You'd never know it, since he always stands among other basketball players, but Ernie Grunfeld is a pretty towering figure. Of course, this shouldn't be that surprising, since he carved out a pretty solid NBA career, but the height is pretty striking when you are a sub-6' foot blogger standing next to him. Regardless, I caught up with Ernie outside the Cox Pavilion earlier today. We talked about his thoughts on the team's frontcourt, the Mike Miller/Randy Foye trade, the Wizards' situation with the luxury tax and his thoughts on how the moves by other Eastern Conference teams affects what the Wizards do.
He also asked a bit about the site, though I didn't catch that part on tape. He asked me how many commenters we have, how many hits the site gets and what type of fan it attracts (I told him several hundred, a couple thousand and dieharts, in that order).
Full interview below the jump:
Mike Prada: There are a lot of minutes available in the frontcourt. What do you think JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche need to do to earn those minutes?
Ernie Grunfeld: Well, they have to be consistent and learn the system, which they’re doing a good job of now. The main thing we’re looking for is consistency and improvement.
MP: There are a lot of minutes up there because of the trade you just made for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Why did you decide to take that trade? How would you justify it? What do you think Mike and Randy add to the team?
EG: You mean I have to justify it (laughs)? They’re two outstanding perimeter shooters, and they can both play the two position or the three position. They really help us with our perimeter game, which we struggled with last year. Randy [Foye] is also very young; he’s only 25 and he’s already proven what he can do in this league. Of course, Mike [Miller] has been a very consistent player [that was] Rookie of the Year, averaged double figures and one of the best three-point shooters to ever play the game. We got a lot of experience, a lot of versatility and a lot of high-tech shooting that we missed last year.
MP: There are a lot of guards on the roster and not a lot of big men. What might be in the works to maybe add another big man?
EG: Well, last year we had a lot of big men and not too many guards. There were a lot of big men sitting on the bench, which seems a little bit unlucky (couldn’t make out the word). We’re only going to play eight or nine guys anyway. With Brendan [Haywood] Andray [Blatche], JaVale [McGee], [Dominic] McGuire and Antawn [Jamison], there are five bigs.
MP: I noticed you mentioned McGuire. Is he going to play some power forward? Is that something you had in mind?
MP: What about Mike Miller [at power forward]?
EG: Depends on what combinations we go with. One of the things we really like is that we’re really versatile. We can really stretch the defense, and if you have to double team anyone on our team, we have outstanding shooting on the floor. You know, if something comes up [where we can add depth], that’s something we’ll look at, if it can give us a little more experience and a little more depth, but we feel really good about what we have. You know, the players we gave up, except for Darius, didn’t really play for us.
MP: Now, the Wizards are already a little bit over the luxury tax. How much does that play into the team’s decision-making?
EG: It certainly plays a role. You know, there are 13 or 14 teams this year that are paying the luxury tax. It’s something you always have to deal with [and] be responsible about.
MP: How does the luxury tax affect future moves that might be made? Is there a move that maybe can’t be made because you’re already over the luxury tax?
EG: I mean, once you’re over the cap, not just the luxury tax, you’re really trading dollar for dollar, so there’s really not an affect on trade possibilities because there’s really just changing money once you’re over the cap, not just the tax.
MP: There are a lot of guys on the Wizards whose contracts are expiring next year. How might that play into decisions down the road?
EG: The players always tell us what we should do by their actions. We’ll see how everybody plays, how everybody comes together and who fits into the puzzle that we’re putting together. The players really tell you that by their performance. (there was more but I couldn’t hear it).
MP: You see a lot of the moves that the other teams have made, like Boston, Orlando and Cleveland. How does that play into your decision-making?
EG: We’re just trying to care of our own business and let [other teams] take care of their business. They made some moves, but we also made some moves. We were the first to make a move, so everybody’s following us (chuckles).
MP: But knowing what they’ve been doing…
EG: What have they been doing?
MP: Well, the trade for Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace … Does that make you want to make another move?
EG: No. If you look around, Orlando traded for Vince Carter, but they lost [Hedo] Turkoglu, you know what I’m saying? [Something unintelligible]. We’re going to do what’s in our best interests, and everybody does what they feel is in their best interests. Orlando went out and got Vince Carter, but they didn’t re-sign Turkoglu. How that whole team comes together remains to be seen, but we’re not going to react to everybody else, we’re just going to look at our own situation. We really feel that we really have that talent this year.
(He then asked me how I felt about the team. I kind of dodged the question).
We then exchanged some small talk, at which point he went back to talking about the roster as it stands.
He talked about how he feels the team is at least three deep at every position.
"At the 1, we have Gilbert [Arenas], Randy [Foye], Javaris [Crittenton] and Mike James. At the two, we have DeShawn [Stevenson], Nick Young, Mike [Miller] and Randy [Foye]. At the 3, we have Caron, Mike can play there, McGuire can play there, Antawn. At the 4, we have Antawn, McGuire and Blatche. At the 5, we have Haywood, McGee and Blatche. You want to make sure you have at least two players per position, and we have three. You want to be sure you have at least one backup, and we have three because of injuries, so it’ll be interesting."
I asked him about how minutes might be divided, to which he responded "The players will determine who plays what."
Ernie definitely came across as a much more approachable person than I expected. Surely, Summer League played a role, and he did definitely say a little in many words, but I expected him to be more stand-offish. There were some times where he seemed to not like some of my questions, but after a quick ribbing of me, he answered them comprehensively, at least in length. I think there’s a lot hiding between the lines of this interview. It doesn’t seem like we’re going to see much more player movement, and it seems like it might take time for the minutes to sort themselves out.