All aboard! Washington Wizards prepare to leave rebuilding phase behind

USA TODAY Sports

The franchise narrative is finally changing.

This is weird. Al Harrington just signed with the Wizards. The Bulls and the Clippers had expressed interest, but he chose Washington.

For me, nothing embodied the Wizards stretch of free-agent futility more than Drew Gooden essentially refusing to suit up and play after coming to the team in a trade back in 2010. I was angered; didn't professionalism demand something more? I was embarrassed; professionalism or not, a player was openly disrespecting my favorite team and getting away with it.

And now the Wizards are getting a desirable veteran at a key position for the minimum while fringe contenders go hang.

Yes, there are mitigating factors. The likelihood of injury, the lack of effective depth, playing time being eminently available at a time when Harrington's free agent value has never been lower, etc. This is more of a win-win situation than a portent that the Wizards have ARRIVED.

But Harrington, in effect auditioning to the league for a final deal, has made Washington his chosen stage. The franchise narrative is finally changing.

A healthy Harrington gives the Wizards bankable depth in the frontcourt, essential to success in the grind of the regular season. A Stretch 4 has been high on John Wall's wish list, so to simply call Harrington depth on a team craving offensive spacing and Nene insurance is selling the signing a bit short. This signing is a win that should lead to more wins this season, and that's really the point.

The Wizards aren't fringe contenders yet and it will be exciting to see how far they can go, but it isn't any kind of an endgame. The quality veterans on board will play a big part in the success of this squad, but the effectiveness of Wall and Bradley Beal will swing the needle when it comes to making the Wizards a free-agent destination. If the Wiz's star goes high enough, there are a number of interesting possibilities for Ernie Grunfeld to explore as the trade deadline approaches. (I see you shuddering.) The Wizards are going to be looking hard to make a play for a transformational talent and it's on the young core to get the league's attention with the supporting cast finally in place.

Still, this signing, and this summer, is a sign that things are changing.

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