Leonsis wants Wizards to push for playoffs
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis met with the media on Friday before the team's open practice, addressing a wide-range of topics including the time being right for a playoff push. Since Leonsis spoke for 30 minutes _ in addition to his one-on-one with our Wizards Insider J. Michael _, there are plenty of quotes to share and mull, starting with...
*On whether the signing of a veteran free agent like Al Harrington signals a change in team culture he's desired
Leonsis: "I do think the respect the fan base, the city, the organization is being given is enhanced. I do think this is going to become a destination for named free agents. I also think when you have young emerging players who want to be here, they express their gratitude to the fans, they love the community, they love the city, they want to win for the fans, that's a really, really good sign. When you get John (Wall) signed, getting that as a checkmark. Someone like Al, who is like a coach on the floor. He's been around. He knows good organization, good situations. He too wanted to be here. Likes the city, likes the front office, likes the players - and players talk. They know right away whether it would be a good situation for them to be in and will they be happy here.
"I view Al wanting to be here and the role he's already playing - he's very, very vocal. He can tell the younger players when a situation is good and when it's not. He's basically blessed that this is an organization on the rise, but there are still a lot of expectations to be met. I think we continue to take steps forward, but until we qualify for the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs and bring in the next generation of named free agents, it's all talk. That's where we are right now. It's time to deliver. "
*On what impresses him collectively about the current players, many of whom dealt with last season's early struggles
Leonsis: "There is a lot of character on the team and a lot of integrity of the team. They want to be successful together. The camaraderie and the chemistry I've seen has been very, very strong. I think they went through adversity together. It didn't kill them; it made them stronger. I think they know they have to work hard and be highly coachable, but the expectations are they're ready as organization and as a team to take the next step. So you can sense that confidence in them right now.
"We had a little step backwards with the injuries. I didn't see the wincing as we did last year. I think the team kind of shrugged it off and said 'OK, we have enough talent in the room. No excuses. We can still be a really, really good team and be a playoff team, get ready for the season.' It's very, very different, the level of maturity and emotional organization of the players is much stronger and higher than it's been in the past. But you would expect that. They aren't rookies anymore. The core is maturing. The sense is that they know what to expect, what it takes to be an NBA player and they're ready together to take the next step.