Sorry, just links today. I'm trying to regain that Wizards writing inspiration post-Summer League. It'll be back soon.
Anyway, by far the most significant thing that happened today was Ted Leonsis' radio appearance with Mike Wise and Holden Kushner on 106.7 the Fan. Dan Steinberg recapped everything on DC Sports Bog today, but some key highlights.
-By far the most interesting line of the whole exchange was this one, as noted by Steinberg.
Leonsis repeated that he wouldn't have traded the No. 5 pick last year, but that adding veterans fit in with the plan Ernie Grunfeld was tasked with, so he doesn't hold that against his front-office.
Kyle noticed this too and had this to say on Twitter.
It's a good point made by both, because clearly the Pollins had a ton of influence in Grunfeld's most recent moves. We suspected this, and it appears it's true. It's clear that one needs to spread around their ire at Grunfeld's recent moves, because a lot of them were not only his doing.
THAT SAID, before we completely absolve Grunfeld, remember that he has historically not been very adept at building through the draft. When he was the head general manager in New York, he traded away several picks and didn't find any young players that even made much of a dent in the Knicks' rotation. Patrick Ewing was a homegrown player, but Grunfeld inherited him. The other key contributors on those teams (Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, John Starks, Chris Childs, Charlie Ward, Latrell Sprewell, Charles Oakley, Marcus Camby, etc.) were acquired in trades or free agent signings. Now, granted, New York wasn't exactly building through the draft then, but it's worth pointing this out.
You've mostly seen the same thing thus far in Miwaukee and New York. His two lottery picks with the Bucks were T.J. Ford and Marcus Haislip. Ford was okay, but Haislip was a bust. In D.C. prior to this year, Grunfeld traded away a top-five pick in 2004. In all three places, he's mostly used free agency and trades to improve his teams, often overpaying marginal players (Houston, Anthony Mason, even Gilbert Arenas as some would say) to bring them aboard. That's not a bad thing, and Grunfeld has been relatively successful doing things that way, but it's also not exactly how Ted Leonsis wants to build his team. Surely Grunfeld can and will change, and he already has begun doing that this summer, so that's good news. I hope he keeps it up.
I guess all I'm saying here is this: while Grunfeld clearly cannot be exclusively blamed for making a move his owner wanted, let's not pretend that Grunfeld was kicking and screaming because he had to make moves against his will the last couple years. His track record elsewhere suggests a somewhat similar pattern.
Also from the radio appearance:
-Leonsis wants to improve the in-game experience at the Verizon Center, saying he is planning on "hundreds" of changes off the court. Among them: changing the lighting so that the court will be bright as the crowd is dark (something the Lakers and Knicks do), fewer annoying "DEFENSE" chants, less loud music, more homage to the past and (my personal favorite) cup holders in the bathroom so you can hold your beer.
"So they go to the bathroom and they put their beer [cups] in their mouth," he said. "Isn't that great? See that image in your mind's eye. We've literally been putting little ledges over the urinals so that people can put their cups, right? We know that sounds [funny], the ketchup sounds funny, building a little cup holder over the urinals, but we're gonna do hundreds of those kind of things, so the experience is great and it improves and fans know we listen to them.
Leonsis has already ordered over 200 pieces of tile to make this happen. I love this man.
-Leonsis also said he thinks the Wizards' backcourt of Wall, Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich is going to be one of the best in the NBA next year, and he added that he expects the team to play very fast-paced basketball.
He also said that this new Wizards team will get up and down the court, that "you're gonna see a team that puts up a lot of points and just runs the floor, because our big men can run and our guards are fast and we have a player in John Wall who likes to make all the players around him better. The big guys go down the court because they know if they hustle they'll get the ball and they score. That's what you want."
This is something to watch, because traditionally, Flip Saunders has been a very half-court-oriented kind of coach. In the early days of the Stephon Marbury/Kevin Garnett union in Minnesota, Saunders' teams were pretty fast-paced. Since then, not so much. Saunders' 2003/04 Timberwolves, who went to the Western Conference Finals, were 21st in pace, and his Detroit teams finished 29th, 30th and 30th. Granted, none of those teams had John Wall, JaVale McGee and the other athletes this team should have, so there's reason to believe Saunders was merely coaching to his personnel. However, Saunders has to prove he can turn his team loose, because he hasn't done that much in the last few years.
-Leonsis on Arenas, echoing stuff we've heard from him.
"If LeBron James can be a co-star in Miami, Gilbert Arenas can be a star and a co-star here in Washington, D.C.," Leonsis said on Mike Wise's 106.7 The Fan one-year anniversary show. "I communicate all the time with Gilbert. Obviously like anything in life, the proof's in the pudding, but so far I'm very very optimistic that Gilbert is really in shape, he's healthy, he's very very positive, and that he will be a really good contributor to our team. And I think we're going to have one of the best backcourts in the NBA. I think Wall and Gilbert and Hinrich are three high quality, very very good guards, and now we have to build the rest of the team."
-SBNation.com's Andrew Sharp talks a lot about John Wall in his Summer League recap. Among the nuggets in there: a funny anecdote from a cab driver's interaction with Wall and some thoughts on Wall's leadership out in Vegas. But my favorite part is what Sharp noticed about the relationship between Wall and assistant coach Sam Cassell.
But yeah, it was pretty great seeing Sam Cassell acting as his personal coach all week. Sure, Sam was nominally assigned to the entire Wizards squad, but after every break in the action, he'd pull Wall off the court to talk to him about whatever just happened. Every great young player needs a mentor, and in Cassell, Wall's got one built-in on the coaching staff.
It's a small point, but yeah, I have high hopes for the Cassell-Wall union. And if it leads to Wall ditching his sorta-lame dance in favor of the Cassell big-balls routine? Well, that's just an added bonus.
-Kyle Weidie has a really nice recap of Wall's Summer League for ESPN's Daily Dime here.
-More Steinberg: he transcribes Pam McGee talking on NBATV about how he takes notes for JaVale. This was a funny exchange.
"I'm a mom," she told NBA TV. "After they get to a certain age, they kind of get deaf ears, so a lot of times, my communication is too loud. I'll say YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD HAVE GOT THAT REBOUND. So I'll just take notes, and give him little cues, and he reads it. He's a cerebral person. Then he goes home and looks at it....We don't communicate, because after they get a certain age, you're the mom, you done told them to clean up their room, they don't hear you no more. So I just write notes, and he goes over them."
-The local TV ratings for the Summer League games were pretty awesome, to say the least.
-Here's some more on the personnel changes at Monumental Sports and Entertainment. The most surprising thing here is that Peter Biche is remaining aboard as the chief financial officer.
-Finally, Wall was named to the SEC academic honor roll for his performance in the classroom last season. That's pretty amazing.