Fool me once, shame on Ernie Grunfeld.
Fool me twice (or a mere five years of no NBA postseason in the District), shame on sucker-of-an-NBA-lifer me.
Shame on anyone, really, for believing the culture and talent have been altered enough to finally feel confident that
, in his fourth season, will definitely play in his first NBA playoff game.
But this time, I mean it. I can feel it.
“They believe it,” Wittman said, standing in the Verizon Center corridor outside the team’s practice facility Tuesday afternoon, a day before the Wizards open on the road against the
. “It’s one thing for a coach to stand up and say it. But I can truly see it in their eyes: I can see that they believe this team should be in that position. It’s easy for me with Coachspeak to stand up here and say we’re going to be in the playoffs. But I don’t play.”
Before they caught their plane to Detroit, I spoke to Wall, Wittman and Grunfeld, at least one of whom will still be here next season.
Signing a maximum, five-year contract in the offseason, Wall is the $80 million man, the face of the NBA in Washington. He’s not going anywhere. The coach and the team president/GM, though, are in the last years of both their deals.
The roster Ernie put together and Randy motivates better be a playoff team — or else owner Ted Leonsis may be forced to switch general managers for the first time and/or bring in a new coach.
It’s a switch on an old dynamic. For all the times players have rolled the dice entering contract years, Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and their contractually secure crew are essentially going to be responsible for their direct supervisors’ longevity more than their own.
What’s more, how these Wizards perform — how many games they win, how aesthetically appeasing and entertaining they are in the open floor, how good role players such as rookie Otto Porter Jr. or veteran center Marcin Gortat are — holds the key to who their next high-profile teammates is next summer.
They’re trying to be a postseason team as much as courting their next great teammate.
The Wizards are going to be at least $16 million under the salary cap in the summer of 2014, meaning they can finally bid on a player of real renown. Forget about LeBron. He is going to: (A) stay in Miami; (B) go home to Cleveland and shed tears with Dan Gilbert or, my best guess, (C) take the torch from Kobe in L.A. and become the star of the Lakers and his own sitcom — provided Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah do not disembowel him first.
But if the Wizards could add a
Luol Deng or, shoot, a Greg Monroe (whom Detroit will probably take care of this offseason but who knows?), that would be a real talent upgrade, a second-round upgrade.