All posts in basketball

21Jan

what would auerbach do?

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Years ago, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was fortunate enough to have lunch with Red Auerbach, the legendary architect and mastermind behind the Boston Celtics.

During this occasion, Leonsis took the opportunity to ask Auerbach for his advice on how to handle star players. This seemed like a wise decision, considering his lunch buddy earned a combined 16 NBA championships as a coach, general manager and team president of the Celtics.

Leonsis must have figured he was in the presence of one of the most successful men in professional sports history, so why not pry for some insider’s knowledge. Fortunately for all of us, Auerbach shared some of his insight.

“He said your best player has to be your best person,” Leonsis said in a Hockey News interview back in October 2008. “He has to be your most respectful person because that will set the tone for the team.

“We’re lucky that Alex is a world-class player, but he’s even a better person – and the fan base knows that,” Leonsis said.

With that quote in mind, we recently had the chance to chat with Capitals general manager George McPhee on how much character and similar attributes come into play when debating whether or not to sign a player to a mega contract.

“Absolutely,” McPhee said. “You want talented players, certainly. But they have to be good people too. People think it’s the talent that puts you over the top, but it’s really the character of your players that puts you over the top.”

Since he was drafted first overall in 2004, Ovechkin has known no boundaries. He’s become the face of the franchise, one of the game’s most gifted players and, most recently, the captain of the Capitals.

“He’s actually better than we could ever have hoped for going into the draft,” McPhee said. “We’re lucky to have him. He’s been a leader since he’s been here. It was time to put the captaincy on him.”

Like McPhee said, the Caps are lucky to have Ovechkin. That’s’ why the team had no problem signing their star player to a 13-year contract extension worth $124 million in 2008. They knew he was a player they could build a team around and jumped at the chance to do so.

That same year, another local franchise made a long-term commitment to a star player. After he opted out of his contract, the Washington Wizards signed guard Gilbert Arenas to a max deal, which came out to six years for $111 million.

At the time, we couldn’t understand why the team would dedicate such an investment into a guy who we often refer to as a “one-legged, me-first point guard.”

For starters, Arenas has played just 47 games during the last three seasons. Thanks to a knee injury that required multiple surgeries and his most recent antics involving hand guns and gambling debts, Arenas is off the court much more often than on it. Excuse the pun, but that’s not getting a lot of bang for your bucks.

And when he’s on the court, you honestly never know which Gilbert is going to show up – whether it be Agent Zero, Hibachi or the guy who can’t hit free throws with the game on the line.

We don’t blame the team’s late owner Abe Pollin or general manager Ernie Grunfeld for being seduced by the game-winning shots and quirky shenanigans. But, at the same time, it seems they turned a blind eye to the moody diva who often times put himself in and removed himself from games without regard for his coach.

He’s also the same player who, if someone hurt his feelings, decided to stage a protest by refusing to shoot the ball or similar “look at me” sideshows. Or spent halftime of NBA games playing online poker. Or decided to ditch the team and rehabilitate his injuries on his own.

Without even going into his latest incident involving illegal firearms and teammate Javaris Crittenton, there’s enough of a history here that the Wizards should have known better. Let’s go back to the conversation between Auerbach and Leonsis.

“Your best player has to be your best person.”

We defy anyone to present an argument in which Arenas comes across as the team’s best person. We’re not suggesting that he’s not a bad person or in the words of John Riggins, that he has a black heart, but the truth is – with Gilbert, it’s all about Gilbert. If you’re looking for a locker room leader who is unselfish and always willing to put the team first, he’s not your man.

Honestly, that would be Wizards forward Antawn Jamison. But at 33 and with his complete inability to play defense, he can’t be considered a long-term solution in D.C. either. So, this may come as a surprise, but what we’re saying is no one currently on the Wizards should be signed to a $100-million deal.

Things are so bad for the Wiz that the one building block they could use as a cornerstone for the franchise – forward Caron Butler – is actually the guy having the hardest time adapting to the Flip Saunders offense. Go figure.

Dark days are ahead for the Wizards, but honestly, most of what comes next is because the team chose to commit to a player like Arenas. People are hoping that somehow the franchise is able to get a “do-over” by voiding his contract, but it’s foolish to get your hopes up. The actions of Ron Artest (fighting fans) and Latrell Sprewell (choking his coach) weren’t enough to get their respective contracts voided. Why would a downtrodden team like the Wizards be any luckier?

One other local team joined the $100-million club last year, when the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100-million deal.

