By every means available (the draft, trades, free agency), the Wizards over the next few years should identify and acquire many people worthy of being franchise-building pillars. Not just for their talent, but for their attitude and work ethic. That’s the only way to break their cycle of despair.
At least it seems they’re improving at it. Point guard John Wall, who just completed his second season, appears to fit the mold. Wall possesses off-the-chart intangibles as well as box-score-stuffing ability.
As evidence of his growing stature within the league, Wall last week was named to the 13-man USA men’s select team (the NBA’s rising, young standouts are chosen), which will train against the U.S. national team as it prepares for the London Olympics. Wall embodies the Wizards’ hope for the future, “and he wants to be in a winning-type situation,” Grunfeld said. “He’s willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the team.”
Management finally provided Wall with a like-minded running mate in the March trade that brought veteran starting center Nene to D.C. Nene, who is from Brazil, showed up on time, gave as much effort in practice as in games and offered helpful hints — the kind that only come from experience and success — to teammates.
His contribution was evident on the court: With Nene in the lineup, the Wizards went 7-4. The victories were more than a third of the Wizards’ season total.
“He had a very positive influence for us,” Grunfeld said. “On the floor and off.”
The Wizards on Wednesday will make their annual appearance in the NBA draft lottery. Regardless of how the Ping-Pong balls bounce, Grunfeld’s selection in the June draft must be a difference-maker as well as an all-star talent.
If Grunfeld chooses wisely, the Wizards would have their own Big Three of sorts. And if he eventually found a draft nugget such as Ibaka (the Celtics and Spurs also struck platinum with point guards Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker, respectively), then the Wizards just may be able to put the basement behind them sometime soon.
Even if Grunfeld delivers in this draft, though, the Wizards still probably wouldn’t be in shouting range of the Celtics, Heat, Thunder and Spurs. But they can hope to be shaking hands with respectable, which is much better than they’ve been for a long, long time.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.