I get all of that. I know Grunfeld has made mistakes in leading the Wizards to this point. Still, it’s not time for a major shakeup in Washington’s basketball operation, particularly because Grunfeld has performed well recently. He has made enough of the right moves this season to warrant continued control.
Grunfeld, whose contract expires after the 2012 season, has worked effectively within the confines of owner Ted Leonsis’s plan to rebuild the Wizards. He’s off to a good start in the first year of a project with no end date listed.
Leonsis declined to comment about Grunfeld, saying through a spokesman he would evaluate the Wizards’ entire operation after the season.
Viewing the Wizards’ bleak situation realistically last summer, Leonsis gave Grunfeld a list of tasks to complete, many ranging from difficult to seemingly impossible. Leonsis’s top fantasy wish-list item? Trade Gilbert Arenas.
Arenas was considered untradeable because of the baggage from his embarrassing gun incident during the 2009-10 season, his knee problems and a contract that guarantees him about $62 million over the next three seasons.
Grunfeld surprised many longtime NBA followers (me included) in getting out from under Arenas’s contract, potentially saving the Wizards more than $30 million when he sent the former star to Orlando for Rashard Lewis in December.
The Wizards cleared more cap space in February after point guard Mike Bibby — acquired from Atlanta with veteran swingman Maurice Evans, rookie guard Jordan Crawford and a first-round pick this summer for point guard Kirk Hinrich and center Hilton Armstrong — gave up his entire $6.2 million salary next season as part of a buyout to leave the Wizards and sign with Miami. If this offseason’s seemingly inevitable lockout eventually ends, the Wizards could have about $20 million in cap room next season.
“When Ted took over, he did have a blueprint of the kind of things he wanted to see and what direction he wanted the franchise to go in,” Grunfeld said Tuesday in a phone interview. “And that blueprint was to build through the draft, to develop our young players and to get cap flexibility moving forward.”
Rookie point guard John Wall has been everything the Wizards expected while providing the foundation for their youth movement. Wall is pushing the Wizards to think big, bigger than they have since Wes Unseld was their franchise player, and it has long been clear Grunfeld chose wisely with the No. 1 overall pick.
As much as Washington benefited cap-wise because of Bibby’s desire to leave, Crawford’s performance has been the most intriguing development of the trade. Unable to crack playoff-bound Atlanta’s rotation, Crawford has provided scoring and toughness with Washington and “he and John complement each other well,” Grunfeld said.