The head of Washington’s basketball operations since 2003, Grunfeld needs to be correct about the group he assembled. This is just the second season of Washington’s latest rebuilding project, but Wizards players still must display progress in their roles for Grunfeld to deserve to remain in his. Grunfeld must provide owner Ted Leonsis with strong evidence the Wizards are pointed in the right direction — or Leonsis should find someone else to take the wheel.
Eight months ago, I wrote that Grunfeld deserved to continue in his position. Despite the Wizards’ last-place finish in the Southeast Division and the franchise’s overall lack of success during his first eight seasons (Washington missed the playoffs four times), Grunfeld made enough good moves last season, in my view, to remain in control. Obviously, Leonsis felt the same way.
Now, it gets tougher for Grunfeld, who should receive a contract extension only if the Wizards take the positive steps he’s convinced they can.
Washington begins training camp Friday at Verizon Center, and “we are gonna win more games than we did last year,” Grunfeld said during a phone interview Wednesday. “We’re all expecting to see progress.”
In a bottom-line business, a team’s win-loss record is its barometer of success.
But I don’t share Grunfeld’s optimism. And as for the Wizards’ talk about making the playoffs during the lockout-truncated 66-game season, that’s not happening.
Playing 82 games in 2010-11, the Wizards went 23-59. Looking at their projected starting lineup and rotation, I don’t see how they produce more victories during a brutal, jam-packed schedule.
And playoffs? Playoffs? The Wizards aren’t close to cracking the Eastern Conference’s top eight.
Instead of evaluating Grunfeld on whether the Wizards experience a big bump in victories or earn a highly unlikely playoff berth, Leonsis should judge him, in large part, on the on-and-off-court development of two key Grunfeld guys: power forward Andray Blatche and center JaVale McGee.
Has Blatche finally grown up? Is McGee ready to end the silliness?
There is no bigger test for Grunfeld than Blatche. Grunfeld has supported Blatche and rewarded him with two contract extensions despite a series of knuckleheaded moves and questionable actions that repeatedly have embarrassed the franchise.
When Grunfeld looks at Blatche, he sees a skilled, cost-effective post player with enormous scoring and rebounding potential. If Blatche could just mature a little, Grunfeld often tells himself, he could be a cornerstone piece of the turnaround Leonsis expects.
Despite Blatche’s cap-friendly contract and ability, Grunfeld should have removed him from the roster because teams can’t win with guys who simply don’t get it. Instead, Grunfeld has waited and hoped.