First, let me focus on the positive news of last week. The Mystics held their season opener last Saturday against the Dream and won 96-75 in front of a sellout crowd in their new home arena. Many notable D.C. sports figures were in attendance like Bradley Beal and team owner Ted Leonsis. Even former Capitals head coach Barry Trotz was there!
The negative news however, focuses on the Wizards. The front office search is taking months instead of days. Leonsis explained in a podcast interview to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller why he is in no hurry to find a new President of Basketball Operations.
While Leonsis should do his due diligence, it still doesn’t explain reports saying he offered Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly a four-year contract to take the Wizards’ job at their first meeting on May 17. Ultimately, Connelly turned down the offer a few days later, assuming you believe the media.
Since then, Wizards fans’ frustrations have grown and some of our own commenters believe he should sell the team. After all, the Capitals seem to be Leonsis’ first love because they won the NHL Stanley Cup. And even the Mystics are a hotter ticket in town than the Wizards because they’re a competent organization. Why couldn’t all that love go to the Wizards and them alone?
I am sympathetic to some of these points. But I totally disagree that Leonsis should sell the Wizards off, assuming folks want him to sell just the NBA team. Here are some of the many reasons why he shouldn’t do it and why it’s not in fans’ interest either.
- The Wizards are the most valuable team Leonsis owns — According to Forbes, that value is $1.6 billion. The Capitals are only worth $725 million. The Wizards are in the middle of the pack in NBA team valuations while the Capitals are in the upper third of the NHL. Knowing that Washington is a big market, there’s just a lot more money to be made in the NBA. Note that I’m not talking about basketball operations here.
- The “Ted doesn’t know how to run a basketball team” mantra falls apart with the Mystics — We can play the “NBA and WNBA aren’t the same” card all day and find various points to support our arguments. But the sport of basketball and roster construction strategies are still more similar than not. And the Mystics can realistically win the championship this year and even next. The Wizards aren’t for awhile. Their search to find Mike Thibault took about three months and it turned out fine. We have to expect that this next Wizards rebuild will also be lengthy and painful. But it could also be worth it down the road.
- A new owner won’t suddenly solve the salary cap woes or get Tim Connelly to change his mind — The Wizards are paying half of their salary cap on players who can’t play (John Wall) or are ineffective (Ian Mahinmi). Their cap hits aren’t going away if he sells just the team to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
- To take a page out of the Mystics’ “#TogetherDC” book, the Wizards are in better shape when they’re TOGETHER with Monumental Sports & Entertainment than not — A hypothetical Wizards owner who buys the team from Leonsis may not have access to the practice facility which Monumental paid the lease for. The new owner would have to lease space from the Capital One Arena, a building Monumental owns and may end up paying an exorbitant rate to rent it. And of course, the product on the floor may still not change. I think the Wizards’ current ownership setup is better with Monumental than if they were with someone else.
- Finally, Wizards fans could quickly hate the new owner in a blink of an eye — Vivek Ranadivé was viewed as the Sacramento Kings’ savior in 2013 when he bought the team to keep them there. Fast forward a few years and he’s quickly perceived as one of the worst owners in the league to the point where the minority owners apparently tried to plot the business equivalent of a coup in 2016. Leonsis is viewed as the exact opposite though the wins aren’t there. So if he sold the Wizards, be careful of what you wish for after the honeymoon period.
Feel free to disagree with me about what you think a new Wizards owner would do. But despite short-term frustration with the front office executive search and seeing Leonsis praise his other teams more because of what they’ve done, the Wizards are best off with their current ownership.
So in #ALLCAPS:
STAY #TOGETHERDC BECAUSE MONUMENTAL SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT IS A TRUE #DCFAMILY.
So even though times are tough, I’m optimistic that the Wizards will get through it and will come out ahead in the long run. Just don’t expect miracles and short-term fixes like what the last front office regime did.