Editor's Note: Bumped to front. Major thanks to thewiz06 for taking the time to do this. -Mike
As DavidDunn posted a week ago, Ted Leonsis hosted a Chalk Talk at Verizon Center a couple hours before our game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which we won of course. I was there, DCrez was also there though I am not sure if he asked a question.
Here were the three questions that a general consensus of us wanted answered:
- Fortunately, Ted gave a definitive answer on at least question 3, but he hit issues that can answer question 2, and possibly also on question 1, now that I have had some time to reflect on this.
- At the beginning, Dave Johnson, our play by play radio announcer had the honors of introducing Ted. Ted then gave a summary of thoughts on the team so far. In short, he is not happy with the performance of the team, but told us that there were three previous games that we should have won, which were the home opener vs. New Jersey, the January 6 game vs. the Knicks, and the January 8 game vs. the Wolves. If we won all these games the fanbase may feel considerably different than we do right now.
- As you might expect, Ted parallels the Wizards rebuild with the Capitals rebuild, noting that the Caps experienced some turbulent starts. In the 2nd year of the all out rebuild, they started out even worse than in the first (I forget the exact record, but the start was bad). Ted also noted NBA teams in this, most notably the Chicago Bulls (which DCrez noted), where their rebuild took 12 years to complete. I am assuming that he meant that the rebuild took 12 years from the blow up after MJ retired through the first year they returned to the Eastern Conference Finals.
- If there are three things that Ted promised us for a rebuild, here they are. The draft, trades, and free agency. From his famous 10 step plan, I would assume that these are in order since he was also quick to note that the Bulls drafted most of their foundation with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose, and the Seattle SuperSonics drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook before moving to Oklahoma after the Key Arena lease issues were resolved.
- Question by Question Details
Q3. Do you see any benefits to having a dedicated farm team? What criteria will the Wizards organization have to meet before purchasing a D-League affiliate?
- I asked a very similar question to Ted, and I thank him that he called me out because it was looking like I wasn't going to get my 15 seconds of fame. I did note in my question that the Caps had the Hershey Bears AHL team to bring in a cycle of more players ready to play in call ups, and that Bruce Boudreau was their head coach before leading the Caps to their current level of play.
- He said that we have a D League team affiliated with us already, but also understood that my question was in regards to Monumental Sports acquiring a team to join the other three he owns already. In short, he was considering a D League team and recognized the merits of the farm system, or at least this was the impression I got. However he did say that the Wizards are a rebuilding team, and most of the players we draft need to show what they can do right now in the NBA.
- If and when we have a playoff contending team in the near future, it is possible we could have more of our draft picks playing in the D League on assignment, especially if it is apparent that they aren't going to play many minutes on the Wizards. I know Hamady is on assignment, but I would think he's back here in DC eventually.
- And to compare the Hershey Bears to the Iowa Energy, the AHL is a separate league from the NHL whereas the D League is part of the NBA, and Ted doesn't own the Bears, though he would have to agree that the AHL works for the NHL by developing young and/or raw talent.
Q2. When assistant coaches Wes Unseld, Jr and Mike Wells left the team no new hires were added to the coaching staff. What was the rationale?
This question was never asked specifically, but this question underlies a bigger issue, which is if Ted is instructing Ernie to make moves in order to save money, and if he is making decisions on the front office/coaches based on financial/business reasons. One of the Junkies at WJFK (106.7 The Fan), Eric Bickel wrote a blog a couple days ago which accused him of that.
Ted denied that any move he made or did not make was because of the need to save money. He noted that the Capitals are a Top 3 team in player/related costs, which is his way of telling us that if the team has a legit chance to contend and the Caps do, then he will do what it takes to keep high performing Wizards players here, even if it means paying the tax. So hopefully this allays some fears in the BF community that Ted is cheap.
Q1. In the second year of the rebuilding process, what are the three most significant benchmarks for this year that you are tracking to see whether the Wizards are on the right track to be a contender down the road?
Ted didn't answer this question but I can piece together these things from other things he said in different questions and his introductory remarks. Ted wanted to see some continuity with the players John Wall has around him and wants them to have sufficient time. He did imply that our bad start may be partly due to the lockout and the lack of formal coaching in the long offseason. That is probably his biggest benchmark. How well are these guys playing with Wall? Another benchmark is how good are the draft picks? One STH who asked a question was pretty critical of Jan Vesely getting drafted in the first place, and Ted essentially said we gotta give him sufficient time.
We know what Ted wants to see in order for the Wizards to be on the right track which include good chemistry among the players around Wall, and how good the post-rebuild draft picks are developing, and also the impact draft pick we will get in 2012. Of course, coaching and how well the players respond to that is a factor. Ted hit those points in various questions in some form.
1. One question that was asked is about the lack or perceived lack of notable free agents wanting to wear Monumental Red on the NBA team. Ted noted that our area is a great place to live which we all know. He also used another Caps parallel, where Alex Ovechkin played for some bad teams, and many NHL fans thought that he would try to bolt DC after his rookie deal for a traditional NHL power such as Montreal, Boston, and NY among others. Instead he has embraced the rebuild, loves this city, and signed a large deal. Ted stated that Wall has embraced the rebuild, and also loves this city. He also noted that the Wizards have to examine free agency each year based on who was available. For 2011, you can't blame the Wizards for not going after anyone in a perceived weak year. This summer, well, that's a different story.
2. Ted noted differences between the STH base and the casual Wizards fan/non-STH base. He said that the vast majority of STH's are all in for the rebuild, and that they are patient to see how things could be though hopefully we don't have to wait 12 years from Gungate's aftermath until the Eastern Conference Finals. Non-STH's were more likely to be impatient and email him a message saying "Let's rebuild the rebuild."
3. We had a giveaway where one person would win a pair of baseline courtside seats, and another person would win four VIP box seats (behind the basket but inside the hockey rink). The winner of the baseline courtside seats asked a very pointed question to Ted questioning Flip as the coach as well as the general nature of the team as of late. He was one of the $50 Carmine's Gift Card winners in the Post Game show with Glenn Consor (he has that therapeutically mellow voice that calms us down after games). I hope he feels much better after tonight's game since he got a free dinner and Bud Light at the Courtside Club with the VIP seats, not to mention a collective win. DCrez noted this in a previous comment.
That's what I got out of from Ted's talk. I hope I didn't misconstrue his comments totally, but I thought it was good that he was there to speak to the season ticket holders.