When Ted Leonsis said there would be an increased emphasis on player development in his list of 101 Things (action item No. 29), specifically involving the D-League, Wizards followers gave a collective ‘We’ll believe it when we see it.’ Not so much in doubt of Leonsis’ words, but more so because they’ve been conditioned under the tenure of team president Ernie Grunfeld that development and building for the future was paid more of a whimsical, cursory attention, as the franchise’s number one team builder always seemed instructed to focus on winning in the now.
Not that Grunfeld and his team did not pay attention to the scouting and the draft, but rather, for a myriad excuses one could presumably always find (see: the Wizards’ D-League affiliate, the Wizards, being in Bismarck, North Dakota and/or supplying said team with players to develop wouldn’t best jibe with the intricate offensive system that past coach Eddie Jordan was trying to instruct). Essentially, the D-League has never been worth Grunfeld’s time, warranted or not, aside from sending down the likes of Peter John Ramos or Andray Blatche for a spell in the earlier days (2005-06), and when the affiliate franchise was much closer in Roanoke, Virginia (the Dazzle), or during last season when a franchise in flux was interested in taking a gander at cheap labor while likely appeasing the desires of league higher-ups to use the development league for it’s true intent.
In any case, upon surely leaving out detail on the past unknown team development protocol that will only be known to organization insiders, ideals toward positive future development efforts changed when 2010 draft pick (No. 56 overall) Hamady N’Diaye was assigned to the Dakota Wizards on January 5. But such a path to the basketball enlightenment for the one called “H” almost didn’t happen. Unsigned in the days leading up to training camp, sentiment from the team indicated that they’d rather N’Diaye take his talents overseas for a year or two, something those on the player’s side didn’t seem amicable toward. Rather than lose his rights completely, the Wizards ended up extending a contract tender to N’Diaye and ultimately signed him to the team for training camp and into the season. Now, after a taste of life in the big leagues, just a taste, Hamady works on his very raw skills in the landscape of bus rides and meager per diems.
In steps Joey Whelan.