Ted Leonsis tells National Press Club that Wizards have yet to decide on No. 1 draft pick, team colors and nickname

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ted Leonsis said Friday the Washington Wizards have yet to decide on two of the issues that have most mobilized the team's fan base: whom to take with the No. 1 overall selection in next month's NBA draft, and whether to change the team's color scheme and nickname.

Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon, Leonsis -- who's in the process of purchasing the NBA franchise -- said that he has heard from fans on both issues.

"You know, one of the things that I've learned, everyone's an expert," he joked when asked about the No. 1 pick. "There's consensus on who we should take from experts, and they might be right. But we have to work [players] out, we have to interview them, we have to do our research, we have to compare and contrast, we have to articulate what type of system would we be playing, we have to build that system and bring in other picks. My goal is to get more first-round picks.

"And so there's a lot that goes into it," he concluded. "And so I'd like to share empty calories with everyone and tell you who we're gonna pick, and everyone would be excited, but it would not be true."

Leonsis was similarly noncommittal when asked about the team's nickname and color scheme. The franchise has been known as the Wizards since the 1997-98 season, when Abe Pollin said the District's gun violence and the 1995 assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a friend of Pollin's, necessitated a change.

But many fans have requested a return to the red, white and blue color scheme used when the team was known as the Bullets. Leonsis's Washington Capitals went back to their original colors beginning in 2007, and the change -- combined with the team's increased success -- sparked a surge in merchandise sales and the "Rock the Red" slogan.

There was mild applause from the Press Club crowd on Friday when Leonsis was asked about the possibility of a similar change for the Wizards.

"I get lots of e-mails, and I see all the comments and quotes," he said. "I don't want to be someone who does [things] to make people like me or think I'm listening to them. And there's so much work to do, to figure it out. And that would be a part of everything.

"But it's not the first decision that we have to make. I probably will like red colors more than the teal blue that they have, but there's a lot that goes into it. And I intend to listen to people, but I also think Mr. Pollin made a personal decision, and I want to understand it, and I want to pay the appropriate respect that a decision like that would deserve."

Leonsis said if he wanted to, it would be impossible to make any change for next season.

He also reiterated his support for building through the draft as opposed to free agency, and said the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics would get priority in Verizon Center's scheduling decisions.

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