As many of us are aware now, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld has just been inked to a contract extension.
While this news comes much to the dismay of the Wizards faithful, I’m finding myself not quite as horrified about Ted Leonsis’ decision to retain the mastermind that has been behind so many years of unwatchable basketball in Washington, D.C.
But before I begin to spew my justification of Ernie, I’d like to express my awareness of the fire this man initially erupted, and the fact that most of his recent transactions were simply an extinguishment of those mistakes.
I get it. I’ve witnessed it all. I’m clear and in full understanding of the mess Grunfeld created upon his arrival to Chinatown in 2003: The mammoth contract signing of Gilbert Arenas; the head-scratching trades of high draft picks for subpar talent; the misfortune of JaVale McGee and Nick Young; the contract extension of Andray Blatche.
That's just scratching the surface, but frankly, I have very little interest in iterating all the countless mishaps of Ernie Grunfeld. It gives me indigestion and triggers my acid reflux.
Besides, the management blunders of Grunfeld have been voiced across Wizards nation for years and even in the midst of recent progression, it still hasn’t been enough to kindle any spec of love for him from Wizards fans.
And why should it? With a timeline of 10 years and only four playoff appearances with only one playoff series win, there’s a very narrow margin for me to vouch for Ernie, but I’m going to do it.
As Washington Post’s Mike Wise stated in his article this morning, Grunfeld’s extension was clearly based off the evaluation of his two year production under the helm of Ted Leonsis, rather than being evaluated for his overall lack of success which includes the preceding six years under the late Abe Pollin.
To a certain extent, this makes sense to me. The “rebuild program” devised by Ted following the four-year playoff run -- which included the ousting of the team’s “Big 3” -- has resulted in recent, but rather slow progression.
We were all warned of this. We were advised by Ted and Ernie to remain cool, calm and collective while the team was gutted from the inside out.
While the “stay calm while your team habitually loses” plan is tough to stomach, let’s look at how it has panned out and where the Wizards stand today as we close in on the end of the season:
- Following a dismal 19-win season in 2008, in which the Wizards were without an injured Gilbert Arenas, the implosion of 2009 positioned the franchise to land profitable draft picks in John Wall, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin (via Chicago). This past year’s draft brought in more potential with Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack.
- The Wizards will end their season as the second worst team in the league, guaranteeing them yet another lottery pick, one that could even be as high as first and as low as fifth. The Wizards also have two second round picks.
- Before the season began, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young were highly touted as the leaders of this team and as the appropriate pieces surrounding John Wall to ensure his growth as an elite NBA point guard.
Well, we were highly wrong. Inconsistency and one too many blooper montages on YouTube led to Grunfeld reacting with a trade-deadline beating deal that weeded out the incompetence of McGee and Young, in return for an all-star center and that second round pick I mentioned. Again, this is Grunfeld merely cleaning up his own mess.
- The only thing that would save Grunfeld from his questionable decision to extend Andray Blatche’s contract in 2009 would be the possible execution of the amnesty clause, which would relieve Blatche of his duties in D.C. and not impact the cap. The Wizards would still have to pay Blatche and as my pal Chuck Lamar states, Ted hates paying people to do nothing (he must really hate the Kardashians).
Ernie’s second and most likely last opportunity to save the Wiz comes equipped with pretty much all the tools he needs to make that happen.
At the beginning of the season, the trade value of much of the team outside John Wall was little to nonexistent. The recent progression of players like Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker has made them more expendable, which gives Grunfeld more options to wheel and deal. For the record, I would HATE to see either of them go.
The impending departure of Rashard Lewis, most likely by way of a buy-out, will free up a butt load of space in a salary cap that is already $2 million under and occupied by a butt load of small rookie contracts.
These are all the factors that seem to have directed Ernie Grunfeld in position to “earn” his extension.
While fans continue to express their disenchantment in Ernie stemming from years of basketball turmoil, Ted maintains his faith in Ernie and is giving him the chance to once and for all bring the Washington Wizards back to basketball relevance.