Hanrahan: So what now for the Wizards?

Hanrahan: So what now for the Wizards?
December 19, 2010, 7:48 pm
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Sunday December 19, 2010 2:32 p.m.

By Frank Hanrahan


With Washington President Ernie Grunfeld somehow able to pull off that deal and get guard Gilbert Arenas and his hefty contract headed to Disney World to play for the Magic, the Wizards are certainly now in full-fledge rebuild mode. Only three players remain from the start of last season in forwards Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young.

This trade allows us to continue to rebuild around our core group of young players and provides financial flexibility as we move forward, said Grunfeld. Were thrilled to have been able to accomplish those goals while also getting back a two-time All-Star in Rashard Lewis, who brings us versatility, three-point shooting and a veteran presence."

This was a matter of dollars -- and sense. The sense to deal Arenas, who including this season, had four years and 80 million dollars still owed to him, while Lewis has two years and about 43 million dollars coming his way. It was a no-brainer by the Wizards brain trust to get Arenas's money off their books, possibly paving the way for the Wizards to go after free agent talent in two years when Lewis's deal would be up.

"We are all on the same page, Ted (Leonsis) has laid out what he wants to do and what our plan is and I think we have tried to follow that path and we have with building through the draft and building with young players," Grunfeld said.

In his first year as Wizards owner, Ted Leonsis made it very clear before the season that wins were going to be tough to come by but creating a winning culture was paramount. Leonsis blogged the day after Arenas was dealt, preaching patience and belief in what his team is trying to do.

"I have been unabashed in noting that we have to rebuild around our core of young players. We will suffer though a lot of pain but we will be stronger for it. The rebuild will take along time for us to get to where we want to be - an elite team," Leonsis blogged.

Wizards rookie guard John Wall is the centerpiece of the rebuild but he has been hobbled all season by knee and foot injuries. "We have said all along that we are rebuilding and that we are going to do it with youth and John is going to be the focal point of that," Grunfeld said.

When Wall does return from injury it will be his team to run but until then, veterans Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and now Lewis have to hold the crumbling fort up.

Dealing Arenas could benefit Young the most as he started for the first time against Miami, scoring 30 points in the heartbreaking 95-94 loss to the Heat Saturday, dropping the Wizards to 6-19 on the season. Young will miss Arenas but welcomes Lewis to the mix. "Another veteran, leadership, a scoring big, he can shoot the jumper too, we should be alright."

Wizards forward Josh Howard returned from knee surgery and looked spry for the first game out scoring 13 points in the loss to the Heat. Last February, Howard was moved from a contending Dallas team to bottom feeder Washington. Same scenario now for Lewis, so does Howard have any advice for him? "Just come in and play. I mean situations happen you just got to make the best of it. We got the right pieces right now to keep growing and to get better and that's all we can do until our peak hits and it's just a matter of time. So we will keep trucking away."

Notes: Wizards guard John Wall revealed that he has a bone bruise under his right kneecap and he will likely miss the Charlotte and Chicago games this week. No timetable for the rookie's return. The Wizards have lost 7 straight and host Charlotte Monday Night. The Bobcats have struggled out of the gate with a 9-17 record.