Steve Buckhantz could still return for a 23rd season as the Wizards television play-by-play voice, but NBC Sports Washington declined to exercise his option in order “to analyze our telecast and the talent and make sure we had the right team in place long-term,” General Manager Damon Phillips said Monday.

Buckhantz’s agent, Phil Hochberg, said last week that his client’s third-year option had not been picked up, leaving his future with the network uncertain. An NBC Sports Washington spokesman initially said they do not comment on the contract status of employees, but after the Buckhantz news set off a wave of criticism from fans and media members, Phillips offered to explain the network’s thinking.

“I feel like it’s important now, because there seems to be some confusion about who was involved in this decision or who will make the final decision,” Phillips said. “I think it’s important that you know, and that fans know, that as the GM it’s really my responsibility to make sure we have the right talent. These decisions, they start and they end with me. We are performing our due diligence and exploring all options. The key is that the door is not closed on Steve’s return, and there’s a possibility he could return in his role.”

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Wizards owner Ted Leonsis’s Monumental Sports and Entertainment has an ownership stake in NBC Sports Washington, and many fans and media members have criticized the owner or his ownership group in recent days, asking them to ensure Buckhantz’s return. Phillips — who joined NBC Sports Washington in early 2018, and has yet to shake up any of the game broadcast crews — said that he had kept Monumental officials informed, but that Monumental was not involved in the process, and that "I’m the one that made this decision.”

“Our announcers, they are employees of NBC Sports,” Phillips said. “Not the team. Not Monumental Sports. We have full authority on who is going to be part of the broadcast moving forward. That’s the way it works. And I think that’s probably a misconception that’s out there. It’s me that’s making these decisions. ... They have trusted us to run the network how we think is best. This is our area of expertise. Ultimately, it’s NBC Sports’ decision, and as the GM, it’s my decision how our announcing team looks. Monumental Sports and Ted, they’re not involved in the daily operations of NBC Sports.”

Why, then, would the network need more time to make a decision on Buckhantz’s future? Phillips declined to discuss specifics, but said that any time contracts come up, “You are looking to evaluate, hey, do we have the right team in place? These are opportunities to think about the business and think about your product. I’m just doing due diligence right now.”

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He said the network plans to audition other play-by-play voices for the role, and that he wanted to push any decision to the offseason. That prompted the recent news, since the network had a March deadline to inform Buckhantz about exercising his option. Phillips said the network does not have a deadline for settling on its play-by-play voice, and that “we want to make sure we do a thorough job on this search and let it take its natural course.”

“As a new GM, I wanted more time to analyze our telecast and the talent and make sure we had the right team in place long term,” he added.

The fan reaction and criticism, he said, would not complicate the process, and he said he was not surprised by the outpouring of support for Buckhantz.

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“He’s been connected with the team for decades; we understand that fans have affinity towards him,” Phillips said. “... We are in the business of serving fans, and we want to make sure that whatever product we put on the air is something that fans are going to get excited about and get engaged with, so [fan input is] very important.”

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Hochberg said last week that Buckhantz would like to return for a 23rd season, and that serving as the team’s play-by-play voice “is a lifetime ambition of his.”

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