So we know that the Wizards are 0-5, are without two key players and have a third key veteran hurting (Antonio Daniels). This begs the obvious question: Where does this franchise go from here?
Yesterday, President Ernie Grunfeld, as is his style, was not very revealing when he was asked about moves he may be considering.
Grunfeld: "Basketball is a team game and you need contributions from all of your players, and we're not getting that right now."
Is he considering any changes?
Grunfeld: "We're always looking to improve the team if we can, but we believe in these guys. These guys have gotten it done for us in the past and if we stick together, play hard and play aggressive, good things can happen with this group."
On the surface, it doesn't appear that Grunfeld has a whole lot of options when it comes to this roster. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison just signed huge extensions and Caron Butler is a two-time all star with a deal that runs through 2010-11. Assume that Arenas is unmovable. Trading either Jamison or Butler would essentially require Grunfeld to admit that his philsophy regarding this team the last four years has been totally wrong.
Also remember that both Grunfeld and Coach Eddie Jordan have been strapped by an organization that gets the shakes anytime the luxury tax threshold is approached. Thus, players like Roger Mason Jr., Matt Barnes and James Posey were never seriously considered this summer. Any of those vets would help this team tremendously right now.
As for the remainder of the roster:
Antonio Daniels, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have deals that expire following next season, and, according to folks around the league I've spoken with, Daniels and Thomas won't be appealing until next summer or next season because any team wanting them will do so purely because they value the expiring contract.
The Haywood situation could depend largely upon how quickly JaVale McGee comes along. Then again, maybe Ernie decides to re-sign Haywood and play them together.
Regardless of the trade proposals, I don't see Ernie wanting to take on long-term deals because his best chance for having real money to spend will be during the summer of 2010 after Daniels, Thomas and Haywood come off the books.
Darius Songaila has a player option for the 2010-11 season that would pay him $4.81 million and it's hard to imagine him not picking that up, so good luck moving him unless he's thrown in to sweeten a deal involving another player.
DeShawn Stevenson, who has not played anything like a starter for a playoff-caliber team so far this season, has a deal that expires following the 2010-11 season when he is set to earn $4.15 million.
Andray Blatche would be appealing because you can always find a GM willing to gamble that his team can magically get the light bulb to come on (I'm really starting to wonder whether that will ever happen with the guy, but he is only 22), however, his contract is so favorable for the Wizards (he signed a five-year deal worth around $15 million last summer) it's hard to get equal value in return. What kind of player are you going to get for $3 million a year?
As for Eddie Jordan, I assume that he is safe for now given the fact that Arenas and Haywood are out and the fact that his option for next season was picked up this summer. The thing I can't measure is the limit of Grunfeld's patience and/or that of Abe Pollin, who has been extremely patient over the years.
One interesting note on Jordan: Yesterday, he was asked about the amazing longevity of Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan, who has won a million games in a million years in Salt Lake City (okay, so it's 1,001 games since December of 1988, but who's counting?).
Jordan's response (see if you can read between the lines here): "It means that he's got tremendous support, number one. It means that he's had terrific players except for a few years when they were down and then they get the No. 3 pick and Deron Williams and they get a free agent in Carlos Boozer and it means that even in some non-playoff years, he stayed the course and believed in his principles and again, he had tremendous support."
Either way, the pressure on this team is going to seriously intensify if the losing continues. However, a win tonight over the Jazz (which played last night) and a win Friday in Miami (not out of the question) calms everything down and changes the perspective a little bit.
We all saw that last year after the 0-5 start. Bottom line: Grunfeld either has to be super creative and/or bold in tearing this team up during the season or, he has to be super patient and let things unfold. The second option means sticking with Jordan (changing coaches in the middle of a season almost never works anyway), watching the young guys come along and wait for the right opportunity to shake things up.
My take: It's still way too early to panic. We're five games in. Let's see how the next month or so unfolds.
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