The Case for Change
by
Dec 09, 2010 -- 2:51pm

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The revolting performance the Wizards offered in Sacrmento speaks for itself.  Some, like CSN Washington's Frank Hanrahan have seen its implications.  Some have tried to hide them.  It could be explained away by more excuses.  It could be described as simply a road bump in the development of a building project, as Ted Leonsis wrote in his blog today:

"Don’t despair.

This is all a part of a very tough process.

Rome wasn’t built in a day."

I have always respected Ted Leonsis’ ability to remain patient through turbulence.  His businesses have been built through persistence despite adversity.  The Capitals were constructed this way - years of patience and trust in George McPhee and his plan for spurring a young core into a title contender.  That plan has worked.  And Mr. Leonsis is exactly right that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  That’s exactly the problem with the Washington Wizards, and that’s why Mr. Leonsis should make changes right now, starting from the top with Ernie Grunfeld.

 

The process of building a title contender is a grueling one, with no room for miscalculation.  One wasted draft like the Wizards had in 2009 – dealing the top five pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye rentals for a 25 win team, an inexcusable blunder – can corrupt an entire season of building.  One misguided contract extension for a player who lacks the discipline to be great – as was awarded Andray Blatche prior to a season in which he has been statistically productive but in actuality an obstacle.  These missteps and the many others made by the Wizards front office can set a championship chase back years.  This is likely the third straight season now with fewer than thirty wins.  That is not acceptable. 

McPhee’s pedigree was built on his drafting strategy – Oveckin, Semin, Backstrom, Green – all acquired through careful scouting and drafting preparation by McPhee.  The single constant that has corrupted the Wizards progress has been the front office’s mismanagement of the draft.  There has been a consistent inability to locate either role players or stars until fortune favored the team and John Wall fell into their laps.  What would have happened had the Wizards gotten the number two pick and tracking bust Evan Turner instead of Wall?  The franchise would be dead in the water.  The problem is, after the way they’ve been beaten recently to the point of not even competing, they seem to be dead in the water anyway.

 

They can blame injuries and tired legs and a young team all they want, but the excuses are paltry and lame.  Injuries come from lack of physical preparation and the failure of proper treatment.  Poor focus comes from acquiring players who lack the innate hunger to conquer.  There are names littering this roster who are kind and gregarious men off the court but lack the fortitude to cast out the demons of this franchise on it.  Defense has been a problem throughout Grunfeld’s tenure, and despite what coaches proselytize, defense is as much talent as effort.  Once players who have the skill to defend on this level are acquired, then the mindset to dominate defensively can be instilled.  With the roster currently constructed, even with their best effort this team cannot stop anyone.  The talent disparity is clear, and while teams will always struggle through the rebuilding process, to see a team supposedly growing towards contention falter so starkly in its preparation, focus, and discipline is not an indication to be patient.  It is an indication that the core is fractured, and the blocks surrounding the John Wall foundation do not have the strength to support the gravity of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

This game is at its base entertainment, but there must be an insistence from each owner that his organization accept the pursuit of championship banners only.  If that pursuit should falter in any way, it is the responsibility of the fans to demand accountability.  The time for that has come.  I wrote last week that the grace period for excuses is over.  Since then the results have been nothing but disaster for the franchise.  This cannot continue.  After seven years, Ernie Grunfeld has become too ingrained in his team to see where the fissures are.  Fresh eyes are needed, fresh ability to identify and acquire talent through the draft worthy to play with Wall, and the emotional detachment to remove those players who are not.  Grunfeld made those decisions before – Larry Hughes, Jared Jeffries, Eddie Jordan – all names Grunfeld had the discipline to cut ties with when the time came.  Now that time has come for Grunfeld himself, and the embarrassment in Sacramento is the final straw.  Should Mr. Leonsis decide that Ernie Grunfeld is still the right man to lead this franchise to a championship quest, then so be it.  Otherwise, the path towards ultimate victory cannot continue without immediate changes.  I welcome his response.

ted leonsis, ernie grunfeld, washington wizards, john wall

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