Others are utterly unfixable. The players with the most heart — Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton among them — don’t have enough skill. The players with the most skill — Blatche, McGee and Nick Young — don’t have enough heart. And the wizened veterans such as Evans, Roger Mason Jr. and Rashard Lewis are almost caught in a culture war between their scrappy teammates who care and their more talented teammates who remain clueless.
So if Saunders isn’t to blame, who is? Team President Ernie Grunfeld would be an easy target; after all, he concocted this mess of unpolished youth and old journeymen. But remember: This is what he was asked to do.
Amid this eyesore of bad basketball lately, we forget owner Ted Leonsis’s essential directive to team officials: We have to be really bad before we’re good.
Phase 1 was the fire sale that began in early 2010 with the jettisoning of every starter but Gilbert Arenas off the Wizards’ last playoff team. It continued when Arenas was shipped to Orlando for Lewis in December 2010.
Phase 2 was building through the draft, to the tune of acquiring six first-round picks in two years, and putting the team in a better financial position.
Phase 3: Become the first team in NBA history to lose every game in a season. Okay, we’re kidding about that; Phase 3 is actually supposed to be the payoff, when the young players identified as building blocks are retained and ownership opens its checkbook to acquire a top-tier free agent to join them.
So far, Grunfeld has delivered on two counts. With a contract that expires after this season, will he get a chance at the third?
Give Leonsis credit for transparency: He told us there would be seasons like these. That’s the sad truth that is starting to sink in with each embarrassing loss: This season’s Wizards were supposed to be almost painful to watch.
So as the losses pile up — and with 14 games in the next 22 days, surely they will — and the sentiment that someone must pay grows, consider: This was part of a plan.
That’s why Saunders and Grunfeld and especially Leonsis must stay and endure the pain with the rest of us: to ostensibly see how awfully bad it can be before there’s any hope of it getting good.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/sports.