Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE
I just listened in to Ernie Grunfeld's conference call with the media following the Washington Wizards' decision to acquire Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick. For more on the salary-cap implications of the deal, click here.
Now, some notes from the call.
Opening statement: "We felt like we needed to add some veterans to the roster and we were able to do that with this move. In Okafor, we get a player that's a double-double guy for his career. He's a very good rebounder, defender, very professional in the way he handles himself. In Ariza, we get a wing player in the frontcourt that has been on a championship team, has been in the playoffs. He's a very versatile player that runs the floor very well, very good defender and is a hard-nosed competitor that can guard multiple positions. He brings a winning spirit, and he's only 26 years old, almost 27. He's a young veteran."
Does this trade affects the team's draft plans: "No. Not at all."
Why make the trade now, eight days before the draft: "This way, the players have more time to report, and we wanted to make sure we got things in order. It doesn't affect the draft. Teams are going to draft who they want to draft in front of us anyway. I think we'll know who the No. 1 pick is going to be, and if teams are lacking a certain player, they know who they're going to pick anyway. I don't think this trade has to do with anything [in the draft], as far as that's concerned."
Does this end the youth movement? "As we showed last year, the young players play better when there are solid veterans around them. I think that we showed that, after the trade for Nene, our young players blossomed. We still have one of the youngest rosters in the league ... next year, we'll have nine players on the roster who are on their initial rookie contract. As we've seen, players need leadership. They need guidance from the veteran players."
On if this ends the rebuilding stage: "We're trying to get better. We think we're a better team today than we are yesterday. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us."
On how this affects Andray Blatche's future: "I don't think it affects Andray Blatche's status. He's still under contract with us."
On Okafor's injury issues last year (he missed 27 games): "Okafor played the three previous seasons, he played 82 games, 73 games, 72 games. So he's been a very durable player in his career."
On why they didn't just buy out Lewis' contract: "It would have been for a player that doesn't give you anything. This way, you get two players that are going to give you something on the court at positions we wanted to fill, and we get those players at a pretty good price for the first year especially, in light of that buyout we were going to have to pay to Rashard."
On the general philosophy of trading for players instead of signing them in free agency: "You have to get one to agree to be able to get someone to sign with you, and you never know what the price is going to be to get someone. If you look at the free-agent list, you notice that, if see who is available in the free-agent market this year, it's not one of the strongest years in recent memory."
On the No. 3 pick: "I think we have some very good choice, and I think we're going to get a player who will be with us for quite some time. I don't think that we're depending on a rookie to come in and play 40 minutes a night for us either. That's why you have some more veteran players that come in and the rookies can learn from.
On how these players help John Wall: "We wanted to improve our rebounding, and I think Okafor helps there. As far as the defensive end, Ariza is a very good defender, but he's also a very good runner." He added that Wall and Ariza actually played pick-up together in Los Angeles today.