In brief, a history of the Washington Wizards in the so-called “John Wall era.” At length, an exposition of the team’s front office and why the time for change is now.
“Point guards are not made, they’re delivered from heaven—and I believe he was delivered from heaven,” Flip Saunders said on “John Wall Day.” That’s what then-Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty dubbed the day after the NBA Draft when Wall was chosen first overall—June 25, 2010. Team brass wasted no time in welcoming highly-touted rookie to the city. Wall, who one day earlier signed a shoe deal with Reebok, was treated to door-to-Verizon Center limo service, red carpets, and had his mug posted on a billboard outside the arena. He even received an officially endorsed nickname, “The Game Changer.”
[This is Part Two of a two-part post on Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld looking back at his almost 25-year tenure making player personnel decisions in the National Basketball Association. Part One can be read here.]
[Ed. Note: This is the 'official' TAI debut of Conor Dirks, longtime Wizards fan, Maryland transplant in the ATL. Follow him on Twitter: @ConorDDirks. -Kyle W.]
A pensive Ernie Grunfeld prepares to “explain.” Please allow him to do so.
In the last 10 years, the Wizards have had exactly one general manager, former NBA player Ernest Grunfeld. During Ernie’s tenure, the Wizards have amassed 475 losses, which is good for the second-most losses (tonight’s opponent, Minnesota, has the most) and third-worst winning percentage in the NBA over the last 10 years. The reason for the discrepancy between total losses and percentage is appropriately sad: the Charlotte Bobcats didn’t exist during Grunfeld’s first year with Washington.
It would be irresponsible to hold one individual wholly accountable for the failure of an organization with so many moving parts. However, after the trade of Jordan Crawford, and a recent history riddled with failed player development, it’s appropriate to try to ascertain what has gone wrong.
Bad draft picks and failed draft picks are not one and the same. Many of Ernie Grunfeld’s draft-day acquisitions have gone on to play significant roles in the NBA. However, the Wizards under Ernie Grunfeld have shown a complete lack of ability to develop and retain valuable players. Washington has also, during Grunfeld’s tenure, become notorious for dysfunction. This dysfunction isn’t endemic to D.C.’s team (see: Sacramento Kings), but the Verizon Center might be its headquarters. Read more »
D.C. residents cheered when three new escalators opened at the south entrance of the Dupont Circle Metro Station in October 2012. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) closed the southern entrance for repairs for nearly nine months, but the wait was worth it, in theory. WMATA had decided to strip the entrance and rebuild from scratch this past summer, finally doing away with some of the least reliable escalators in the system.
Construction is a constant in the nation’s capital, but, for one reason or another, it never seems to go according to plan. Just ask any Wizards fan who is still waiting for their team to climb out of the gutter.
Supporters of D.C.’s pro basketball team have suffered through nearly 200 losses and some of the worst basketball the Association has ever seen for almost five seasons now. We all know about owner Ted Leonsis’ blueprint for rebuilding his Washington Wizards: stay financially flexible, sign free agents and develop supposedly talented prospect. And, perhaps, trade some of said prospects for major players when the opportunities arise.
Forgive D.C. sports fans for seeming gloomy – for feeling like there’s a dark cloud hanging over their heads.
Ok, maybe that’s just Hurricane Sandy. But after a sunny September that featured Robert Griffin III’s debut and some incredibly exciting baseball, October’s been much more depressing for local fans; a stomach-punch Nationals loss, the Capitals locked out, and several big injuries to the area’s best young players.
Will the Wizards give us a reason to smile? When the NBA season wrapped up about six months ago, TAI did its first Wizards Optimism Index – a survey of where the team stood, having just ended the 2011-2012 season on a six-game winning streak.
We weighed in using five factors, weighted to reflect their relative importance to the state of the franchise. Read more »
John Wall is a high concern for the Wizards.John Wall’s backup — whether Wall is healthy or injured — is a high concern for the Wizards. So much of a concern that they made a calculated decision to sign A.J. Price as backup in late July, which is way early in the time allowed to make roster decisions before the season. John Lucas III got more money from the Toronto Raptors, Keyon Dooling ultimately retired, and it didn’t look like the Houston Rockets would be parting ways with Shaun Livingston, at the time. What other backup point guard options were there?
And then Wall goes and gets injured. Timing is everything.
To compensate, the Wizards signed the 32-year old Jannero Pargo, and ultimately cut their 34th overall 2011 draft pick, Shelvin Mack, after training camp and preseason. About Pargo, the ever-lurking John Hollinger writes in his 2012-13 season preview on ESPN Insider:
Pargo played well for Atlanta last season but obviously his combination of age (32) and track record make him a somewhat risky investment. That said, this was by far the best point guard candidate left on the market and Washington did well to get him so inexpensively. I’d argue he was a better solution than Price, in fact.
Truth About It.net will turn a whole five years old at the end of this October.
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
You may have heard of ESPN’s #NBArank project, now in year two. Now hear of #WizardsRank, where we rank each of those 56 players during Truth About It.net’s five-year run. TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective.
>> We start with a big Kevin Seraphin block versus Tunisia.
>> James Singleton is moving on; Roger Mason, too.
With the Wizards reportedly unwilling to pay anything more than the veteran’s minimum, John Singleton moving on and Roger Mason signing with the New Orleans Hornets represents cost-considered moves for the Washington franchise (see cliche phrase: “It’s a business”). In a sense, this is a disservice: not finding a way to reward the efforts of Singleton and Mason while offering some constancy to a young team. Inreality, the Wizards weren’t offering much playing time. Shooting from Mason would have been nice, the same with the grit of Singleton, but with roster capacity now at 13 — and the need to see how all the new feature parts fit together first– the Wizards can afford to hold off on filling the last two available spots, per report of the Washington Post’s Michael Lee. Not retaining Mason and Singleton was not part of an ideal offseason plan for the Wiz, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t come along an inspire the team from the end of the bench just as well.
>> ESPN’s Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) that the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat are interested in Andray Blatche. Both are solid organizations and could help turn Blatche into something. Each city also drastically differs in nightlight options, which understandably could have a significant influence on the overall “Party All-Dray” experience. Blatche has for the past couple of offseasons made his home in Miami. So there’s that. San Antonio has the Riverwalk. Also:
“Everyone knows San Antonio is a great city… they do have some big ol’ women down here,” famously said Charles Barkley.
Building the Great Wall of China was a process, you see….
The Oklahoma City Thunder are America’s heartland heroes. From top to bottom, from the shot-callers in the front office to the shot-makers on the hardwood, they’re made up of all the right stuff: sharp minds and undeniable athletic talent, blended together with a big helping of humility.
They’re winners. They’re the model of roundball reconstruction. They’re what the Washington Wizards aspire to be.
It was communicated by Ernie Grunfeld last Friday that Zach Leonsis, son of Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, would represent the team at the NBA Draft Lottery tonight in New York City. The younger Leonsis, Twitter handle @ZacharyLeonsis, is a business development manager with dad’s ownership group, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and lists, “provided research and statistical analysis for formulation of business strategy for the Washington Wizards,” in the experience section of his Linked In profile.
And to change it up, since we have fallen in the lottery the last two times we sent team members to the event, (a head coach, and a player), we are sending up a family member and employee of our sports team holding company to help us out. I hope it works.
Regardless of hindsight in the future, present or past, who the team sends as a representative probably doesn’t matter. But we walk down this path every year; superstition is as whimsical or worthless as we want it to be. And over time, you get a little less excited about the lottery because the value of winning it, in the big picture, has a diminished bearing on true team building. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t pour yourself some spirits and relish in the tradition of chance.