Tuesday was Ernie Grunfeld day inside the Verizon Center media room. The Wizards' President spoke with reporters for 30 minutes about the just completed season and its two distinct halves, plus other topics including John Wall's contract, offseason priorities and steps needed for a playoff push.
J. Michael touched on the pressure Grunfeld feels regarding a postseason appearance next season. We'll flesh out more of those issues over the coming days, but for now here is a look at some of the day's highlights and quotes.
*Grunfeld, on whether another lottery appearance is unacceptable next season: Nobody is happy about that. We’re all competitive people. We all want to do as well as possible. If you’re realistic and see what happened and when we had our team, we had a team that could compete with anyone if had our pieces for the whole year – which we didn’t. There are no excuses. That’s a part of the game. We got off to that slow, slow start. It was hard to recover from that. Obviously, our goal for next year is to not be in that type of position and to put a team out there.
*On Randy Wittman's performance this season: I think Randy did a very good job for us this season. He kept the ship afloat. Kept the guys motivated. Kept them competitive on a nightly basis. We improved on the defensive end and that’s one area we really wanted to work on, because we feel if we’re going to be a solid team moving forward, you have to have a foundation and the foundation starts on the defensive end. That’s something you have to build on and you have to continue to work on, but Randy did a very nice job of putting the defensive concepts in there. The players bought into it and we fought hard on a nightly basis.
*On adding a veteran player and possibly doing so by trading a draft pick: We'll talk internally and we'll see what opportunities are there. We can get an old player anytime, but if the older player doesn't help you on the court, that's not the kind of situation we want to get into.
*On giving John Wall a max contract: I think John had a very good year, and he showed that he makes a difference on the team. There’s no question about that, and he’s eligible for an extension. July 1 is the first day we can talk about that, and we’ll have conversations with him, his representatives, to see if we can work something out
Obviously, we’ve said all along that we’re building this team around John and with John. We want to have him here long term.
*On offseason priorities: I think that the number one thing is that we need to get our players’ health right. We have to rest up this summer, get our health right, and come back next year with all our players, and then there’ll be some additions in the offseason, and those additions will be determined in the next 2-3 weeks. We’ll sit down. We’ll have our meetings. We’ll evaluate where we are and which areas we want to improve in. I think we have a fairly deep roster. We have 8-9 guys coming back. We’ll have six free agents on the roster, some of them might be back, some might not be back, and it will also depend on what players are available. You have to see who is available to you in the offseason, but I think we have most of our positions covered at this time, but of course you always want to improve.
*On injuries contributing to the 4-28 start: Look, that’s part of the game. You have to be able to deal with that, and we had to deal with it, obviously. I don’t think our players ever complained about that. But when you don’t have all your pieces together, you’re asking different players to play different roles, and I think that was the case in the first part of the season. Players that we brought in to do certain things had to take on different roles because we didn’t have all of our pieces, and the players were still trying to learn the system and learning what each of them can do. It’s an awkward situation at times for some of the players, but I think our players were very professional about it.
*On Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin taking a step back this season: I think this is a big summer for all of them. They all need to improve, they all need to work hard. They all have a plan this summer, they will all be doing different things. Obviously, we did add six new players and those players got significant playing time. Consequently, those players didn't play as much as they did the year before because we probably had better players this time at those positions and more experienced at this time. This is a big summer for the players and they have to improve. I think when they did get their opportunities, they had some productive moments, but it's hard to play on a consistent level if you don't have the consistent minutes.
Other notes from Grunfeld:
*He anticipates having Vesely, Singleton and Bradley Beal on the team's summer league roster along with any draft picks from this year and potentially Tomas Satoransky, Washington's second-round pick last year.
*Satoransky played this past season in Spain. Grunfeld said a decision about whether to bring the big guard to the NBA for next season has not been made.
*After summer league, Vesely will play for the Czech national team while Seraphin is leaning against joining the French national team.