Rafael Suanes-US PRESSWIRE
Editor's note: Scroll down for today's links. -Mike
In Part 1 of the Bullets Forever community's e-mail Q&A with Ted Leonsis, the Wizards' owner discussed his general team-building philosophy, the recent trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the team's salary-cap management, the decision to keep Ernie Grunfeld as general manager and much more.
In Part 2, Leonsis discussed some more specific discussion topics, including the team's player development infrastructure, their use of advanced stats, the performance of the medical and training staffs, the selection of Tomas Satoransky instead of a more NBA-ready player in Round 2 and more.
As noted yesterday, we really appreciate Leonsis taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. I can't think of many other sports owners who would even be open to this kind of Q&A arrangement. For Part 2 of Leonsis' Capitals' Q&A, visit Japers' Rink.
BULLETS FOREVER COMMUNITY: As you noted in the Washington Post interview, player development is a key point of emphasis for the organization. You mentioned the need to hire additional coaching staff and shooting coaches, but what are some of the specific plans for developing key components of the team, such as John Wall, Bradley Beal and others? In your evaluation, were there flaws in the player development infrastructure in the past, and if so, what were some of those gaps?
TED LEONSIS: The biggest gaps were somewhat out of our control. We have now owned the team for basically two years. We took ownership in June 2010 and set our strategy shortly thereafter, but we didn't have the benefit of time to plan as we all would have liked heading into the 2010-11 season. Then the lockout occurred, and while it was necessary, it also stunted our ability to coach and develop our young players during the summer. We then had a quick turnaround to begin the 2011-12 campaign. So this will be the first year that we have had the appropriate time to plan and implement and have a full off-season to work with our players. We also will have a full training camp this year.
We visit each of our players and work with them and their personal trainers to ensure they are following the off-season program specifically designed for them. When we visit with them, we continue to share and gather information - it is a continual dialogue between player and team. We have spent time with them during the NBA Summer League as well as when players gather in L.A. or in other cities around the country or when they return here to D.C. There is definitely more off-season coaching and interaction than in the past. The level of communication with our players this summer has been fantastic.
We have hired one assistant coach -- Don Newman, previously with San Antonio -- and without getting too specific, I expect us to add another coach in the not-too-distant future.
BF COMMUNITY: You've spoken a lot about the importance of the team's investment into new technology and advanced statistics. (Editor's Note: also from the Washington Post interview). Can you elaborate on some of the ways the organization plans to use these tools? For example, will SportVU and Joe Still be used more for scouting other teams, looking at future draft picks, evaluating the existing talent to determine their market value in future contract, or a combination of all of these areas?
TED LEONSIS: The sort of technology that you have referenced is relatively new to most teams, and we are learning as we go. We are in the process of building our database with our players as well as players around the league, and eventually this technology will help us in determining player and even team tendencies.
For example, we will be able to determine statistically when a player may excel -- or struggle -- against an opposing player. We will be able to isolate the highest probability of success for a given play based on the personnel on the court.
We also use this information when evaluating players on other teams as we contemplate acquiring a player through free agency or a trade. Recently we signed A.J. Price to add some depth to our backcourt. We used our statistical analysis to determine that when Price was on the floor for Indiana, the Pacers were No. 1 in NBA defense efficiency. When he wasn't on the court, the Pacers fell to 16th in defense efficiency. So that gave us some additional important information when we were doing our due diligence prior to signing him.
Immediately following games we will have a clearer picture of what worked, what didn't work and what adjustments need to be made. Our coaches use iPads daily to show video and explain to players what changes need to be implemented. It gives the player a visual of what needs to be rectified as well as providing positive reinforcement of successful execution. This is all part of coaching in today's NBA.
BF COMMUNITY: How does the organization evaluate its doctors and those in the strength/conditioning department? Obviously, injuries can be impossible to predict, but a couple former players (Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas) have publicly criticized the way their injuries were treated, and there have been a number of ongoing issues with current and former players (Trevor Booker's foot issues being one example this year). As such, a lot of fans have asked about the team's medical staff. How fair do you think these criticisms are?
TED LEONSIS: Like most teams in professional sports, we look at the types of injuries our players sustain and the overall man-games lost. We then compare and contrast that information with other NBA teams.
Unless I have had a direct conversation with a former player, I frequently discount those sound bites and question the context of their comments. We look at the overall body of work and how it compares with others. I put much more weight in the comments of coaches and players on our current roster.
Remember, injuries are frustrating for everyone, but it is paramount for a player to follow the advice and the rehab program prescribed by our team doctors and athletic trainers -- that's just part of an individual player's responsibility to himself, his teammates, ownership and the fans. Failure to do so demonstrates a lack of commitment and professionalism.
BF COMMUNITY: Most fans are very excited about the team's first-round pick, Bradley Beal. However, reaction to second-round pick Tomas Satoransky has been mixed. Can you explain why the Wizards decided to go with a player that won't be on the roster this year and may need a year or more of development overseas instead of a player with more significant college experience and perhaps could contribute right away.
TED LEONSIS: Sure, the simple answer and primary reason is we had him evaluated as the best remaining player available when it was our turn to make a second-round selection. We rank potential draft picks from No. 1 to No. 60. Much scouting and discussion goes into this list as scouts frequently meet and state their rationale for particular players and their order on the list. The list goes through countless versions and revisions before the final list is derived.
After those discussions, which are ongoing throughout the year, we put together a top 60 list, post it in the draft room, have consensus amongst our staff and make our selections accordingly. Granted there are times you may deviate from that list, but at this stage of our team development we are in the process of accumulating the best overall talent available.
It doesn't bother us that Tomas will have another year to develop in Spain. Playing time is important for him and his overall development. This led us to the signing of A.J. Price, who has three years of experience, and who will be able to provide immediate help and will give us a more experienced player as a back-up point guard. He is a young player with upside as well. So now we have eight players under rookie contracts instead of nine players.
Like all draft selections, time will tell if the pick was productive or not. We can use all the video, statistical modeling and conduct numerous personal interviews, but the draft is an inexact science.
BF COMMUNITY: Back in June, you mentioned plans to build a practice facility similar to what the Capitals have with Kettler Capitals Iceplex. How are those plans coming along and what's your timetable for having it ready for use? Also, besides the signs that will go up outside the arena, are there any more upgrades to the Verizon Center facility that fans can expect in the future?
TED LEONSIS: The process of constructing Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the Capitals practice facility and community rinks in Arlington took us nearly 10 years from when we first conceived the idea until completion. It is a world-class facility and our fans love it. It also is a great community gathering place for hockey and recreational skating.
We are in the very early stages of exploring a facility for the Wizards, and we have not determined a location. It is a priority project with lots of work ahead of us, but I don't want it to take 10 years.
The City Council legislation regarding exterior signage at Verizon Center was a tremendous step for us, but there are additional approvals that need to be in place. We are committed to being collaborative with the surrounding neighborhood, but by the time we get all of the necessary approvals and order the signs, it might be anywhere from 12 to 18 to 24 months before signs are installed.
Our Verizon Center general maintenance and schedule of improvements is ongoing. From a visual perspective, fans will notice new flooring and carpeting as well as enhanced dining facilities. We are remodeling approximately a dozen suites and continue to add wireless connectivity for our fans. The general annual maintenance budget fluctuates between $5 and $10 million and sometimes may exceed $20 million - all in order to provide a first-class venue for our fans.