeaway from Ted Leonsis in his season-ending note to fans was that it was an acceptable – if not disappointing — season that was marred by injuries:

“They overcame their star player being out for 41 games and still found a way to win. Bradley Beal was recognized as an All-Star in his own right.  Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky were incredibly effective off the bench and showed that they can contribute at a high level.  Otto Porter fought through injury and continued to compete in this Toronto series and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Head coach Scott Brooks echoed Ted’s sentiments in his end-of-season remarks, repeatedly mentioning injuries when explaining the disappointing outcome of the season.

Read the first line of David Aldridge’s tweet again: “The Raptors faced their problems as a team last season…” The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it exists. The Wizards have problems at every level — management, coaching and player — but ownership and the front office continue to look the other way.

When player after player says the team plays down to lesser opponents and they don’t know why, the reaction should be to demand changes, not preach continuity.

When the coach spends 82 games saying he needs to find five guys who want to compete but never makes any substantive changes, preserving the status quo is not acceptable.

When the roster has glaring holes at multiple positions year-after-year and has huge amounts of cap space tied up in outdated players, a new approach is needed.

But the owner chooses to keep his head in the sand, while insisting to fans that a championship is the highest priority.

“Our singular goal in everything we do is to win a championship.  You deserve it.  Our city deserves it.  It remains our first and only priority and I think our team showed this year that we have the pieces to make it happen.”

Ted’s words ring hollow given the fact that the team left its 15th roster spot open all season, and the Wizards were the only team in the NBA to not use both of its allotted two-way contracts. They were also one of the last franchises to get its own G League team. Those are not the actions of a team whose singular goal in everything it does is to win a championship.

To be clear, Ted is not obligated to spend indiscriminately to chase a championship. It’s his money. He already spends a hell of a lot on payroll – the fifth highest in the league. He doesn’t have to make the additional investments necessary to nudge the Wizards over the hump. But he can’t have it both ways. He cannot claim a championship-or-bust mantra while at the same time annually celebrating the grand accomplishment of playing in late-April.

If Washington’s singular priority truly is to win a championship, then the 2017-18 season would be a catalyst for major change, not a minor disappointment. Of all the members of the Wizards organization who publicly commented during exit interview day, only one person acknowledged the fundamental problems with the team: John Wall.

“I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian is older. March is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible. Scoring off the bench, we had that the majority of the time. A shooter that can put the ball on the floor. Tomas is a great point guard to set everybody up. KO is a lockdown defender who can knock down shots for us. Mike was basically our go-to scorer and things like that. We need somebody else that can create off the dribble. I think at times it hurt us. We kind of got that when Ty came, but it was later in the season.”

Wall is right. It is obvious and he has been saying it for a few years now. Despite his pleas, the front office has gone in the opposite direction, sinking most of its disposable income into stationary, non-shooting centers, leaving the wing depth woefully thin and rotating through backup guards who cannot create their own shot.

The predictable result has been top-heavy rosters that rely entirely too much on Wall and Beal to carry the scoring load. Even with the built-in excuse of Wall’s injury, this season – which was marred by inconsistency even before Wall was hurt– should be a wake-up call for this franchise. It should be a moment of enlightenment. It should be a flashing red light screaming for a new approach.

Instead, we get this from the owner: “I think our team showed this year that we have the pieces to make it [a championship] happen.”

Those are not the words of someone demanding a culture change. Those are not the words of someone contemplating any personnel changes. John Wall recognizes the problems with the Wizards. It remains to be seen if anyone else does.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.