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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Will the Wizards' rebuild work?

By LaVar Arrington

The Washington Wizards basketball team has seen its share of ups and downs this season -- from John Wall being named rookie game MVP to Andray Blatche getting into Twitter battles with fans and the departure of Gilbert Arenas. This team has fought through many challenging situations this season, but I believe there is a silver lining in all of this.

Ted Leonsis has made it very clear that things may get a bit worse before they improve for this ballclub, but he believes he can build it.

The owner's transparency in this entire process seems to have created a sense of trust among fans and team officials. Although it's never easy to change a loser into a winner, there is a sense that there is a plan and they intend to stick to it.

Leonsis made a similar proclamation when he acquired the Washington Capitals.

So far he has not disappointed. After learning some lessons the hard way, his philosophies have turned the Washington Capitals into a Stanley Cup contender, and with bold and calculated moves, the Caps are among the NHL's stronger organizations.

How did Leonsis do it? By putting the right decision-makers in place, from General Manager George McPhee to Coach Bruce Boudreau. Then the process of evaluating players took place, keeping the good ones and cutting loose the rest, drafting talented young players and developing them in the minor leagues and then transitioning them up to the NHL.

If this approach worked for the hockey team, I see no reason why the same process would not yield the same results for the basketball team.

The Wizards have a special talent to build around in Wall; the team just acquired a first-round draft pick through a trade, most likely giving them two in the first round.

They have unloaded some very heavy contracts, most notably Gilbert Arenas's. I see a cleansing process taking place.

It will take time, but the key to success is having a plan and sticking to it. Flexibility is always needed, but that's part of the plan being able to adjust on the fly.

The future is bright for the Wizards, even though it's not easy to see right now. Only time will tell if the Wizards will flourish, but the owner has a plan that he is willing to share with the people who truly matter: the fans.

By LaVar Arrington  | March 3, 2011; 1:45 PM ET
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Ted Leonsis is the man! I believe in him and all his improvements with the Capitals, Mystics and Wizards. Its just gonna take time and patience. My favorite thing Ted Leonsis has done so far is putting cup holders in the Verizon Center rest rooms. Its great to have a place to put my beer. Before i had to hold my beer with one hand and my wizard with the other!

Posted by: MrWillie | March 3, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the Wizards is that they do not have the leadership in place to give them a smooth Transition like the Caps. Ernie has done nothing more than try to keep his job. The player that he has brought in through the draft have serious character flaws and he can not retain the vet's that are traded in here.

The wizards are a bad product getting worst. McGee and Blatche are selfish cancers that need to be cut out.But what happens? Blatche is given an extension and us Wiz fans have to watch games where players quit.

The draft could be a great opportunity. However seeing the draft picks that ernie has brought in soo far (not counting Wall because he was a no brainer) I think it will be a dissapointment.

Posted by: cgshelton | March 3, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

In order to step up into the league's elite group, we will need not one but TWO great big men. Right now we don't have any.

If we get two big men to play with Wall, Young and a small forward to be named later, (Lewis, maybe, or Howard, but neither of them look like it so far) THEN we'll become winners. But where will we get them?

You got me there. Great big men are hard to find. We had Unseld and Hayes once, though, remember? If we could find 'em then, maybe we can find a couple of 'em again.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | March 3, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Another weak @ss article by Borington. Stating what we already know without any analysis is worthless. Who'd is this guy banging to keep this job.

Posted by: evolvedthinker | March 3, 2011 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Lavar Ass-ington talking b-ball? Man I'm praying the CBA in the NFL comes to term so this Clown would just disappear!!!

Posted by: joe12341 | March 3, 2011 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Why fans like Mr. Willie (HA!) are so enamored with Leonsis is a mystery to me. With all of their talent, the Caps have done little in the playoffs. If the Wizards had the best regular season record but lost in the first round of the playoffs, the team and ownership would have been run out of town.

Posted by: larryrob | March 3, 2011 10:53 PM | Report abuse

After decades of Abe Pollin insisting that the Bullets/Zards keep putting band aides on gaping chest wounds in order to sell a few thousand more tickets THIS year, it is awesome to have an owner who is willing to have the team power suck for a while on the way to competing for a championship. I don't think this team will be competing for rings next year or the year after that. But maybe in 3 or 4 years they will have something. Better to try to win it all and fail than to constantly try to stay mediocre (instead of dreadful).

Posted by: dolph924 | March 4, 2011 12:50 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Willie,
Please for the love of us readers,we don't want to know what you are holding in one hand or the other hand ok?Keep it down,all of it!!Thanks.

Posted by: joe12341 | March 4, 2011 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Great article. Ted is the man and it's a shame he didn't buy the Redskins in 1999. They would be competitive today.

Posted by: johnjdawson623 | March 4, 2011 8:14 AM | Report abuse

They had better count on the draft because not one talented veteran would want to come the Wizards ie Bibby. Washington has become the backwater of the NBA that neither Stern or the major powers in the NBA Boston,LA,Miami, Chicago would want in the playoffs.

Posted by: MARKHAGNER | March 4, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

The problem in the NBA is that a team needs two great players to compete at the higher levels, and there aren't enough of those players to go around. So management can have a great plan, but if they don't get lucky in the draft (like the Spurs) or keep or lure top free agents (like Boston or Miami), the plan still won't create a top tier team.

