The question hung in the makeshift press conference area for 10 minutes, waiting to be asked. Everyone knew it had to be broached, but nobody knew exactly how to put it in a way that would illicit a somewhat substantial answer.
We already heard the questions about the "buzz" surrounding the team, the high expectations and the like. (Of course, we also heard the gospel choirs down the hallway that commandeered the normal press room in order to stage their own competition). All that was left was for someone to pull the trigger on the most contentious question.
Finally, Michael Lee stepped forward and put himself out there to Ernie Grunfeld. [Note: The next question isn't verbatim what Lee's asked. I honestly don't remember how he phrased it].
"So ... uhh about Gilbert Arenas' recent comments in the Times about his injury rehab."
"Obviously you get frustrated when things aren't going well. The bottom line is that he's healthy."
Someone else (again not verbatim): "Uhh ... could you possibly elaborate?"
"I've talked to him about it, it was a small part of the bigger conversation he had, but that's in the past. We've learned some things from it probably and he's learned some things from it probably. The bottom line is that he's healthy, he's feeing good and we're going to move forward from it."
If anyone came in expecting to here something significant from Ernie Grunfeld about that, then they would have left disappointed. Then again, anyone expecting Ernie Grunfeld to say anything earth-shattering about anything was probably going to be disappointed. These are GM's we're talking about, and Ernie's always been one of the most tight-lipped. It's just how he is.
Some more highlights from the press conference below the jump, besides the part about the Wizards' use of advanced stats.
Ernie on roster chemistry: "You can't just say 'Poof' and it's going to happen. It's a process. It's going to take some time to learn the system. It's going to take some time for Flip [Saunders] and his staff to figure out how they can best use the talent at their disposal."
Later: "Flip is going to have a lot of different options, and it's going to be a process to see which combinations work the best."
And finally: "It's not bad to have a deep team and compete for minutes. Have competitive practices. Have a competitive training camp."
(First user to suggest a "process" drinking game gets a gold star).
Ernie on building around the Big 3 (after tsk-tsk-ing Michael Lee for mentioning that "some writers, media people" (rather than a specific person) have criticized that strategy: "I think that when they did play together for an extended period of time, they won a lot of games."
Ernie on defense: "Obviously, we have to put more of an emphasis on the defensive end. Players have to buy into it a little bit. Now, look, we're not going to give up on the offensive end -- we're a pretty good offensive team and have a lot of firepower. It's just doing the little things. The conceptual things are going to be a little different, and the players themselves have to buy into what you're doing."
Ernie on Andray Blatche: "We're not asking him to come in and average 15-20 points a game. We're just asking him to come in, play hard every single night and do what the coach asks of him."
Ernie on Flip Saunders' style: "He and I were laughing [about how] his playbook is so thick. Well, out of that playbook, he may only use 3 or 4 of the pages depending on what works for the current players that he has. It's going to take him a little bit of time to see the players and get familiar with their strengths and weaknesses."
Ernie on the Wizards' 2010 expiring contracts and free agents (somewhat misunderstanding Michael Lee's question IMO): "We'll have to see where the cap is and act accordingly. But that's next summer. We'll deal with those issues, but obviously we'd like to keep those players."
Ernie on sponsored practice jerseys: "Not yet, but that's something that might be in the works."