Wizards moving forward after Kirk Hinrich deal

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 11:47 PM

MIAMI - On one of the most frantic, exhilarating and surprising trade deadline days in recent memory, Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld was still working the phones, hoping to possibly squeeze out one more asset for the players remaining from the third incarnation of the team this season. But nothing transpired, and Grunfeld couldn't even say the Wizards were close to making another deal.

"Unless it's done, it's never close," Grunfeld said. "We had some conversations, but nothing really came together for us."

The Wizards (15-41) have already made two big trades this season, sending Kirk Hinrich to the Atlanta Hawks in a five-player deal on Wednesday and shipping Gilbert Arenas to Orlando for Rashard Lewis on Dec. 18. The moves have provided some long-term financial flexibility and added more assets, with the Wizards getting a first-round pick in June's NBA draft and Jordan Crawford, the 27th pick in last summer's draft, from the Hawks.

Since they decided to blow up the roster last season, the Wizards have been able to add four first-round picks to their own two lottery selections. They got the 30th pick in the Antawn Jamison deal from Cleveland, which they used to move up to get Trevor Booker. Hinrich essentially yielded three first-round picks, since the Bulls traded him, along with Kevin Seraphin, in a pre-draft agreement last season.

But a collection of underdeveloped talent with upside doesn't generate much short-term excitement for fans of a team that has lost 12 of 14 games and shown little promise outside of No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Wall blasted his teammates after an embarrassing, 117-94 loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday, saying, "Nobody has heart."

In an honest assessment of his team's situation, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his personal blog that he understands the frustrations of his players, coaches, and fans. "The rebuild is messy. It is painful," he wrote. "It is going as I expected. Lots of bumps; lots of emotion; and lots of frustration. I have been down this road before. That is the reason I remain calm and steadfast. There is no other option for us.

"But I am happy that we have loaded up on picks and prospects," Leonsis continued. "That part of the rebuild after we pick twice in the next draft is over. We have enough young assets now."

The Wizards also got back veterans Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans in the trade for Hinrich. Bibby, who has played 13 seasons in Vancouver, Sacramento and Atlanta, is signed through next season and is expected to play a similar role as Hinrich for Wall.

"I hope he can teach me the same thing Kirk did and maybe a little more," Wall said of Bibby.

But according to multiple league sources, Bibby was upset over leaving a playoff team in Atlanta to join a lottery squad in Washington. He told those close to him that he was considering the possibility of seeking a contract buyout. Last season, Zydrunas Ilgauskas refused to play for the Wizards after he arrived in the Jamison trade. Ilgauskas gave back $1.5 million or his remaining salary to return to the Cavaliers for an ill-fated championship run.

The topic has not been discussed with Bibby's agent, David Falk, but two league sources said Bibby would have to make a huge sacrifice of what's left of the $5.8 million he is owed this season, and the $6.4 million he will receive next season. Since that appears doubtful, Bibby is expected to be in uniform when the new, new-look Wizards make their debut in Miami on Friday.

"I think it's unlikely something like that would happen," Grunfeld said of a buyout. "I never shut the door on anybody talking to us."

Bibby joined the team in Miami on Thursday and Falk said he doesn't expect his client to be a problem with only six weeks left in the regular season. "I told them, Mike's a really good person. He's not a complainer. He's an excellent guy, and he's going to come in and be a professional. You have to make the best of the hand we're dealt. He will. I'm not going to lie and say it's an ideal situation; it's not. An ideal situation would be on a playoff team. But it's a new era for me. I'm good friends with Ted, I'm good friends with Ernie, but we're going to make the best of it for the rest of the season and evaluate the future in the summer."

Grunfeld said he is pleased with the progress the team has made. "We've come a long way in a year. We've moved a lot of players. We've given ourselves financial flexibility moving forward. Added a lot of young players to our mix. I think we've changed the dynamic of our team and the process continues. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we've positioned ourselves well for the future."

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