Already this year, fans and media members have assailed JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Andray Blatche, John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Gilbert Arenas, Vladimir Veremeenko, Rod Strickland, Flip Saunders, Sam Cassell, Ernie Grunfeld, Wes Unseld and several Verizon Center popcorn vendors. Now, with the playoffs perhaps not a realistic possibility and no one having a particularly good time watching the Wizards lose, two prominent local sports radio hosts are focusing on Ted Leonsis.
Here, for example, is Tony Kornheiser, who led off his Tuesday show on ESPN 980 by going scorched-earth on the Wiz.
“This is just the wrong mix on every level, from the general manager to the coach to the players, and I would now include the owner,” Kornheiser said. “Look, Ted Leonsis, when he bought the Capitals, he didn’t care about the Capitals. He wanted the Wizards. They were then the Bullets. He wanted the Bullets. That’s what this was all about. He was a basketball guy.
“He’s got them now. What is he doing? We’re led to believe by sympathetic writers that this is a great plan that he has, that this plan is somehow to lose and lose and lose and hit bottom and build through the draft. But you’re charging premium money for people to go to the games, and it’s clear that the current combination of coach and players is non-functional. It was this way all last year. It was there the year before. It doesn’t work on any level.
“Are you trying to just save money and pay the coach and pay the general manager the last year of their contract? When do you act? There are guys out there who are better for this team. Flip Saunders is gonna feel relieved [if he gets fired]. They’re not listening to him. They’re not listening to him.”
That’s a fairly open suggestion that Leonsis might be retaining sub-standard leadership out of financial concerns. But Eric Bickel — one of 106.7 The Fan’s Junkies — was way less subtle in a piece posted to the station’s Web site.
Some choice excerpts:
I’m starting to think you won’t change because you don’t want to spend the money. Maybe you’re too cheap. Or phrased in a better way, maybe you’re too smart of a businessman to accrue such losses....
Your plan seems to be stay the course and lose or lose terribly and hope to hit on some draft picks. I don’t think that’s good enough....The truth is, you will actually make significant money on these teams when they are sold. Isn’t that in fact the real value in owning these teams? Beyond the thrill and ego of owning the team the real money is made when you sell.
If the bottom line is at the core of what’s guiding your decision making process why not go ahead and cash out now. Sell the Wizards and let somebody who’s willing to spend the money take over.
So it’s January of 2012, and we’re less than two years into the Leonsis Era, and we’re calling for him to sell the team. Would not have predicted that. These are the quotes that Leonsis will refer to five years from now, if his basketball team has turned the corner. Like, here’s some more from Kornheiser:
“There’s no coaching on this team,” he said. “The players are not listening to this coach. So what is the coach doing on this team? This isn’t the first time this has happened. All last year, Flip Saunders would allegedly discipline people, and then either renege on the discipline, or Ernie Grunfeld would reverse the discipline, and the same guys would do the same thing ALL YEAR LONG. So there’s no coaching.
“And it also falls on the ownership. And nobody wants to say this. Ted Leonsis, are you so angling for the No. 1 pick that you want to see the Wizards go 1-65?...Do you care if you’re Ted Leonsis? Do you care at all about the people spending full fare? Buying tickets to your games and watching this?
“You look around and you say why do you need players like these players to go 1-12? Why don’t you play Vesely and Mack and Singleton and give ‘em all the minutes. If you’re gonna be 1-12, why don’t you play with people who you think might be able to help you at the end of this year and next year? Because you can’t really believe that McGee and Blatche and Young are gonna help you two years down the road, because all they do now is make you go out of your mind.”
Does this fall on ownership, if ownership post-dates Flip and Ernie and McGee and Young and Blatche? I’m not sure I would argue that. But I’m positive that I thought Leonsis would get a longer honeymoon than this.