WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Ted Leonsis has made it clear he isn’t going to address the expiring contracts of Wizards head coach Randy Wittman or general manger Ernie Grunfeld until after the team’s playoff run has concluded.
And if he hasn’t made that clear, he did Thursday in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, when Leonsis was asked where he was in his evaluation of Wittman and Grunfeld, and if they’d met the goals he’d set forth for them at the start of the season.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about people’s contracts when you’re in the playoffs,” Leonsis sharply responded.
“What I’ve said all along, and all I’ll say is, I only can worry about what I’m dealing with on a one-to-one basis with management,” he said. “And when we bought the Wizards not even four years ago, I made the assessment that there was less risk in blowing the team up and starting from scratch, than there was in trying to build around it.”
If you can read anything into any of his words, in an attempt to try to gauge which direction Leonsis may be leaning, it should be these words — looking back on how Grunfeld has rebuilt the team since blowing it up — which you should read into.
“We had lots of conversations with Ernie, and Ernie was very, very straightforward with me, which was ‘Well, I can guarantee you that you’re gonna be really, really bad if you …’ we played five rookies the first year that we owned the team,” Leonsis said. “We had five starting players who were rookies. And we weren’t trying to tank; we just had so many first-year players.
“And now, I remind people that we have three players on their rookie contract that start: Booker, Wall and Beal. That’s a highly unusual setup, but Ernie’s done a really fine job of adding to the team, a good group of young players and vets. And so we articulated that we wanted to make the playoffs, that this was an important year, and we did.”
And you could also (you certainly don’t have to) maybe read into these words — in which Leonsis describes monitoring how his Wizards responded to Wittman calling a timeout during one specific playoff game — and perhaps draw some idea of which direction he may or may not be leaning.
“And everyone in the organization has done a good job, but it starts with the players, and then the coach,” Leonsis said. “There was a moment in the game in Chicago, the other night, where the little voice in my head that momentum had changed, the crowd was really into it, and my voice said ‘I wish he would call a timeout.’ And just as I said that, Randy called a timeout.
“And I always look at, what does the team do after the timeout when the coach calls the play. Our pregame preparation, and we’ve got a bunch of analytics and stats, that show what’s the right lineup and when they have their five players, which of our five players play the best, and with these high-speed cameras we even look at, if someone’s defending you 12 inches, or 18 inches, or 24 inches in front of you, or how many times should we cut.
“And the plan showed that against Chicago, when we had one man cutting, what we shot, two men cutting, and three men cutting. And we had great shooting percentage when we had three players cutting, and we shot deeper into the shot clock. And the play was drawn up, and it was textbook, and it ended with John going hard to the basket and throwing the ball out to Bradley Beal who hit a pretty wide-open three point shot. And just that segment, where we stopped the momentum, we called the timeout, we called the right play, we executed to the pre-game panning, I felt we were gonna be okay.”