Ok, ok, ok, last bit of transcription from Ted Leonsis’s Wednesday morning appearance on WTOP’s Ask the Owner segment. (Listen here.)
Wednesday, I mostly concentrated on his comments about the Caps. So for all you Wizards lovers out there (I see you! Over there! Hiding in the corner!), here are Leonsis’s thoughts on this season, which has been completely ruined by that disastrous start.
“You can communicate to the fans and say nobody can plan for the loss of five of eight players, especially when you’re in the midst of a rebuild,” the owner said. “We weren’t a veteran team to begin with, that had a strong foundation. But no one wants to hear that. And so, as you communicate that, really it sounds like spin and hype and justification for starting 0-12. We didn’t win a game in our first dozen games. And the fans, they’re bottom-line oriented. They want you to win. And again, I apologize. There’s nothing we can do about that one.”
Again, feel free to accuse Leonsis of trafficking in spin and hype and justification. The team’s record is terrible, and no one has gotten fired. Just know that he’s beaten you to the punch.
But anyhow, here’s what else he said:
On chemistry: “The players have reacted in the best way that they can, which is effort, and teamwork, and belief that if they work hard they’ll get good results. And so I’m very happy with the integrity and the character. And that was a big step forward for us, because we were accused of not having great optics in the locker room, not having players that were coachable and were united. And that’s not the issue right now. We might have some talent deficiencies in some places, but we don’t have work ethic or coachability [issues], and that was a big step forward for us.”
On the last two weeks: “The fans are starting to see what we believed when we were putting the team together. The first two years we really had to deconstruct the team and bring in all these young players, and this year we brought in some vets. Obviously we’re not stopping. We have to continue. We have to add to the team. But I think the fans can sense that the team that we put on the floor has high character, they have skills, they’re talented, they work really hard, they’re really, really coachable.”
On seeking a .500 record down the stretch: “Well, in our offseason, when we were putting the team together, the staff came and presented what the stats were. And basketball is very analytical, and we have all these Ph.Ds running around, and then you have your front office with Ernie [Grunfeld] and Tommy [Sheppard] and Milt [Newton]. And what were the expectations? It was the third year of the rebuild. And it was, we have to show progress and positive steps so that we can become a playoff team….And so we thought .500 this year would be a big step forward, but it also would have the double benefit of putting you in the playoff hunt. And teams that play .500 in the East – that’s how competitive and how much parity [there is] – you could make the playoffs. And that would be great progress. And so now our team is back together. If we can play .500 basketball from here on out, at least it would give us a signal that the players that we’ve put in place and have under contract and the coaching staff, that plan was starting to come to fruition.”
On trades and free agency: “You have to be able in most cases, take on money when you make a trade, because you’re gonna trade young assets for a player. And we’re willing to do that. People around the league know that we are willing to make that investment. And then you have to sign free agents. Well, until you start to become a better team, free agents don’t want to play for you. I think we’re getting to that point now where the team is starting to be competitive, people know the locker room situation is very straightforward and the integrity is good. And so I think we can add through free agents. But to be blunt, when I look at the free agents that will be available in the offseason, I don’t see a transformational star that will come here. There’s some good players, but LeBron James isn’t going to be a free agent in the offseason.”