By all accounts Washington Wizards Team Owner Ted Leonsis is a very bright and accomplished man; he was one of the figures that helped the Internet Age get through its infancy, allowing it to play such a prominent part in our society today. He is an award-winning filmmaker and is the majority owner for the Washington Capitals, the Mystics and the Verizon Center. Despite that impressive resume, Leonsis has shown that he is truly clueless since he became the Team’s Majority Owner following the death of Abe Pollin.
The Wizards Owner had a chance to send the team in a new direction this spring, as Team President Ernie Grunfeld, who had helped the club turn into one the cellar dwellers, since joining the team in 2003, would be without a contract at the end of the season. Inexplicably, he re-signed Grunfeld and decided to bring back the squad’s head coach Randy Wittman and his staff for next season. Wittman and his assistants were all under contract for next season, so rather than bite the financial bullet, Leonsis kept the staff intact.
The Team Owner’s faith in his Team President was “rewarded” on Wednesday, as the “Washington Post” has reported that Grunfeld engineered a trade with the New Orleans Hornets, which will take place the night of the NBA Draft. The Wizards are sending veteran Rashard Lewis and the number 46 pick in the upcoming Draft, to the New Orleans Hornets for center Emeka Okafor and guard Trevor Ariza.
Grunfeld, in announcing the deal told reporters “Rashard unfortunately was injured while he was with us and he didn’t get an opportunity to show the kind of things that he was capable of doing or that he did before his injuries. He had a very hefty buyout in his contract and we elected to add a couple of players to the roster by using his contract.”
Lewis has a contract that calls for him to be paid $22 million next season, however the deal has a buyout clause that allows a team to pay him just $13.7 million and send him on his way. If the Wizards had bought out Lewis they would have had another $3.5 million to play with under the NBA salary cap; instead they are now carrying two players that will cost them $43 million over the next two-years and giving them very little wiggle room under the cap.
The trade does not make sense for the Wizards in so many ways, number one being bringing in two veteran players to a club that is in the midst of rebuilding mode. Grunfeld said “We get players that are good solid players and fill two solid needs for us. So, instead of going into free agency to fill our needs, we did it through a trade. These players fit in well with what we’re trying to do. I think we’re going to be a better team with the addition of these players and the players we’ll add in the draft. But where we’ll be in the Eastern Conference, only time will tell.”
The Team President is putting a brand-new paint job on a 1973 Ford Pinto and calling it a new ride. Okafor is a less-talented version of a player that is already on their roster, Nene; who they picked up in a trade with the Nuggets before the trade deadline set in. Nene, won the starting center spot and gave Wizards fans a bit of hope after coming to the team; it does not make sense to put them both in the starting lineup. So that means the Wizards will most likely pay Okafor a lot of money to come off the bench.
Ariza, is a journeyman player in every sense of the word as the Wizards will be his sixth team since entering the Association eight years ago. His best season was with Houston, as he started 71 games and averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists, during the 2009-2010 campaign. His numbers have not been close to that during his last two seasons as he played for the Hornets.
Grunfeld, put a bandage on a small cut on the team’s head, ignoring the fact that the team could bleed-out due to a gash in the chest. Adding two veteran players with two-years left will not be enough to help his team in the short-term and just delays any progress the franchise could get in the long-term.