Coming from Tennessee, where he anchored one of the nastiest defenses in football, Haynesworth came to Washington with the highest of hopes. If the Redskins had a top five defense without him, the sky was the limit with Fat Albert, right?

Not so fast, sweetheart.

Haynesworth’s first year in Washington didn’t exactly go as planned. While the defensive line play and sack totals improved with the big guy in the lineup, people mostly wanted to focus on when he wasn’t on the playing field.

Haynesworth missed four games due to injury last season. In the 12 games he was in the lineup though, critics loved to point out how often Haynesworth was either standing on the sidelines or lying on the ground. Whether Fat Albert was hurt or simply faking injury to catch his breath is up to personal interpretation. Either way, it brings us back to basics:

“Your best player has to be your best person.”

Ovechkin is the best goal scorer in hockey, and yet, anyone familiar with the superstar knows he’s just as happy celebrating when a teammate puts the puck in the net. He truly is a team player in every sense of the word.

Haynesworth, on the other hand, prefers to be a loner, with many of his teammates admitting they know very little about him and have almost no communication with him on or off the field.

The only time it was suggested that Haynesworth attempted to bring the team together was when Haynesworth reportedly attempted to get his teammates to stage a protest by showing up late to practice Christmas day when he was unhappy with Greg Blache’s defensive system. This, of course, was reported after Haynesworth went public questioning why the team would even bother to sign him if they weren’t going to use him the way he thought they should.

Basically, the few times he’s bothered to open his mouth, Haynesworth has primarily been concerned with Haynesworth. Yes, he has said positive things about his teammates, but did so during the same conversation he called out his team’s defensive coordinator. Not exactly what you’d want to hear from your “best person,” huh?

We don’t want to speak on behalf of Leonsis or anyone else, but Haynesworth’s action don’t really seem to go with Auerbach’s guidelines. You get the feeling that these leaders would probably sacrifice having a supreme talent like Haynesworth or Arenas around for the good of the team.

No one knows for sure how Leonsis would handle Haynesworth unless Daniel Snyder improbably decides to sell the Redskins and Leonsis swoops in to take over the burgundy and gold. Things get interesting though with the Wizards, a team Uncle Teddy can and will acquire if he wants to. We’ve seen what he’s been able to do with the Capitals, it’ll be even more interesting to see what he can do in his second act should he ultimately decide to take on Arenas and the Wizards.

We have no doubt that if he decides to acquire this town’s beleaguered basketball franchise, he’ll continue to follow the guidance of the great Red Auerbach as he tries to turn the Wizards into something more than a national punchline. Those words of wisdom have helped turn the Capitals into a model franchise in every way. Wizards fans can only hope Leonsis brings their favorite squad more of the same.

And for the love of God, if this article does nothing else, please let it serve as a warning to owners debating whether to sign a player to a $100-million deal. Say it with us:

“Your best player has to be your best person.”

13Jan

learning from leonsis

(courtesy photo)

Yesterday Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column about the state of the D.C. sports scene which he appropriately summarized as “misery loves company.” In it, Boswell addressed the sorry state of the Redskins, Wizards and Nationals.

The article gives reason for cautious optimism with names like Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan, Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman taking over for failures like Vinny Cerrato, Jim Zorn, Jim Bowden and Manny Acta, although admittingly darker days are ahead for the local basketball team. Noticeably absent from the miserable list is the name of the hockey team. The Capitals, who despite falling asleep at the wheel last night, continue to be the only hope for success in the local sports world.

Led by owner Ted Leonsis and general manager George McPhee, the Capitals went from doormat to legitimate championship contender thanks to a lengthy rebuilding plan. Because Leonsis is quite possibly the most fan friendly owner in sports today, he was kind enough to share his plan for that rebuilding phase. We’re posting it here in hopes that it might end up in front of the respective front offices of the Redskins, Wizards and Nationals.

What I have learned about a rebuild to date: A 10 point plan. A Washington Capitals perspective:

1. Ask yourself the big question: “Can this team – as constructed – ever win a championship?” If the answer is yes, stay the course and try to find the right formula. If the answer is no, then plan to rebuild. Don’t fake it. Really do the analytics and be brutally honest. Once you have your answer, develop the game plan to try to really win a championship. Always run away from experts that say, “We are just one player away.” Recognize there is no easy and fast systemic fix. It will be a bumpy ride. Have confidence in the plan. Trust and verify: the progress – but don’t deviate from the plan.

2. Once you make the decision to rebuild, be transparent. Articulate the plan and sell it loudly and proudly to all constituencies, the media, the organization, the fans, your partners, family and anyone who will listen. Agree to what makes for a successful rebuild. In our case it is “a great young team with upside that can make the playoffs for a decade and win a Stanley Cup or two.”

3. Once you decide to rebuild bring the house down to the foundation. Be consistent with your plan and with your asks. We always sought to get “a pick and a prospect” in all of our trades. We believed that volume would yield better results than precision. We decided to trade multiple stars at their prime or peak to get a large volume of young players. Young players will get better as they age, so you have built in upside. Youngsters push vets to play better to keep their jobs, and they stay healthier, and they are more fun – less jaded by pro sports.

4. Commit to building around the draft. Invest in scouting, development, and a system. Articulate that system and stay with it so that all players feel comfortable – know the language – know what is expected of them – read the Oriole Way. It worked and it is a great tutorial. Draft players that fit the system, not the best player. Draft the best player for the system. Don’t deviate or get seduced by agents, media demands, or by just stats or hype. Envision how this player will slide into your system.

5. Be patient with young players – throw them in the pool to see if they can swim. Believe in them. Show them loyalty. Re-sign the best young players to long term high priced deals. Show the players you are very loyal to them as compared to free agents who achieved highly for another team. Teach them. Celebrate their successes. Use failures as a way to teach and improve. Coaches must be tough but kind to build confidence.

6. Make sure the GM, coach, owner and business folks are on the exact same page as to deliverables, metrics of success, ultimate goal, process and measured outcomes. Always meet to discuss analytics and don’t be afraid of the truth that the numbers reveal. Manage to outcomes. Manage to let the GM and coach NOT be afraid of taking risks, and make sure there are no surprises. Over communicate. Act like an ethnic family – battle around the dinner table – never in public. Be tight as a team. Protect and enhance each other. Let the right people do their jobs.

7. No jerks allowed. Implement a no jerk policy. Draft and develop and keep high character people. Team chemistry is vital to success. Make sure the best and highest paid players are coachable, show respect to the system, want to be in the city, love to welcome new, young players to the team, have respect for the fan base, show joy in their occupation, get the system, believe in the coaches, have fun in practice, and want to be gym rats. Dump quickly distractions. Life is too short to drink bad wine.

8. Add veterans to the team via shorter term deals as free agents. Signing long-term, expensive deals for vets is very risky. We try to add vets to the mix for two year or three year deals. They fill in around our young core. They are very important for leadership, but they must complement the young core (NOT try to overtake them or be paid more than them). Identify and protect the core. Add veterans to complement them, not visa versa.

9. Measure and improve. Have shared metrics – know what the progress is and where it ranks on the timeline – be honest in all appraisals; don’t be afraid to trade young assets for other draft picks to build back end backlog – know the aging of contracts – protect “optionality” to make trades at deadlines or in off season; never get in cap jail. Having dry powder is very important to make needed moves.

10. Never settle – never rest – keep on improving. Around the edges to the plan, have monthly, quarterly and annual check ups. Refresh the plan when needed but for the right reasons – “how are we doing against our metrics of success and where are we on our path to a championship.” Never listen to bloggers, media, so called experts – to thine own self be true. Enjoy the ride.

This list is especially interesting considering it is widely believed that Leonsis will take over ownership of the Wizards in the not-too-distant future. When we get some time in the next week or so, we’ll try to take a good, hard look at the Wiz and this plan and see what we can come up with. Until then, we should all continue to give thanks for having Leonsis and the Caps in our life.

08Jul

same old, same old

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Sorry for the lack of updates, folks. But lets be honest – the Nationals are still comically bad. The Wizards are on the hook for nearly $6 million because they’re over the luxury tax limit,and still have a long way to go before being considered a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals, this area’s one consistent winner, are enjoying their summer vacation and the Redskins are a month away from the start of training camp. Simply put, there’s nothing new to report.

29Jun

a history lesson

(courtesy photo)

Call us crazy, but we’ve always strived to uphold the motto – work smarter, not harder.

If we’re going to continue to talk in clichés, then we could also throw in that we don’t go out hoping to recreate the wheel or some other equally trite phrase that essentially means use history as your guide or you’re doomed to repeat it.

Basically what we’re saying is, if you’re the Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld and you’re sitting at your desk wondering what the best way to build a winning team … well maybe you should look at other successful business models and copy that formula.

The most baffling part of this is that all Grunfeld really needs to do is walk down the hall of the Verizon Center and pay a visit to Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee and he’d be on the right path.

We bring up Grunfeld and McPhee because last week gave locals a unique chance to compare and contrast two different men going about building their teams two completely different ways.

On the one hand you have “Big Ern,” who has openly admitted he’s in “win-now mode.” He feels he’s got a veteran team with a small chance to win a title and should add the last few pieces in hopes of bringing owner Abe Pollin a second NBA championship.

Grunfeld sees his current roster, led by Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas, in a “glass half full” kind of light. In four of the six years he’s been calling the shots here in D.C. these guys have been good enough to get the Wizards into the playoffs, which is no small feat for a franchise long considered a league doormat (see: the Wes Unseld Era).

Once your team is regularly able to qualify for the postseason, we guess it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re just a piece or two away from the league’s elite. There’s no sense in bringing in young and inexperienced players that your coaches will have to spend extra time and effort whipping into shape just so they can ride the bench, right? In the immortal words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, sweetheart.”

On the other side of the spectrum you have “GMGM,” who is now reaping the rewards after having made one of the toughest choices a general manager can make. You see, a few years back he was in the same situation as Grunfeld’s Wizards are now. His veteran (i.e. – aging and injury prone) Capitals were good enough to make the playoffs every year, but not do any real damage once they got there.

But instead of sitting back with his feet kicked up on the desk, McPhee decided to blow up his roster and rebuild. He knew the Caps were never truly going to be a threat to win a championship unless he built the franchise the right way. He knew there would be ugly nights during the grueling rebuilding process, but at the end of the day he knew it would be worth it.

We bring this up because we couldn’t help but chuckle last week as the fifth pick in the NBA draft, the one the Wiz traded away two days prior, was used to select future superstar point guard Ricky Rubio. At just 18, this kid has already earned a reputation as a once-in-a-generation talent – a kid with amazing passing abilities and even better court awareness.

Grunfeld has said since the draft that the only player he would have been mad about missing out on had they fallen to the fifth pick after he traded the pick away was Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. Of course he did. Because what good would it do for him to openly question himself two days after trading the pick to Minnesota?

But the truth is, Rubio is the kind of kid who makes everyone around him better. Sure, there’d be an adjustment as the rest of the Wizards got used to having a legitimate point guard running the offense (as opposed to Arenas’ shoot-first, pass-second mentality), but that’s not a bad thing.

If you want to run and gun, then why wouldn’t you want Rubio, who is more than capable of setting up the rest of the roster for easy baskets with his highlight-worthy passing game? The Phoenix Suns became “must-see TV” once Steve Nash became their point guard. When’s the last time the Wizards were in that category?

This current construction of the Wizards is not championship material. Even with a healthy Brendan Haywood and the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, this team is still not a lock to be an elite squad in the improving Eastern Conference. Not when Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and others continue to find ways to retool their rosters.

And if you’re not willing to blow it up and start over like the Caps (or even the Portland Trail Blazers or Oklahoma City Thunder), then you could have at least added a player like Rubio that would, from day one, greatly improve your rotation.

Instead we’re left with a Wiz team that will have to overachieve to win 50 games next season. And while that’s unlikely, here’s what we’ll more than likely see – this same team, that’s won just one playoff series since Grunfeld came to town, will end up finishing right around .500 and getting eliminated in the first round. Again.

D.C. sports fans can get mad about it or they can do something about it. Show your support to the Capitals. It’s the least you can do to say thanks to the one team around town with a legitimate chance to bring home a title in the near future. Meanwhile, stay away from this Wizards team. You already know how it’s going to end. History has shown you. Hopefully, unlike Grunfeld, you’re smart enough to take notice.

24Jun

wiz don’t just stand there, bust a move

(courtesy photo)

If you learn nothing else about Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld, know this – if he has the fifth pick in the draft, he’s going to trade it.

Five seasons ago the Wiz shipped the fifth pick in the draft, which ended up being point guard Devin Harris, to the Dallas Mavericks along with guard Jerry Stackhouse and forward Christian Laettner for forward Antawn Jamison. Since then, Jamison has been the captain of the Wizards and a great locker room guy for a young and sometimes immature squad. Paired with Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas, Jamison has guided a normally irrelevant Wizards team to the postseason four out of his five seasons in town. And on a personal note, he’s averaged at least 19 points a game and 7.6 rebounds per season since he came to D.C. All of this shows why Washington refused to move Jamison last year at the trading deadline.

Well, here’s hoping that Big Ern walks away from this one smiling too.

Reports last night indicated that Grunfeld did it again, trading the fifth pick to the Minnesota TimberWolves along with forward Oleksiy Pecherov, forward Darius Songaila and the expiring contract of center Etan Thomas for guard Randy Foye and forward Mike Miller.

Folks who cover the team for a living say the Wiz were contemplating seven players had they kept the fifth pick in what is universally considered the weakest draft in recent NBA history: Davidson point guard Stephen Curry, Southern California swingman DeMar DeRozan, Memphis point guard Tyreke Evans, Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn, Arizona State shooting guard James Harden, Arizona forward Jordan Hill and Lottomatica Roma point guard Brandon Jennings.

Those same beat writers say that the team was convinced none of those players would be good enough to start immediately, which is why Grunfeld (who is in “win now” mode) was so willing to move this pick.

Let’s take a look at what the Wizards were able to move – you’ve gotten rid of Thomas (who was due to make $7.35 million this year), who was once a serviceable player, but has been largely inactive over the last two seasons due to health reasons. And nothing against Pecherov ($1.6 million) or Songaila ($4.5 million), but let’s be honest – neither has even been mistaken for an integral part of Washington’s championship aspirations. Most folks in town couldn’t even tell you what number they wore.

Coming to town we have an excellent outside shooter in Miller, who will earn $9.75 in the final year of his current contract and an young guard capable of scoring in bunches in Foye, who will take home $3.6 million. Quick math shows the difference in what the Wizards traded away in salary for this season versus what they got back is nominal (roughly $100,000), but the fifth pick in the draft is due to receive $2.7 million and that would have pushed the team into luxury tax territory for being over the salary cap.

Besides the monetary aspect of this deal, there’s the fact that the Wiz just acquired two talented players.

Miller can flat out shoot. On a team of streaky jump shooters, he is finally someone the Wiz can count on to consistently knock down big three pointers when the game is in the balance. He’s a 40 percent three-point shooter, has won rookie of the year (2000-01) and the sixth man of the year (2005-06) honors over the span of his nine-year career. And best of all, he’ll contribute more next season than the Thomas/Pecherov/Songaila combo would have … by himself.

And that’s before we even factor in Foye, the 25-year-old who was one of the only reasons to tune into T’Wolves games last season. For those not familiar, he’s a former Big East player of the year, NCAA all-American, and NBA all-rookie first teamer. He’s 6-4, and is strong and athletic. Oh, and he scored more than 16 points per game last year.

Without looking at the roster and just factoring in who is leaving town and who is coming in, this is a great deal. The bigger issue is the overabundance of guards on the roster and a complete lack of big men other than Brendan Haywood and JaVale McGee. You can try to argue that Andray Blatche should be on that list, but let’s be real – he’s bringing nothing but disappointment to the table.

Conversely, here’s the breakdown of players currently on the roster who can line up at guard: Arenas, Javaris Crittendon, Foye, Miller, DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young and the expiring contract of Mike James. That’s seven names for two positions. Clearly Grunfeld has more work to be done, which would address our other chief question – why now?

Why would the Wiz pull the trigger on a deal two days before the draft when there’s a chance Minnesota or another team could sweeten the pot once we get closer to the draft? The best reason we can figure would be that this is step one and the sooner Ernie finalizes this deal, the sooner he can move forward.

While we would have loved to see Curry come to Washington, we can’t argue Grunfeld’s track record. Since he came to town he’s turned a doormat into a team that, when healthy, is competitive and entertaining.

His biggest mistake during his time here as a general manager was matching the contract offer the Milwaukee Bucks threw at Thomas, but he’s now righted that wrong. We’re not comfortable giving $111 million to Arenas, who we often refer to as a one-legged, me-first point guard, but again, Grunfeld has earned the right to take that gamble.

It’ll be interesting to see where the team goes from here, and if nothing else, the Wizards continue to evolve into a highly-entertaining squad that can trade buckets with the best of them.

27Mar

note: only in washington

(courtesy photo)

Over the last several years, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to the Washington Redskins, and recently I have also begun covering the Capitals. I’ve never tried to attain a media credential for the Wizards, mostly because they suck.

But if I did have a credential, I would use it to track down Gilbert Arenas and tell him one simple sentence – “don’t do it.”

Word on the street is that Arenas, who seemingly a lifetime ago was known as Agent Zero, Hibachi and a relevant basketball player, is planning on making his triumphant return to action this weekend after being sidelined for nearly a year due to a knee injury.

While it’s great to see a player anxious to bounce back from injury, this is quite possibly the worst decision Arenas can make. Doesn’t he know that this year’s Wizards are on the verge of something special?

Had the Wiz not rallied to steal a 95-93 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at home last night, they would have become the first team in NBA history to go winless in their division for an entire season. Now, they’re 1-14, meaning they’re bad, but not bad enough to be memorable. For the year Washington is currently 17-56, which is the second-worst record in the league (ahead of only Sacramento, who is 15-55). Again, bad, but not enough to actually do any good.

If the Wizards were to finish with the worst record in the NBA, it would increase their chances of landing the number one overall pick, which means they’d be able to draft Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin to help turn things around. But because they’re the Wizards, I don’t even know why I’m getting my hopes up.

When healthy and at their best, Washington is a fundamentally flawed franchise. General manager Ernie Grunfeld is one of the best in the league, but what he’s built in D.C. is a team of jump shooters who either cannot or will not play defense. They can’t score tough baskets when the game is on the line and they give up entirely too many easy buckets to their opposition which means, best-case scenario, they’re good enough to qualify for the playoffs but have zero chance of doing anything once they are there. Teams that can’t score tough points in the paint don’t last long in the postseason, but because the bar was set so low for so long, no one seems to actually acknowledge this.

Click here for the full article.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

19Feb

note: no end in sight

(courtesy photo)

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to root for a basketball team that has a fucking clue.

Seeing well-run franchises like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs able to effectively run their teams on both an immediate and long-term basis is almost disheartening to a Washington Bullets/Wizards fan.

The Spurs land a number-one pick and draft a cornerstone like center Tim Duncan. Washington gets Kwame Brown. The Celtics acquire a grizzled veteran like Kevin Garnett and sail to yet another NBA championship. The Wiz somehow convince the greatest player of my lifetime, Michael “Freaking” Jordan, to play in D.C. and they can’t even sniff .500. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

But at some point you get used to the ineptitude. You embrace the mediocrity. I mean, the franchise surely did when they dropped confetti and threw a party just for qualifying for the playoffs a few years ago. And who cares if the current version of the Wizards is, at best, good enough to qualify for the postseason but flawed enough to ensure the second round is a pipedream? When they’re this bad for this long, a first-round exit is a welcomed distraction.

That’s why I was able to live with the stories coming out of D.C. this week about our beloved basketball team. Comcast Sportsnet did a sit-down interview with general manager Ernie Grunfeld in which he said (with a straight face) that he wouldn’t change a thing if he knew then what he knows now about signing a one-legged Gilbert Arenas to a six-year, $111 million deal this past offseason and I didn’t even hit up the liquor cabinet. During the same interview Grunfeld said he isn’t second guessing any other moves that led to his Wizards’ 12-42 record and I somehow managed to avoid throwing the remote at my television.

Unfortunately, a day later, I lost it. You see, I can put up with a lot, but the Washington Post pushed me over the edge when they ran a story on Grunfeld that started with the following paragraph:

Ernie Grunfeld’s plan was to sprinkle talented youngsters and veteran role players around a core of three star players. Then he would watch the team progress deep into the playoffs, perhaps to a long-awaited second NBA championship.

Now I’ve never met the gentleman who wrote this particular story, but he clearly, unlike me, was unable to avoid drinking when the topic of the Wizards came into play.

Anyone who thought this team of streaky jump shooters who continually refuse to play defense was capable of doing anything more than selling popcorn at the NBA Finals should be forced to wear a helmet while riding the school bus. For this writer to even mention the word “championship” in a Washington Wizards article is a more egregious foul than anything Jayson Blair ever did.

Later in this same article, the writer suggests that there’s a silver lining to this pitiful season because the team “has a good chance at landing a high pick in the draft lottery.” That statement is then followed up with this turd in the punch bowl:

However, because the Wizards already have such huge financial commitments, there is a decent chance Grunfeld will consider trading the pick.

Um … what?

The only reason people are willing to live with this lost season is because there’s hope that Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin or someone of his caliber will ride into town and save this sinking ship. Now the Wizards are floating the idea of trading away the draft pick in order to rid the franchise of Etan Thomas’ bad contract? Really? Someone thinks that’ll go over well?

Click here for the full article.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

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