By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006
RICHMOND, Oct. 5 -- Wizards owner Abe Pollin is so pleased with the performance of President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld that he visited training camp at Virginia Commonwealth University to announce that Grunfeld's contract was extended by four years.
After revealing the length of the extension Thursday, Pollin expressed enthusiasm over what he saw at two practices and offered insight into his decision to extend the contract even though Grunfeld still has two years remaining on the five-year deal he signed in June 2003.
"I originally thought about doing it next year and then I thought more about it and decided that sometimes it's good to do something that somebody doesn't expect," Pollin said. "He's deserving of it so I decided to do it. He's done a terrific job for this team."
Pollin has high expectations for a team that is coming off consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the late 1980s. He liberally threw around the word "championship" when talking about the future and believes the team Grunfeld has assembled has a shot to make a long playoff run.
"We have passed the point of just being happy about being in the playoffs," Pollin said. "I think our players, coaches and basketball operations staff feel that this will be a very, very competitive team this season. We have some depth that we didn't have last year, so this will be a very competitive team. We're excited about it."
Two players hoping to add to that depth are former Virginia guard Roger Mason Jr. and former George Washington forward Mike Hall. Mason and Hall have played well during the first three days of camp and stand a decent chance of making the regular season roster.
Mason's cause is helped by the fact that he has a partially guaranteed contract.
"When you are a young player in that position you have to do something in every practice to stand out, to grab attention and those guys have done that at times," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "There are going to be opportunities for some people in this camp. We have a lot of competition out there."
Mason, Hall, centers Peter John Ramos and James Lang, forward Kevinn Pinkney and guard Donell Taylor appear to be battling for three potential roster spots. The other 12 players in camp hold guaranteed contracts.
Mason, who attended Good Counsel High, was selected in the second round of the 2002 draft by the Bulls, spent two seasons with the Raptors and played last year in Israel. This summer, he averaged eight points and 2.3 rebounds with the Washington's summer league team.
To make it, Mason will have to show that he can swing between point guard and shooting guard and will have to play strong defense. Mason has been around the league long enough to understand exactly what he needs to do during the preseason.
"I have to be a hard worker, have to play both guard spots, have to make open shots and have to play defense," Mason said. "To make it in this league, you have to be able to do something very well. If I can make open shots and play good defense, show that I can help this team, I'll have a chance."
Hall has primarily played behind forward Caron Butler. So far, Hall has displayed the offensive versatility and defensive effort that made him a valuable player in college.
"He can do a lot of things well," Butler said. "The thing I like about him is he's not intimidated. He's coming out here carrying himself like he belongs. He's not backing down to anybody."
After going undrafted in June and seeing little action with Denver's summer league team, Hall is eager to make the most of his opportunity with the Wizards.
"To me, this is the perfect situation," Hall said. "To be in Washington where I have so many friends and where I'd be this close to GW, that's like a dream come true."
Wizards Note: The first team in practice has mostly consisted of Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson at guard, Butler and Antawn Jamison at forward, and either Brendan Haywood or Etan Thomas at center. The second five has consisted of Antonio Daniels and Jarvis Hayes at guard, Andray Blatche and Michael Ruffin at forward, and either Haywood or Thomas at center.
Darius Songaila, who is out with a pinched nerve in his lower back, also will be in the rotation, although the team appears to be preparing to start the preseason without him.