The Wizards went into the offseason on a high note on a six game winning streak, tanking be damned. Watching the John Wall/Nene Hilario pick and roll close out the Heat, watching Kevin Seraphin post-up while wearing a grin instead of a grimace, seeing Jan Vesely explode and finish in the lane, watching effective defense...I'm riding high, as well. And the team is entering a crucial offseason, but tempered offseason expectations may be called for.
Objection: Ted said, 'we plan to be GOOD.' Ipso facto: amensty Andray Blatche, buy out Rashard Lewis, sign [IMPACT FREE AGENT], draft [PERFECT FIT PICK] and it's the playoffs and up!
That's certainly possible. But 'we plan to be GOOD' doesn't promise anything, (certainly not a free agent signing). He may as well say, 'we expect to be BETTER.' And that's an extremely safe stance to take. The deadline trade (whether you believe it's Nene's presence or JaVale McGee's/Nick Young's absence) was the straw that stirred the drink. And Ted has faith in his staff and players such that the mix won't stagnate over the summer.
The most important offseason development in DC this summer is going to be player development. You know, the same department that's taking it on the chin in light of JaVale McGee's "ascendence". Now, one of the Ten Points is:
10. Never settle--never rest--keep on improving. Around the edges to the plan, have monthly, quarterly and annual check ups. Refresh the plan when needed but for the right reasons-- "how are we doing against our metrics of success and where are we on our path to a championship." Never listen to bloggers, media, so called experts--to thine own self be true. Enjoy the ride.
Ernie Grunfeld is coming back on the strength of his performance metrics since the implementation of the Ten Point Plan, and so, too, will the player development staff. Now, I was furious along with the rest of you after the Mike Wise/Pam McGee interview. It was organizational touch-and-go, a potential watershed moment, but Ted stuck to his guns and the team has, apparently, come through it none the worse for for wear.
Now you can argue JaVale should have had a big man coach from the beginning. Personally, I'm all for Ted taking a Cuban-esque approach and hiring individual coaches for every player. At the same time, it's hard for me to listen to a millionaire's mom crying to the press that her son isn't provided a personal coach for free. A favorite example of players receiving personal coaching is Hakeem Olajuwon's tutelage...except it definitely isn't a 'the mountain must come to Mohammed scenario':
The tutoring is a bit underground for league circles, spent out of the eyes of other NBA teams at a gym near [Hakeem] Olajuwon's home in Houston, where he spends the summer of each year before returning to his wife and seven children at his home in Amman, Jordan. Though usually lasting no more than a few hours for a few days, Olajuwon's lessons are personal in nature, custom-designed to take advantage of a player's unique skills and teammates.
Trevor Booker went out and got himself a jumpshot, injuries cutting a stay in Israel with B'nei Hasharon short. Once he learns how to take elbows in the face from 230 lb. Carmelo Anthony only stunned him for a moment. Kevin Seraphin, who started playing basketball at 15 (!) stayed extremely active with the French national team, played for Caja Laboral and successfully adjusted to the NBA game with a suddenly patient and dangerous post game. It's reasonable to assume that when Ted looks to next season, he looks for comparable progress from the 2011 draft class. If Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and even Shelvin Mack follow suit, the Wizards will be a fringe playoff team. Should Nene remain healthy, that could very well be where they are now. But don't kid yourself; when Ted Leonsis says 'we plan to be GOOD', it's not a promise. It's an expectation, and all that that implies.
The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 30th. T minus 16 Days, and counting.