Wizards’ Grunfeld repeats familiar refrain of hope
The answers get a bit repetitive when the front office leader of
an NBA team is answering questions about a fifth consecutive season
out of the playoffs.
”We have a foundation,” Washington Wizards President Ernie
Grunfeld said. ”We have some solid veteran players and some
developing young players. There’s a good chemistry, and there’s no
question that our goal for next year is to make the playoffs.”
Grunfeld repeated the familiar refrain Tuesday, summing up the
Wizards’ 29-53 record at his annual end-of-season news
Other statements were also echoes of the past: The team needs to
get healthy and stay healthy, John Wall remains the long-term
centerpiece of the roster, the young underperforming players need
to get better, and it’s tough to judge how good the team can be
because the core players haven’t played together long enough.
”I think it’s important to have continuity and let the players
play over an extended period of time,” Grunfeld said. ”We haven’t
had our pieces together for more than 40 games.”
Injuries hit the Wizards hard, with the trio of Wall, Bradley
Beal and Nene combining to start just eight of 82 games. The roster
lacked the depth to compensate, leading to a 4-28 start.
On the positive side, the Wizards played roughly .500 ball once
Wall returned from a knee injury, and they finished the season
ranked eighth in the NBA in scoring defense. They also had a
winning record (22-19) at home, helping to balance their dreadful
mark (7-34) on the road.
”The No. 1 thing we need to get is to get our players’ health
right,” Grunfeld said. ”Rest up this summer, get our health
right, come back next year with all our players, and there’ll be
some additions in the offseason.”
Grunfeld needs to decide whether Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in
2010, is worthy of a maximum-value contract extension. Wall says he
deserves it. If there is no deal this offseason, Wall will become a
restricted free agent next summer.
”We’ve said all along that we’re building this team around John
and with John,” Grunfeld said, ”so we want to have him here
Grunfeld also praised coach Randy Wittman, who wouldn’t let the
team throw in the towel after the miserable start.
”He kept the ship afloat,” Grunfeld said. ”He kept the guys
motivated. He kept them competitive on a nightly basis.”
Grunfeld has brought in several young players who have plateaued
early or been outright disappointments. He said it’s time for Jan
Vesely, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin to step
up their games. For some in that group, it means yet another stint
in Summer League ball.
”This is a big summer for all of those players,” Grunfeld
said, ”and they have to improve.”
Grunfeld anticipates less roster turnover this year than last
year. He wasn’t ready to buy into the notion – stated by Wittman
and several players last week – that the Wizards need to focus on
adding veterans because they already have their fill of young
”We can get an old player any time,” Grunfeld said. ”But if
the old player doesn’t help you on the court, that’s not the kind
of situation we want to get into.”
A year ago, owner Ted Leonsis said another appearance in the
lottery would be ”unacceptable.” He later backed off after Wall
was injured, saying that ”the second- or third-worst record in the
NBA” would be unacceptable.
Grunfeld cleared that bar, but it probably won’t ever be that
”We had a team that could compete with anyone if we had all of
our pieces for the whole year, which we didn’t,” Grunfeld said.
”And there’s no excuses – injuries are a part of the game, and we
got off to that slow start and it was hard to recover from
Asked if he feels pressure to make the playoffs next year,
”I felt pressure last year, and the year before, to be a
playoff team,” he answered.
It’s an answer he’s used to giving.
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP