Wizards bring back team president Grunfeld on new deal

Associated Press
4/24/2012 4:09:13 PM
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WASHINGTON -- The question put to Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld was simple and to the point: Does he feel he deserved a new contract? The Wizards, after all, are wrapping up a fourth consecutive season of far more losses than wins.

Grunfeld's response Tuesday was direct, too.

"The important thing," he said, "is Ted felt that."

That was a reference, of course, to Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, whose decision it was to keep Grunfeld in place. Leonsis did not attend Tuesday's news conference announcing the move.

He did say in a statement released by the team: "Ernie has led the charge to rebuild and change the direction of the Wizards."

Washington is 86-224 over the last four seasons, including 18-46 in 2011-12. That's the second-worst record in the NBA, despite a current streak of four wins in a row.

"Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do. This is Year 2 of a three-year rebuild, so we're moving to a direction where we want to be more competitive next year," said Grunfeld, whose contract was set to expire after this season.

He was hired in June 2003 to run the Wizards, and with the help of All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler -- all acquired by Grunfeld -- the team made four consecutive playoff appearances.

But with a downslide that included Arenas' legal trouble for bringing guns into the locker room, Grunfeld essentially started to rebuild again from scratch.

"We're going to have another high pick that we're going to have to get into the mix so it remains to be seen exactly where we are in that rebuild," Grunfeld said. "But I think that in the last month or so you've seen a lot of progress form our young players."

The retooling included constructing the team around point guard John Wall, taken by Grunfeld with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Before this season's trading deadline, Grunfeld shipped talented-but-slow-to-mature young players JaVale McGee and Nick Young. In exchange, the Wizards added Brazilian big man Nene.

"He makes a difference out there," Grunfeld said, referring to the 10-year centre. "He knows how to play the game. He's a very intelligent player. He's savvy. He's one of those players that commands respect from the opposition as well as his teammates."

Grunfeld described Nene's acquisition as similar to a free-agent signing, but said the Wizards have salary-cap space for this off-season.

"It's been a process for us. Obviously, we've been very transparent about what we're trying to do. We had a game plan and we wanted to rebuild through the draft with younger players, put ourselves in a good position from a salary-cap standpoint moving forward," Grunfeld said. "I think we've really made some good progress. I'm excited about being a part of it moving forward."

Ernie Grunfeld (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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