Cleanup Starts By Throwing Out The Leftovers

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By Mike Wise
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeing how the trade is, oh, three minutes old and not yet consummated, let's take stock of what Ernie "Small Ball" Grunfeld hath wrought anyway:

Washington's pro basketball team gets two scoring swingmen who like to have the ball in their hands, and gives up a onetime starting center, a banging veteran forward, a young 7-footer and the fifth pick in tomorrow's NBA draft.

Hey, at least Brendan Haywood will never have to worry about his minutes in the pivot being cut again.

In an apparent ongoing attempt to run, gun and mirror the pre-Shaq Suns, Grunfeld, the Wizards' president, dealt away that depressing No. 5 selection and three contracts to Minnesota for Mike Miller, Mr. Outside, and Randy Foye, Another Mr. Outside, last night.

Which, given that Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young also want and need shots outside the key, looks a little odd on paper.

The Wizards now have 83 perimeter players vying for playing time. They will hoist more three-point attempts in one regular season game than J.J. Redick chucked up at Duke in four years. It's great that Flip Saunders can coach offense so well, because his new team will prosper and perish by a barrage of shots from beyond the arc.

It's easy to knock this deal. But on second glance, really, how can you?

Etan Thomas was owed big dollars. As much as his activism should be applauded, he was spending more time on the Huffington Post than huffing it down the floor and posting up.

Darius Songaila will be missed, but he was never the same after back surgery curtailed the hellion part of him who didn't care about whom he elbowed inside.

Had that young 7-footer, Oleksiy Pecherov, been drafted higher than 18th in 2006, he would have gone down as Darko Milicic II -- a young, skilled, gangly European who never developed his talent. "Pesh," his teammates called him, and his childlike demeanor always made him more of a team mascot than a bona fide player.

Who's to say what the No. 5 pick will bring the Timberwolves, but neither James Harden nor Jordan Hill was going to help lift the Wizards to at least the second round of the playoffs next season, which is shaping up as a bellwether year for Grunfeld's $111 million gamble to re-sign Arenas last summer.

Washington has to win now with capable veterans, and Miller at 29 years old -- though he is coming off his worst year statistically -- and Foye at 25 are considered two of those veterans.


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