Pivotal offseason for Wizards, who wanted 50 Ws, took 50 Ls
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Wizards came into the season aiming for 50 wins. They finished with 50 losses.
There was poor play. There was little defense. There was the embarrassing 10-31 road record, part of a 32-50 overall mark, the team’s worst in six seasons. And the fallout from missing the playoffs already has begun, with team president Ernie Grunfeld’s firing.
“I take the responsibility of I could have done better,” coach Scott Brooks said Monday at the club’s practice facility. “And going forward, I need to be better.”
He also said it was too soon for him to say in what ways he can improve.
Now the Wizards head into a pivotal offseason, with very few certainties other than this: Bradley Beal is the key piece.
He became Washington’s unquestioned leader and best player as John Wall missed more than half of the season because of heel surgery. Wall will sit out most — and perhaps all — of next season, too, because of a later operation to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
“It’s been a rocky year, for sure,” said Beal, an All-Star shooting guard and the first player in franchise history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season. “A disappointing year, in terms of winning and everything like that.”
With Wall’s supermax deal kicking in for 2019-20, and few other players under contract, plus the direction of the team unclear until a new GM is in place, the coming weeks will be important.
Here are other things to know about the Wizards:
Beal was 12th in the NBA in scoring average at 25.6 points, and he also had 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. He’s clearly the leading man on the court, and his terrific production could also mean that he earns all-NBA honors — which would make him eligible for a supermax contract of his own. “Bradley had a monster year. He’s a guy you have to account for in every which way,” Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Obviously is very deserving of all the recognition that comes his way.”
Wall says he can’t be sure whether he will be able to play next season. He does, however, plan to use others’ doubts and critiques as motivation. “He has a lot of work ahead of him, there’s no question. He has a lot of work. They say he’s going to be out a majority of next season. But he will work. He’s very motivated. I talk to him, text him. He’s excited about the challenge ahead of him,” Brooks said. “He’s definitely going to have a lot of tough days. And he’s going to fight through them. He’s going to overcome.”
Owner Ted Leonsis is enlisting an outside firm to help with replacing Grunfeld. The only known candidate is Tommy Sheppard, who is taking over Grunfeld’s duties on an interim basis. When Leonsis fired the GM of his NHL team, the Washington Capitals, the replacement came from in-house, Brian MacLellan.
ROSTER IN FLUX
There’s not a lot assured about the roster. Dwight Howard, who appeared in only nine games because of injuries, has a player option to return, but even if he exercises it, Washington might not want to keep him. Little-used backup center Ian Mahinmi is under contract, a disaster of a signing by Grunfeld that the team could be stuck with. Rookie Troy Brown Jr. will be back. But with players such as Otto Porter Jr. already traded away, and others on expiring deals, there is a lot of room for new faces — even if there might not be a lot of salary-cap space.