Although great players are needed in the NFL and NHL as well, the impact of one player is more diluted than in the NBA, just because he is sharing the field or ice with so many other players. A collection of really good players can overcome a great player on the other team more easily in the NFL and NHL.

But YES, having a plan and sticking to it gives a team the best chance of reaching the top, and I am thankful for it. But it's only a chance.

Posted by: etin | March 4, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

1. 1st and foremost, the Wiz as a team and organization look at themselves as losers. that's yet another holdover from the Pollin era. the attitude and effort to win does not flow from the top down. the acceptance of this sorry state has existed since the 80s. Trust me, i remember when the Bullets were a novelty team with 5-3 Mugsy Bogues and 7-6 Manute Bol. there has not been an attitude towards winning in 30 years. Folks knock the Jordan era. but Jordan exposed the fact Pollin was running a 2nd rate organization. Jordan may not have been Jerry West, but he exposed things about Pollin to me.

2. For the NBA you need to cut the bull. The NBA needs 2 prime talents and a valued 3rd to even be competitive. The rest of the team has to be just as solid for their respective roles. The Wiz have guys that don't think nor understand they are role players at best, but they are playing big minutes. Wall is a talent, but we don't even know which talent he is. i don't see him as the #1 guy like a Kobe or even Derrick Rose.

3. As a fan I understand the current state and the formula for change. However, when the current leadership was part of the delusional thinking (Grunfeld) of the past which led to this current state, I don't have much faith. Every move that Ernie has made has bought himself more time and not necessarily worked to improve this team.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 4, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Lavar must be smoking something! The Wizards will not be competitive in the East for another 5 or 6 years. No legitimate stars want to come here plus Miami, Orlando, the Knicks, and Chicago are just too young and too good!

Posted by: oakiedokie1 | March 4, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Having a rebuild plan with younger players is great, but you still need to have an elite player or two to win in this league. Why do you think other teams are giving away anything to get/keep an Amarie, Carmelo, LeBron, Kobe, Dewayne, Gasol, etc? All the teams with elite player(s) have winning records to this point and are going to the playoffs!! By the time young players develop, they become free agents and can bolt before you surround them with a winning team. Free agency is the name of the game in the new NBA. Can't stockpile young talent and hold onto it forever as in the old days. Heck, even Kareem Abdul Jabbar was traded. I agree with oknow1, that although Wall is a talent, I don't see him as a top flight player. The draft will bring some good players who need to develop, but there are no David Robinsons, Michael Jordans or Kobe Bryants comng out in the near future.

Posted by: garrybrown | March 4, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

LaVar, you bring nothing to the table. If I were you, I'd quit writing and maybe take up flag football on the Mall.

Posted by: gaholtzman | March 4, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Grunfeld may not be the best GM but he is far from the root problem with the Wiz. Abe Pollin poisoned the Bullets since the championship year. He demanded the sorts of moves that got made, and put the mediocre and thoughtless leadership in place that made the decisions.

True, Grunfeld carried out Pollin's wishes so he could keep his job. Now he will do what Leonsis tells him and build a team the best way he knows. This will be years in the making, as with the Caps, because as with the Caps the Pollin poison has to be purged. And if Grunfeld makes poor moves Leonsis should replace him, but first Grunfeld will be given plenty of rope to hang himself.

Posted by: nationalsanthems | March 4, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The rebuild will work if that is defined by releasing and signing players twice a year so that most of the players you see now will be replaced by other players next year. Just keep scooping water off the boat before it sinks! Poor Ernie. What a mess!

Posted by: richs91 | March 4, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

MrWillie appears to put it all in good perspective

Posted by: richs91 | March 4, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Gunfeld should be fired for that ridiculous Arenas contract.

Even if Pollin ordered it, there's no accountability on this team, starting at the top.

His other moves have been suspect, including trading away our draft picks before last season, for what?

Posted by: impeachemall | March 4, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Plain and simple, Ernie and Flip need to go after this season, especially Ernie! He has been here since 2003 and before this season, he had been batting 0.000 in the draft. As everyone agrees, Wall was a no brainer, and thank goodness Nick Young is finally coming into his own. But other than that, the organization has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to show for 8 years of drafts with Ernie at the helm. So let's see, that's 8 drafts at an average of 2 picks a year, take away the John Wall no-brainer, and the one lone success story is Nick Young. So that makes him 1 for 15 in draft picks that he actually had to put some work in behind the picks. Granted... that total number of picks may be a little lower when you factor in 2009, when he punked out and totally punted on the draft all together with that wasted trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, which of course, also flopped. As Charles Barkley would say... "that's Turrrible!!!"

Posted by: PortisPocketsStr81 | March 4, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Hindsight is always 20-20. Please let the Arenas contract thing go. He's gone. At the time Arenas was one of the top 10 players/scorers in this league. and if Ernie didn't sign him and lost him to another team, the entire Washington area would have run him out of town. Who could forsee the knee injury causing this much havoc in his young career? Heck Stodimiere came back from microfacture and eye surgery. At the time his contract made sense. Heck Rashard Lewis is making similiar $$ and I never saw him as the dynamic player Arenas was pre injury! So Ernie gets a pass on that signing, since Pollin was adamdant that we not lose Gilbert

Posted by: garrybrown | March 4, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

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