Remember when you were a kid, and you’d always hear “good things come to those who wait”?
Being D.C. sports fans, we know all too well what waiting feels like. Actually, it’s like being a D.C. resident when you think about it, waiting in a sea of brake lights just to get somewhere. But Wednesday night’s D.C. Triple Play of Happiness is a strong sign of a break in that traffic.
I know it’s not the first time we’ve had Caps and Wizards playoff wins garnished with a Nationals win, but let’s step back and realize what we’re seeing here: progress.
Redskins aside, the other three major sports franchises in this town are all consistent playoff teams with rising expectations. Yes, those expectations vary by fan base, but in the end, they’re all respected organizations in their sports. We anticipate every season being more than just a .500 year.
Patience is the reason for this, and you know who’s been the most patient of all (aside from the fans, of course)?
His ability to look long term is paying off with not one, but two winning franchises.
We’ve been predisposed to this assumption that incompetence is automatic with GMs and owners because of the Redskins’ track record, so we’re watching every other franchise through drunk goggles.
Luckily, we can all sober up. The Nats took their time to build through their farm system to get this core together — a few trades were in there, too — and the Wizards and Caps were given their own time to build through a slow growth process as well.
Look at how Leonsis operated with, gasp, Ernie Grunfeld. The guy that seems to rank just behind Vinny Cerrato as the biggest piñata for D.C. sports fans has actually done his job, and deserves more credit for it.
Yes, drafting Jan Vesely was bad. But go back and look at who else was taken after him in 2011. Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard both fell into perfect situations, and there’s no guarantee they’d be the same player here. Oh, and by the way, other teams passed on those guys too. After Thompson and Leonard, there wasn’t much else to pick from.
“But Nick, don’t forget the Mike Miller and Randy Foye deal!”
The only players of note that went after the fifth pick in 2009 were Steph Curry and DeMar DeRozan. Like Thompson, Curry is overachieving and thriving in a system tailor-made for his skill set. DeRozan is a nice player, sure, but I don’t hear many Wizards fans yelling about missing out on him. That just might have something to do with the shooting guard Grunfeld drafted later.
Grunfeld got rid of Kwame Brown for Caron Butler, brought in Antawn Jamison for a declining Jerry Stackhouse, and despite the fact that he eventually ruined the initial foundation, the signing of Gilbert Arenas was the right move at the time and had major benefits.
No one would have predicted the situation that would break up that team.
Yes, Nick Young and Javale McGee were immature clowns, but that’s what you get the majority of the time you draft in the mid-first round in today’s NBA. Grunfeld also moved on from those two instead of trying to shove them down our throats to show they still had value and pad his ego.
John Wall is an outside MVP candidate and he wasn’t even considered the only choice at No. 1 when Grunfeld took him in 2010 (see Evan Turner). Bradley Beal had his doubters. Otto Porter has developed into a solid piece. Markieff Morris was a steal of a trade. Oh, and the guy that got the best out of this team, Scott Brooks, also a Grunfeld/Leonsis move in case you forgot.
He may have set some bad fires, but Grunfeld was able to put them out and repair the damage almost seamlessly. How many mistakes have you made in the last decade and a half at work?
No GM gets it all right.
Leonsis also gave George McPhee almost two decades to build his team. Yea, we know the playoff failures, but I’d take what the Capitals are now versus the alternative we’ve already seen.
You don’t remember what I’m talking about you say? That’s because no one does, and no one cared when the Caps were in the basement and weren’t worth watching. It was almost like it never existed. That era is like an urban legend at this point.
Don’t forget the Caps still have a chance to erase all those nightmares of playoffs past this postseason.
McPhee may not be here anymore, but his fingerprints are still all over this current Capitals era we benefit from, and Leonsis gave him that time.
The most successful franchises in sports know it’s about patience if you want to build long-term success.
Yes, it’s hard to be patient as a fan. We want instant gratification. Organizations know that, and some cave under the pressure and make knee-jerk reactions.
But unlike everything else we’re inundated with on a daily basis with instant gratification, building a winning franchise takes a lot of failure first, and seeing the big picture.
We’ve suffered through so much of that failure, and even though there’s sure to be more, because this is what sports does, patience has led to progress, and that progress has led to actual hope again as a D.C. sports fan.
UPDATE: Danny Rouhier, of Grant and Danny fame, disagrees with Nick Ashooh’s assessment. His response:
Nick Ashooh is an on-air personality for 106.7 The Fan. He previously worked at WTEM for eight years. Follow him on Twitter: @NickAshooh