Ernie Grunfeld has been prohibited from contacting players since the NBA lockout began lockout on July 1. Players remain off limits, but the league recently softened its stance, granting team executives permission to speak publicly about them and contact their agents to discuss their progress.
Grunfeld made several calls to the representatives for free agents on Wednesday and discussed the past few months and the upcoming season with reporters during a news conference on Thursday afternoon. He admitted that he relied mostly on the newspaper and the Internet to get updates on players during the lockout.
He also talked about the Wizards’ plans in free agency, the development of the young players currently on the roster and declared that the organization has no plans to use the amnesty provision in the next collective bargaining agreement. Grunfeld also said the Wizards will open the preseason at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 16 and travel to Philadelphia on Dec. 20.
On hopes for season : From the young players who were with us last year, we want to see improvement in them. We want to incorporate the new young players into what we’re trying to do, and we want to improve as the season goes along. It’s going to be a process. We knew that when we started this whole thing. But we want to improvement in the young players, and we want to see them play with a high energy level and with a competitive nature on a nightly basis.
On challenge of getting team ready : Everything is condensed. The players were anxious to get things started. I was very anxious, our coaches were very anxious. But everything is going to be condensed. We’re not going to have the same preseason type of situation, that’s going to be condensed. Normally you have 28 days. . . . We only have two preseason games. So you don’t get as much time out on the court. The coaches don’t have as much time with the players, and when you have a young group like we have you want as much time as possible, but we have to make due with the time that we currently have.
On John Wall’s offseason : John looked good. John loves to play. He’s out there working hard. He loves to play, he loves to compete, and he’s gotten bigger, he’s worked a lot on his shot, it looked like, and he put a lot of time in this summer.
On amnesty : I think every situation is a little bit different. The amnesty rule they have in place this year is different than the amnesty rule that they had in the past. This amnesty you can have a window every year, an opportunity to amnesty somebody. We don’t know what that window is yet, but it takes that player’s salary off the tax and the cap. . . . Our situation is probably going to be – we’re going to study the whole thing, but in all likelihood, we won’t amnesty anybody this year.
On the factors that led to not using amnesty : You want to have flexibility if you can. When you look at the free agent list, it’s not a great free agent market and you don’t’ want to tie up too much money now, and we like the balance that we have right now. We want to make sure we give our players an opportunity to get out there and play and continue to get the minutes to develop and then see how much they develop, and then we’ll act accordingly as we move forward.
On Wizards needs for a backup point guard : Obviously John is going to get the bulk of the minutes there, we drafted a guard who we think can play some point guard, Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford has played some point guard, obviously, we’ll probably need someone for camp, and if that player shows that he’s someone that we might want to keep for the long haul, we’ll do that.
On roster : We have a balanced roster. If you look at the players coming back, we’re probably two deep at every position. We’ll probably look for one or two more veteran players to come in an provide some leadership and some experience.
On expectations : I expect us to improve as the season goes along. We want to see our young players get better. We want to see a fighting spirit on a nightly basis, and then let the chips fall where they may. I’m not going to put how many games we want to win on this whole thing, but we want to see improvement, we want to see the players develop, and we want to see good teamwork and playing the game right way.