Grunfeld still has to pay the piper for Andray Blatche. He should never have signed him to a deal in the fall of 2010 that has $23 million left on it after this season. But monetarily, that’s not as egregious a sin as it looks; in fact, that’s cheaper than Arenas’s last year that was lopped off in the Lewis deal.
The ledger: Take away ’Dray and Grunfeld has completely rebuilt the roster in two years. In that same time, he has acquired six first-round draft picks and potential cornerstones at the two most important positions on the roster — Wall at point guard and Nene at center.
If you are Leonsis and getting under the salary cap and not hemorrhaging money were two of the goals, here’s Grunfeld’s best asset: He’s taken out the trash well and recycled better. The Wizards have a high lottery pick and two second-round picks in the upcoming draft. He’s positioned the team with salary cap flexibility moving forward.
If we’re going to say Grunfeld presided over a lousy four years, we also need to take into account everything he has done post-Michael Jordan in Washington.
For every time someone says, “But he signed Gilbert for $100 million without ensuring his knee was good,” we also have to say, “He got Gilbert for $60 million at a time when no one saw him leaving Golden State.”
If we’re going to say Washington is a woebegone NBA outpost now, we have to say the Wizards’ four-year playoff run from 2005 to 2008 was the first time in two decades that happened.
If Ernie gets blame for 2009-12, he also accepts credit for presiding over those four years. If he gets some blame for the petulence and career nosedive of Arenas and the passion-less nights of Blatche, he also gets credit for turning Kwame Brown into Caron Butler.
When the Wizards actually spend big money in the offseason and the mandate is to be a perennial playoff team, that’s when Grunfeld should be properly judged.
Until then, disenchanted fans target their ire toward Leonsis’s long-term strategy and whether it’s going to pay dividends. Moan at the moon; Ernie was just doing Ted’s bidding. That’s why he’s staying.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/