Shortly after the Wizards beat the Pacers on 111-98 on Thursday night, the players headed out their separate ways for All-Star Break. Many players will take a quick vacation while hotel prices are lower now than other times of the year. John Wall on the other hand, will head to New Orleans for his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. It also happens that he has an entourage with him.
We all know Wall’s happy to spend some time at the bayou. But it just so happens that Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards’ President of Basketball Operations made a swaggy pose right side the entrance of a private jet.
Really, it’s him! Let’s take a closer look:
Really, the man’s cracking a smile, and ready to live the high life with some R&R in Louisiana!
As you might expect, life’s been kinda tough of Grunfeld lately. Many give him crap over the infamous 2011 NBA Draft when he brought Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton to town. People are quick to point out that he didn’t have the foresight to reach for Kawhi Leonard in 2011 with the first round pick, or select Draymond Green instead of Tomas Satoransky with the Wizards’ 2012 second round pick.
Grunfeld’s also an easy target since the Wizards’ 2015-16 season, when he essentially put them in a holding pattern for Kevin Durant.
Unfortunately, Durant thought that the Golden Gate Bridge is a more historic attraction than the Washington Monument. Markieff Morris should have never been a Wizard in the first place. Scott Brooks, a coach who was good only because he had KD and Russell Westbrook should have been passed over for Frank Vogel or Dave Joerger, who never showed the interest Brooks did.
And that Andrew Nicholson signing. I get it’s not max money, but .... yikes.
Though Ted Leonsis said he’d judge Grunfeld from 2010-11 on, Wizards fans have a loooooong memory. They want Grunfeld burned at the stakes for signing Gilbert Arenas to a mega deal, which I think we can all agree is the worst signing in NBA history. And he traded their 2009 first round draft pick for a one year rental of Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
I get it. A lot of you want Ernie Grunfeld fired yesterday or several years ago. But consider this over the past few seasons:
- The Arenas deal indirectly gave the Wizards the assets needed to sign Marcin Gortat. Arenas was initially for Rashard Lewis in the 2010-11 season. But Lewis was traded before the 2012-13 season for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. And in the following season, Okafor was traded to the Phoenix Suns for the Polish Machine. By the way, Wszystkiego najlepszego, Marcin!
- If Kawhi Leonard was drafted in 2011 by the Wizards, I think many of us would have scratched our heads that he was picked too high. While Leonard has emerged into an NBA franchise player for the Spurs, I don’t think the Wizards had the system in place to mold Leonard into that type of guy. You could also make the same case for Green, though he wouldn’t have had to deal with Nick Young, JaVale McGee (who’s a Warrior himself now), or Andray Blatche. What I’m saying is that system matters as much as the players who are drafted.
- Grunfeld can also be viewed as the uncredited savior of the Washington Mystics. In 2012, he helped set up the referrals and initial contacts to get Mike Thibault interviewed, and ultimately hired as the team’s General Manager and Head Coach in late 2012. Considering where the Mystics were at that time, Thibault probably didn’t have much interest working for Leonsis. But thanks to Good ol’ Ernie, the misconceptions around Ted as the Mystics owner were debunked. Four years later, the Mystics have Elena Delle Donne AND still have the best young players from their home grown core.
- Finally, the dude is livin’ the good life and is part of John Wall’s crew since 2010!
Okay, for those of you Ernie haters out there, let me be clear. I’m not the biggest fan of him myself. He’s not a particularly good drafter outside of the lottery. He has made trades that fixed past errors — and he’ll probably have to do so again.
But like Randy Wittman, who often didn’t get enough credit as the Wizards’ head coach from 2011-2015, Grunfeld deserves his as well. He is the best GM the Wizards had since they won the 1978 NBA title over the Oklahoma City Thunder. I mean the then-Bullets winning the 1978 NBA title over the franchise now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, all of the Wizards’ playoff success as the Wizards has come under his watch.
Let’s also give Grunfeld credit for building one of the best starting lineups we’ve seen in D.C. since the Wizards won the championship in 1978. Better yet, the top players on this team are still on the right side of 30. This starting lineup isn’t just good for D.C. standards. It’s one of the NBA’s best!
In closing, go ahead and live the good life this weekend Ernie! After all the crap you’ve received this past fall and winter, you deserve it. You and Scott Brooks proved us all wrong that the best of the John Wall Era was behind us.
But once the break is over, it’s time to get back on the grind.