His restructured team lost its first 12 games, the worst start in franchise history, and is now a league-worst 2-13, the same record as last season.
It’s safe to say that this season hasn’t exactly gone as Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld expected.
“We’d like to have more wins at this time, but we have to look at the big picture and see where we are,” Grunfeld said.“The players compete on a nightly basis and that’s what we wanted and they’ve faced adversity and they’ve responded. Down the road, this is going to help them. But going through the process is not easy for anybody.”
Since reaching the playoffs four straight seasons from 2005 to ’08, the Wizards have posted the NBA’s worst record, going 90-237 (.275). They are just 45-118 since Ted Leonsis became primary owner in June 2010 and are gaining little traction locally, ranking 21st in the league in attendance (15,538) as area sports fans divert their attention to Robert Griffin III and the Nationals.
This wasn’t necessarily going to be the season that the Wizards became a contender, but Grunfeld had hoped the team would start turning the corner toward respectability. Leonsis stated during training camp — when the team realized that it would start the year without John Wall and Nene — that another finish among the worst three teams would be “unacceptable.”
“We said we’d like to put ourselves in position to compete for a playoff-type of situation. Who’s to know how the season would start from an injury standpoint?” Grunfeld said. “It has taken time and things that we can’t control have played a part in it. Obviously, everything that we’ve tried to do was built around John and Nene and fitting pieces around them, for now and for the future.”
When Grunfeld built the team last summer, he envisioned having Wall getting the team out on the break with his blazing speed, Nene in the low block drawing double teams and a collection of shooters and athletic wings as a complement, forming an entertaining, breakneck offense.
Wall was sidelined before training camp with a stress injury in his left knee. The Wizards announced that the injury — diagnosed by New York orthopedic specialist David Altchek — was expected to keep him out for eight weeks, but 10 weeks later, Wall has yet to practice, run or shoot a jumper.
Team insiders have projected that Wall could possibly come back around Christmas, but Grunfeld doesn’t want to get involved with a guessing game.
“It’s not an exact science,” Grunfeld said of Wall’s timetable. “He’s working hard and doing what the medical people are asking him to do. We’re going to be cautious with him and when the doctors tell us that he’s able to go, then he’ll be out there.”